Oliver Cromwell: Speech at the Opening of the Protectorate Parliament

(1654)

In his Speech at the Opening of the Protectorate Parliament, Oliver Cromwell (1599–1658) took the traditional role of the monarch.Cromwell, a successful general in the English Civil War of the 1640s, had in effect become dictator of the British Isles with the title Lord Protector under the Instrument of Government of 1653, still Britain's only experiment with a written constitution. Cromwell's rise to supreme power had required not merely the overthrow of the monarchy in the Civil War but also the military overthrow of the subsequent parliamentary government, the “Rump,” in 1653. Although Cromwell had seized power, he had no desire to rule as a tyrant. His first Parliament, the Nominated, or “Barebones,” Parliament, elected by church congregations, had proved a failure, and he convoked another, the Protectorate Parliament, in September 1654. This one was elected on a basis similar to those of prerevolutionary parliaments but was smaller and with a somewhat wider...

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Portrait of Oliver Cromwell by Jan van de Velde IV (Yale University Art Gallery)

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