The Early Stuarts, 1603-1660

By Godfrey Davies | Go to book overview

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POLITICAL AND CONSTITUTIONAL* HISTORY, 1658-60

THE protectorate of Richard Cromwell1 lasted about eight months and falls naturally into two parts, the first lasting from September to December 1658, and the second from the meeting of parliament, at the end of January following, to Richard's resignation in May. Richard was ill fitted by character and training to cope with the difficulties that were largely due to his father's efforts to give the protectorate a more permanent basis than armed force. Cromwell had weeded out the most extreme political and religious fanatics from the higher ranks but had been prevented by death from further dismissals, the object of which would have been to replace such officers as wished to use the army to dictate political policy, by professional soldiers content to serve without questioning the civil government. Monck, the ablest and most trusted of the professional soldiers, who had been for some years commander- in-chief in Scotland, advised Richard to combine every two regiments into one and thus kill two birds with one stone, halve the cost of the army by this reduction in its numbers, and retain only such officers as could be trusted to support the protectorate. Richard's failure to follow this advice almost inevitably entailed his downfall, because his weakness of character and lack of military prestige would certainly prevent his withstanding for any length of time pressure from the army leaders. Signs were soon seen that these officers meant to take advantage of his inexperience and increase the power of the army. The immediate requirements of the officers were that the office of commander-in-chief should be separated from the headship of the state, and that no one should be cashiered except by a court martial. If conceded, these two demands would have taken control of the army out of the protector's hands. Actually the agitation to these ends was quelled before the close of the year, but not before it had become clear that Fleetwood, Disbrowe, and others, commonly called the Wallingford

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1
For details and references see the writer's work, The Restoration of Charks II ( 1955), chaps. i-vi.

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