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Early Stuart Portraits Catalogue

Oliver Cromwell (1599-1658), Lord Protector of England

Lord Protector of England, Scotland and Ireland; b. Huntingdon, of Morgan Williams, a Welsh brewer who m. the sis. of Thomas Cromwell, Henry VIII’s great minister, from whom the family benefitted, receiving lands in Huntingdon; Cromwell’s gr.-fa. changed the family name to Cromwell; Sidney Sussex College, 1616; MP 1628; farmer in St Ives 1631-36; MP for Cambridge 1640; inherited lands from his uncle, Sir Thomas Steward, and moved to Ely; a committed puritan, he opposed the King’s high church policies; organised the defence of East Anglia for Parliament; col. 1643, lt.-gen. 1644; decisively defeated the King’s forces at Marston Moor 1644 and Naseby 1645; moved to London 1646; condoned the execution of the King 1649; campaigned ruthlessly in Ireland and adroitly in Scotland 1649-51; dissolved parliament 1653 and was proclaimed Lord Protector, but he declined to be made King. ‘He was to himself and to his God most true, if at great cost to himself’ (J. Morrill, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography).

‘his countenance swollen and reddish, his voice sharp and untuneable’ (Sir Philip Warwick, 1640s)

‘very scanty beard, of sanguine complexion, medium stature, robust, of martial presence’ (Venetian ambassador, 1655)

‘compact and strong physique ... his stature under six feet (I beleeve about two inches) ... exceedingly fiery temper [though] the flame of it kept downe, for the most part, or soon allayed ... A larger soul, I thinke, hath seldom dwelt in a house of clay than his was’ (John Maidstone, Cromwell’s servant)

This extended catalogue entry is by John Ingamells, one of a limited number of entries drafted in 2010 for the incomplete catalogue, Early Stuart Portraits 1625-1685, and is as written then. For the most up-to-date details on individual Collection works, we recommend reading the information provided in the Search the Collection results on this website in parallel with this text.