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Oliver Cromwell- The King That Could Have Been

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ImageOliver Cromwell…The King that could have been.

On this day in 1657 Cromwell refused to take up the crown of England when it was offered to him by Parliament. His decline should really be no surprise considering Cromwell’s cause between 1642 and 1651 was to overthrow the monarchy, When Cromwell summoned Parliament in 1656, he outwardly spoke against the need for a hereditary monarchy. One of the first acts of Parliament was to pass an act that would nullify Charles Stuart’s right to the crown. Cromwell also warned of potential “enemies within” that may seek to revert government to its former state and pending threats from Spain.

Despite Conservative members of Parliament continued to push for a constitutional settlement that would create a hereditary head of government, popular opinion at the time was in opposition. Cromwell was not entirely sure he should provide a successor for his role, perhaps pushing England to full Parliamentary power. However, in February 1657 he finally gave his approval to having the issue debated in the House of Commons. At the end of March, the members of Parliament presented Cromwell with what was called the Humble Petition, which contained Parliament’s proposals for the settlement.  Within the Petition, Parliament called for a hereditary monarchy, limited in power. It also called for Parliament to approve new taxes, and for a recreation of the House of Lords, which had been abolished alongside the monarchy, whose members would be nominated by the Lord Protector and his Council. Another important part of the petition offered Cromwell the crown and the title of King. He considered the proposal for several weeks, before turning it down. It would have been difficult for him to accept it, considering his military had been so anti-monarchy. In fact, he may have lost significant loyalties if he had crowned himself King with the same pomp that was typical with English Kings.

Where would the monarchy be if he had accepted? Would he have created a new dynasty that could have survived the ages as the current monarchy has? Or, would another revolution have resulted in a permanent removal of the monarchy in England?

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