Cromwell and the Execution of Charles I

Oliver Cromwell was at heart no republican; but he believed that God manifested His will through the triumphs or misfortunes that He awarded to those engaged in “great businesses”. Charles Ogilvie writes how Charles's continued misjudgments revealed that, if the world were to be made safe for the “Godly,” the King must be executed.

Cromwell was responsible for the execution of the King. A mere handful, possibly not more than a few hundred people, were really determined to put the King to death. Without Cromwell’s active support they would have been powerless. But he was almost a majority in himself, and once his mind was made up that the King must die, Charles’s fate was sealed.

Cromwell was in no sense a republican. He cared little for forms of government. But it is certain that for long, probably up to the outbreak of the second civil war, he would have preferred a return to the ancient order, Kings, Lords, and Commons, provided that the world could be made safe for the “Godly.” He had carried on protracted negotiations with Charles after the first civil war, and had respected and even admired him.

He was, moreover, naturally a kind man, with strong affections and neither bloodthirsty nor revengeful despite the awful massacres at Drogheda and Wexford, which he regarded as having been planned by God. He was also a shrewd observer. By 1648 the bulk of the nation was Royalist; many of those who had fought against Charles reverted to their old allegiance once he was a prisoner and unable to do them further harm.

Cornet Joyce had been forced to bypass Cambridge, the heart of the Eastern Association, when taking the captive King from Holmby House, as the townsfolk were preparing to strew the streets with rose leaves; and Parliament had been forced to issue an ordinance forbidding the access of crowds of people to the King to be touched for the Evil.

To read this article in full you need to be either a print + archive subscriber, or else have purchased access to the online archive.

If you are already a subscriber, please ensure you are logged in. 

Buy Subscription | Buy Online Access | Log In

If you are logged in and still cannot read the article, please email digital@historytoday.com.

Get Miscellanies, our free weekly long read, in your inbox every week
X