The Lord Protector: Religion and Politics in the Life of Oliver Cromwell

By Robert S. Paul | Go to book overview

CHAPTER FIVE
THE CIVIL WAR: SPRING 1645 TO THE END OF THE FIRST CIVIL WAR

I

IN view of the dramatic measure introduced at the end of 1644 it is remarkable enough that we should be concerned any further with the history of Oliver Cromwell. The Self-Denying Ordinance finally passed the House of Lords on April 3 with the amendment that officers were not compelled to relinquish their commands for a period of forty days. On February 27, 1645, news came that Melcombe Regis was surrounded by Royalists, and Cromwell was ordered temporarily to join Sir William Waller.1 After this he proceeded to Windsor to deliver up his commission to Fairfax who was fitting out the New Model Army, for which the cavaliers as yet had little but contempt.2 Instead of his discharge Oliver received from Derby House an urgent order to prevent the King from breaking out of Oxford. Sprigge's remark that Cromwell thought "of nothing lesse in all the World" than such an appointment3 is perhaps a little too ingenuous, but although the politicians may have adroitly seized the opportunity for extending Cromwell's command, they could hardly have engineered the circumstances which made it necessary.

Cromwell's Oxford raid has been called "a brilliant little episode".4 He prevented the junction of the King with Rupert, bluffed the surrender of Bletchingdon House,5 and then turned

____________________
1
At first his regiment rebelled against the order until it became known that he was to accompany it. See infra, p. 96, for Waller's opinion of Oliver while the latter was under his command.
2
Whitelocke says "the New Model was by them in scorn called the New Noddle". Memorials, 140; cf. Joshua Sprigge, Anglia Rediviva, 12.
4
Buchan, Oliver Cromwell, 212.
5
Cromwell's account of these operations is given in two letters: April 25, W.S., I, 339 f.; L-C, I, 192-4 ( XXV); April 26 (dated by Carlyle 24), W.S., I, 341 f.; L-C, III, 237 f. (App. 7).

-94-

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