Oliver Cromwell and the Regicides

by Dr Patrick Little

Synopsis by Serrie Meakins

Dr Little considers the careers of Thomas Harrison, John Okey and Sir Henry Vane – what the Good Old Cause meant to them and the significance of their friendship with Oliver Cromwell. All three saw the Good Old Cause as a rallying cry – the idea that the wars had been fought to preserve religious and civil liberty, as sanctioned by God. Yet all three came to denounce Cromwell in the 1650s as a betrayer of the Good Old Cause. Harrison, the religious radical had fought alongside Crowell in the wars. In the early 1650s he moved towards the radical millennial group, the Fifth Monarchists, and in doing so parted political company with Cromwell. Okey served loyally under Cromwell, yet he went on to feel so let down by Cromwell that in 1654 he presented his famous petition, suggesting Cromwell was in danger of becoming a tyrant himself. Vane was Cromwell’s social superior and fellow MP in the Long Parliament and not a regicide, yet post 1649 he returned to work with the Republic until Cromwell’s actions in dissolving the Rump forced him into opposition. A useful insight into Cromwell’s actions through the eyes of some of his contemporaries./p>

The revengers’ tragedy known as the Restoration can be seen as a drama in four acts. The first, third and fourth acts were in the form of executions of those held responsible for the ‘regicide’ – the killing of King Charles I on 30 January 1649. Through October 1660 ten regicides were hanged, drawn and quartered, including Charles I’s prosecutor, John Cooke, republicans such as Thomas Scot, and religious radicals such as Thomas Harrison. In April 1662 three more regicides, recently kidnapped in the Low Countries, were also dragged to Tower Hill: John Okey, Miles Corbett and John Barkstead. And in June 1662 parliament finally got its way when the arch-republican (but not strictly a regicide, as he refused to be involved in the trial of the king) Sir Henry Vane the younger was also executed. In this paper I shall consider the careers of three of these regicides, one each from these three sets of executions: Thomas Harrison, John Okey and Sir Henry Vane.

What united these men was not their political views – as we shall see, they differed greatly in that respect – but their close association with the concept of the ‘Good Old Cause’ and their close friendship with the most controversial regicide of them all: Oliver Cromwell. The Good Old Cause was a rallying cry rather than a political theory, embodying the idea that the civil wars and the revolution were in pursuit of religious and civil liberty, and that they had been sanctioned – and victory obtained – by God. All three of our regicides proclaimed the Good Old Cause before their executions. Thomas Harrison, as he was taken to Tower Hill, ‘called several times in the way, and spoke aloud, “I go to suffer upon the account of the most glorious cause that ever was in the world” ’1 John Okey wrote a last letter to his friends in London, saying that ‘I do believe at long-run there is not a man that fears the Lord will have any reason to be sorrowful for engaging in that Good Old Cause, which I am now to seal with my blood again, as I have many a time done’.2 Sir Henry Vane was equally forthright: ‘As for that glorious cause, which God hath owned in these nations, and will own, in which so many righteous souls have lost their lives… shall I now give it up, and so declare them all rebels and murderers? No, I will never do it: that precious blood shall never lie at my door’.3 The friendship of the three with Cromwell was much more problematic. Each of them would come to think that Cromwell had betrayed the Good Old Cause they had all fought for in the 1640s and early 1650s. During the protectorate – which was seen by some as the great apostasy of Cromwell’s career – Okey, Harrison and Vane all came to denounce the lord protector as self-serving and greedy for power for its own sake. This process of falling out of love with Oliver is key to understanding the nature of what might be called the ‘English Revolution’, and is worth considering in some detail.


Thomas Harrison was perhaps the most radical of the Regicides executed after the Restoration, and he had been a religious zealot even at the beginning of the first Civil War, transferring from Essex’s army to that of the Eastern Association in 1643 because he found the company of the likes of Oliver Cromwell and Charles Fleetwood more conducive. He was serving in Fleetwood’s regiment at Marston Moor in 1644, and when he was sent to report the victory to the Committee of Both Kingdoms he used the opportunity ‘to trumpet over all the city’ the praise of Cromwell and his friends, to the anger of the Scots.4 Harrison fought under Cromwell at Naseby, Winchester and Basing, where he was accused of committing atrocities against the Catholic defenders. He was scarcely less controversial after the first war, alarming moderates with his denunciation of the king as ‘a man of blood’ in November 1647, and dismaying the Levellers with his insistence that ‘our agreement shall be from God and not from men’. He was a convinced Regicide, and a later account states that he was present when Cromwell, Ireton and others were drafting the death warrant.5

Harrison’s friendship with Cromwell had begun in the New Model during the 1640s, but it flowered in the early 1650s. There is clear intimacy in Harrison’s letter to Cromwell of July 1650, in which he begged forgiveness for not meeting him, saying ‘I know you love me, therefore are not apt to except’, and assuring him that ‘my heart is with you, and my poor prayers to my God for you’.6 Their closeness can also be seen in Cromwell’s letter of May 1651, in which he told Harrison that ‘your letters are always welcome to me’, and then asked him to speed his business in London, adding (in a typically appalling pun) that he had also asked Sir Henry Vane and ‘I hope it will not be in vain’.7 Both men had a profoundly providential outlook, with Harrison advising Cromwell in July 1650 that ‘waiting upon Jehovah’ was his most urgent task every day;8 and he greeted the victory at Worcester in 1651 in ways that echoed Cromwell: it was the means, he said, of ‘opening a wide door to the publishing of the everlasting Gospel of our only Lord and Saviour’. They were both increasingly frustrated by the failure of the Rump Parliament to implement reform, and supported the army petitions, although Cromwell soon began to be wary of Harrison’s impetuosity. According to Edmund Ludlow, Cromwell said Harrison was ‘an honest man, and aims at good things, yet from the impatience of his spirit will not wait the Lord’s leisure, but hurries me on to that he and all honest men will have cause to repent’.9 As Ian Gentles argues, the two were coming at the problem of the Rump from rather different angles: Cromwell was eager for new elections to bring in a more dynamic parliament, while Harrison was out for revenge against a parliament that had stymied his ambitions for the propagation of the Gospel in Wales – a project that was close to his heart. When Cromwell closed the Rump in April 1653, Harrison was his loyal lieutenant, and the two men were the most powerful figures in moulding the new council of state, and the parliament of the saints – the Nominated Assembly, or Barebone’s Parliament, that followed. In May 1653 Harrison was accused of being Cromwell’s ‘creature’, and one who ‘discovereth all to the general’, but there were also rumours of cracks in the united front, with one royalist source reporting that Harrison was uneasy at Cromwell’s claim to rule: ‘it was the Lord’s work, and no thanks to his Excellency’.10 During the summer tensions rose as Cromwell pushed for policies (such as the ending of the Dutch War) that cut across Harrison’s own, and from August Harrison’s attendance at the council of state became increasingly irregular. Instead, he grew closer to the radical millenarian group centred on St Ann Blackfriars, known as the Fifth Monarchists.

The open breach came only in November, and it was very much against Cromwell’s wishes. He reputedly tried to arrange private meetings with Harrison, but his approaches were rebuffed, and when the Barebone’s Parliament dissolved itself, placing power into Cromwell’s hands, Harrison became a dangerous enemy. In his later account of this period, Harrison had lost none of his bitterness towards Cromwell: ‘when I found those that were as the apple of mine eye to turn aside, I did loathe them’; he had refused ‘to have compliance with them, though it was said, “sit at my right hand” and such kind expressions’.11 Harrison’s claim that Cromwell had tried to win him over is substantiated by his subsequent treatment. In late December Cromwell sacked him as a commander, and in February 1654 he had been forced into retirement, after spending ‘four or five hours with my lord protector’.12 He was not imprisoned at this stage. Perhaps Cromwell felt that their former friendship would encourage Harrison to remain quiet, and it was widely reported that he had indeed ‘declared to live peaceably’.13 It was only following an intemperate denunciation of the protectorate by the Fifth Monarchists that Harrison was imprisoned, and even then he was quickly released, with the very mild warning ‘not to persevere in those evil ways whose end is destruction’.14 In February 1655 there were reports of a new plot, and Cromwell summoned Harrison and his confederates to explain themselves to him. It was only in the face of their obduracy that Harrison was imprisoned again, this time in Portland Castle. Again, he was freed in little more than a year, only to be re-arrested in April 1657, released and finally sent to the Tower in February 1658. The failure to deal with Harrison once and for all in December 1653 – whether through a trumped up charge and an execution, or by a single ticket to the Tower – surely demonstrates that even if Harrison no longer felt bound by the obligations of friendship, Cromwell certainly did.


John Okey was not as close to Cromwell as Harrison, but he is a good example of a solid New Model colonel who became alienated from the senior command as the 1650s continued. Okey was not a gentleman – he was probably a ship’s chandler in London – but at the outbreak of the civil war his qualities were recognised by the parliamentarian commanders, and he soon became a captain under Lord Brooke, and the major of Sir Arthur Hesilrige’s horse. At the creation of the New Model in 1645 he was made colonel of its only regiment of dragoons, and it was at this point that he came into contact with Cromwell. Okey was an immediate convert. In his published letter, written immediately after Naseby, Okey said that Cromwell had directed the deployment of the dragoons in person: ‘the lieutenant- general came presently, and caused me with all speed to mount my men, and flank our left wing’, allowing Okey’s men to pepper the royalist horse as it came to the charge. He also attributed the defeat of the royalists on the opposite wing to ‘Colonel Cromwell his regiment’.15 Okey went on to serve under Cromwell at the siege of Pembroke in 1648 and in the Dunbar campaign in 1650, but his value to the high command was as much political as military. During the threatened army mutiny of 1647, Okey’s regiment was one of the few free from unrest, and in December three of his troops even sent a message of support to Fairfax, denouncing ‘the treacherous and underhand proceedings of a generation of upstart agents’.16 Okey was a firm ally of Cromwell during the revolution, being appointed a commissioner for the trial of the king, and signing the death warrant in 1649; and he shared Cromwell’s frustration at the attitude of the Rump Parliament after Worcester. In August 1652 Okey was one of the officers who presented parliament with a petition from the army council, demanding reform of the law and the financial system and the abolition of tithes, but stopping short of calling for the end of the current parliament and elections for a new one. Again, in the early months of 1653, Okey was involved in the army council’s push for a new parliament, and he circulated their views to the officers in Scotland. According to Edmund Ludlow, at this time Cromwell saw Okey as a useful ally, and it was to him and a small group of other officers that he railed ‘against divers members of parliament, affirming that little good could be expected from that body where such men had so great an influence’.17 Despite his private views, Cromwell did not think the time ripe for action, and he prevented the army openly petitioning for new elections; and his subsequent, unilateral, decision to close down the Rump in April 1653 caused some officers ‘not of his juncto’ to question his motives.18 Okey and a few others visited Cromwell ‘to desire satisfaction in that proceeding, concerning that the way they were now going tended to ruin and confusion’. Cromwell calmed their fears, but, according to Ludlow, Okey was still not satisfied, ‘being jealous that the end would be bad, because the means were such as made them justly suspected of hypocrisy’, and he sought out Cromwell’s brother-in-law, John Disbrowe for reassurance, asking ‘what his meaning was to give such high commendations to the parliament when he endeavoured to persuade the officers of the army from petitioning them for a dissolution, and so short a time after to eject them with so much scorn and contempt’. Disbrowe, far from mollifying Okey, ‘had no other answer to make, but that if ever [Cromwell] drolled in his life, he had drolled then’.19

Okey, with some justification, felt duped by Cromwell, who had fobbed off the army officers and then acted without them. This was not the first time that he had felt let down by his commanding officer. In 1650, as the army marched north against the Scots, Okey had encountered considerable discipline problems in his regiment, centred on a religious radical, Captain Francis Freeman. Freeman had boasted that he ‘had been a Papist, Protestant, Presbyterian, Antinomian, Independent, Anabaptist, Seeker’, but ‘had passed through them all’, and Okey, who was a strict – even inflexible – Independent, suspected he was now a Ranter. His influence over the soldiery, and his fellow officers, was also more than Okey could stomach, and he complained to Cromwell, who arranged an informal interview in the presence of other officers. If Okey expected wholehearted support, he was disappointed, for Cromwell gave Freeman a fair hearing, and although his solution – to allow the captain to resign his commission without blemish on his record – may have made sense in the circumstances, it did little to enhance Okey’s reputation among the other colonels, or his own men.20 In the following October Cromwell had also dealt leniently with another suspected Ranter, Captain Covell, who was allowed to return to his charge after a private interview.21 The reaction of Okey, who was a member the subsequent court martial, is not recorded.

In the year after the dissolution of the Rump in April 1653, Okey’s activities are unclear. He was not appointed to the radical Barebone’s Parliament, and he did not return to his regiment in Scotland until the summer of 1654. One newsletter from May of that year reported that ‘Colonel Okey, having lately [spoken] some despising language against the present authority, is come up on his highness’s special order to answer the same’.22 Okey was elected to the first protectorate parliament for the Scottish constituency of Linlithgow burghs, and in London he associated with other disaffected officers and the former leveller, John Wildman, arousing the suspicions of the secretary of state, John Thurloe. In October he joined Colonels Sanders and Alured in issuing a petition attacking the government. This petition is famous for being an early example of an appeal to the ‘old cause’, which had been betrayed by Cromwell and the protectorate. Two other aspects of this petition are worthy of note. First, the colonels were at heart conservative commonweathsmen, who saw a sovereign parliament as the best alternative: ‘the people’s parliament’, they said, were ‘the people’s chosen trustees’.23 Secondly, they were keen not to make the charge a personal one, insisting that their first instinct was loyalty to Cromwell: ‘our high estimation, and tender regard of, and great confidence in your highness, who hath engaged with us in the same quarrel, hath made us attend in silence your counsels and determinations to the utmost extremity’.24 This may have been a call for the overthrow of a tyrant, but it was a very polite one. Okey and his friends clearly retained immense respect for Cromwell, and perhaps hoped that he would be swayed by a public protest where private complaints had had no effect. Cromwell’s reaction to this treachery suggests that he also considered the bonds of comradeship were damaged, not irreparably broken. Okey was court martialled in November, but refused to retract, claiming that he would ‘seal it with his blood’.25 Cromwell did not rise to this bait, instead arranging another private interview, the result of which was described by a newsletter in early December: ‘Colonel Okey and my Lord [Protector] are very well united. All things [passed over] by my lord.26 This was followed by Okey’s formal submission on the protector’s mercy, and he was dismissed from his command but allowed to go free. Okey was not an active plotter against Cromwell thereafter, although he was implicated in various intrigues, and arrested briefly in April 1657. As with other opponents, there was a reluctance on Cromwell’s part to persecute such men, to make martyrs of them. It was only after 1660 that the politics of revenge was given free rein.


The younger Sir Henry Vane’s relationship with Oliver Cromwell was rather different from that of Harrison or Okey. The son of a knight and courtier, Vane was Cromwell’s social superior, and as a civilian politician he was never Cromwell’s military subordinate. In fact, for the first few years of their association, Cromwell played second fiddle to Vane. They first worked together in the early months of the Long Parliament, when both were involved in drafting and defending the root and branch petition against episcopacy in 1641, they were both key allies of Oliver St John in 1644 and from 1645 they were also allies in the defence of liberty of conscience and in attacking the Presbyterian interest at Westminster. From 1646 Cromwell and Vane were identified with the Independent party at Westminster, and they worked together during the political crisis of 1647.27 In 1648 Vane began to become concerned at the radicalisation of politics: he opposed the Vote of No Addresses that tried to stop all further negotiations with the king in January 1648, and he was a commissioner in the Newport discussions later in the year. Vane retired from the Commons after Pride’s Purge in December 1648, and took no part in the trial and execution of the king. Despite their obvious differences, a close friendship had already begun to develop between the two men. In early September 1648 Cromwell told his cousin (and Vane’s ally) Oliver St John to ‘remember my love to my dear brother H[enry] Vane’, and added, wryly, that they would have to agree to differ about how far God’s Providence was driving the political process: ‘I pray he make not too little, nor I too much, of outward dispensations. God preserve us all, that we, in simplicity of our spirits, may patiently attend upon them’.28 This disagreement about how far God was the motor for Revolution – even regicide – did not damage their friendship, however. In November Cromwell wrote to another mutual friend, Robert Hammond, with a series of messages for Vane, whom he nicknamed ‘my dear brother Herne, whom I love in the Lord’, and signing himself, ‘Heron’s Brother’. The nickname is a strong indication that Cromwell and Vane were now close friends – part of an intimate circle where pet names and banter were part of the sub-culture. Nevertheless, what Hammond was supposed to pass on was robust, even combative:

Tell my brother Herne I smiled at his expression concerning my wise friend’s opinion – who thinks that the enthroning the king with Presbytery brings spiritual slavery, but with a moderate episcopacy works a good peace… But as to my brother Herne himself, tell him indeed I think some of my friends have advanced too far, and need make an honourable retreat… Dear Robin, tell brother Herne that we have the witness of our conscience that we have walked in this thing (whatsoever surmises there are to the contrary) in plainness and godly simplicity… I pray thee tell my brother Herne thus much from me…29

This is an extraordinary letter, and one that repays close attention, not least because it provides a rare insight into how these political friendships operated.

That Cromwell and Vane did not fall out altogether over Pride’s Purge and the Regicide was in large part due to a change of heart in the latter. Once the king was dead, and faced with the fait accompli of a republic, Vane reconsidered his position, and decided to return to parliament in the early spring of 1649. Instead of trying to arrange a weak, constitutional monarchy, he now became a fierce advocate of republican forms, based on the sovereignty of parliament as the representative of the people. As Cromwell campaigned in Ireland and Scotland between the summer of 1649 and the autumn of 1651, he came to rely on Vane as an ally in parliament and as an adviser on more private matters. Thus in September 1650 Cromwell told his wife that Vane would be sure to pass on to her ‘the particulars of our late success’ at Dunbar; in December 1650 Vane wrote to Cromwell with the story of a woman who had claimed to be the general’s whore – an ‘account you will laugh at sufficiently when you read them’.30 Vane, who signed himself ‘your most faithful loving brother and constant friend’ added that any political slight against Cromwell would be challenged by his allies, as ‘your real friends will participate with you in your changes, whatever the thoughts and jealousies of men be’.31 In the spring of 1651 Cromwell told his wife to ‘mind Sir Henry Vane of the business of my estate’; and he referred Thomas Harrison to Vane for the latest news.32 In August Vane wrote to Cromwell in the humorous code that is familiar from earlier letters, calling him ‘Brother Fountain’ and referring to himself as ‘your Brother Heron’. Vane recalled the ‘ancient friendship that hath been between us’, and promised to remain his political ally.33 In this, and in another letter of the same period, he sent news of Cromwell’s family in Hampshire, and, interestingly, hinted that Oliver knew Lady Vane very well, as ‘my wife expects not any return of letters, till you are more at leisure’.34

Despite Vane’s repeated protestations of constancy, this close friendship, with its personal and political aspects, did not long survive the final victory, at Worcester in September 1651. For Cromwell and Harrison, this was the ‘crowning mercy’ – the clearest of signals that God demanded far-reaching changes. In the following eighteen months relations between Cromwell and Vane became increasingly soured, especially over religion and the continuation of the Long Parliament. When Cromwell finally dissolved parliament in April 1653, he saved the worst of his anger for his former friend. According to one account, when the soldiers marched into the chamber, Vane protested, ‘this is not honest, yea it is against morality and common honesty’, prompting an outburst from Cromwell, who ‘fell a railing at him, crying out with a loud voice, “O Sir Henry Vane, Sir Henry Vane, the Lord deliver me from Sir Henry Vane”’.35 Another account says that Cromwell told Vane ‘that he might have prevented this extraordinary course, but he was a juggler, and had not so much as common honesty’ – suggesting that he had depended on Vane to use his influence to encourage parliament to dissolve itself.36 When it came, the breach was sudden and irrevocable. And of the three case studies, it was the only one initiated by Cromwell himself.

Yet, as with Harrison and Okey, after the heat of the moment, there remained a strong tie between Cromwell and Vane. Vane was not imprisoned by Cromwell and the radicals – rather he was allowed to retire to his estates, his family, and his writings – and, like Harrison, there are hints that Cromwell hoped to win him over, perhaps with a place in the new parliament, and he was reported ‘daily missed and courted’.37 As late as 1655 Vane professed that he had no animus towards the new protector, and held himself to be ‘still the same as ever… in true friendship’.38 As the protectorate continued, and especially once Cromwell erected the system of Major-generals to rule the English and Welsh counties with religious and political zeal, Vane was provoked into print, with his famous pamphlet, A Healing Question, which is seen as the ur-text of the Good Old Cause. The publication of A Healing Question was met, initially, with interest rather than condemnation by the government. This was partly no doubt because Vane’s tone was deliberately civil, even reasonable. His intention, he claimed, was to promote ‘love and union amongst the honest party’, those ‘who still pretend to agree in the spirit, justice and reason of the same good cause’.39 The pamphlet could be read as a direct, personal appeal to Cromwell: ‘the persons concerned and engaged in this cause, are still the same as before’, argued Vane, and even ‘more endeared to one another by their various and great experiences, as well of their own hearts as their fellow brethrens. These are the same still in heart and desire after the same thing…’40 On the other hand, there was also a stern reprimand for Cromwell for being ‘rather accommodated to the private and selfish interest’, and ruling as a tyrant, against the good of ‘the whole body of adherents to this cause’.41 It was only when A Healing Question became the rallying cry for opposition to the protectorate in the parliamentary elections of August 1656 that it was formally denounced, and Vane sent to Carisbrooke Castle. As with Harrison and Okey, Vane was not in prison for long – he had been released by the end of the year – but he remained an obdurate opponent of the protectorate, publishing a more forthright attack on Cromwell, entitled The Proceeds of the Protector (so called) and his council against Sir Henry Vane, and opening dialogue with other persecuted groups, including the Quakers. Although not himself involved in plots, Vane’s writings, and in particular A Healing Question, influenced other opponents of the regime. When the Fifth Monarchists and the commonwealthsmen, led by Okey, met in the summer of 1656 to see if they could agree an alliance, they used A Healing Question as their starting point. Thomas Harrison had refused to take part in these discussions, but both he and Okey were subsequently arrested.42 This failure underlines not only the wide array of former friends turned enemies that Cromwell now faced, but also their inability to agree on anything more specific than the great rallying cry, ‘The Good Old Cause’.


This paper began with the first, third and fourth acts of the Restoration tragedy – the executions of October 1660, April 1662 and June 1662. But what of the second act? That came on 30 January 1661 – the twelfth anniversary of the regicide of Charles I – when the bodies of Oliver Cromwell, his son-in-law Henry Ireton, and the president of the commonwealth’s council of state, John Bradshaw, were exhumed, and (according to John Evelyn, who witnessed it) ‘dragged out of their superb tomb (in Westminster Abbey among the kings) to Tyburn, and hanged on the gallows there from nine in the morning till six at night, and then buried under that fatal and ignominious monument, in a deep pit’.43 The three heads, crudely hacked from the bodies, were impaled on spikes and set up on Westminster Hall, where the king had been tried. This gruesome mock- execution was as symbolically important to Charles II’s government as the hanging, drawing and quartering of the regicides staged both before and afterwards. It was as if the history of the revolution and interregnum was being publicly exorcised.

It was perhaps fitting that Cromwell should share the fate of Harrison, Okey and Vane. For all their later animosity, he had been close friends with all of them in the crucial years of political upheaval and republican triumph, from 1648 until 1651. This was a time of heightened emotion, when the godly cleaved together, and when they were acutely conscious of the need to discern and then follow God’s will, despite their differences on the details. Thus Cromwell found Vane too slow to follow the ‘outward dispensations’ of Providence and Harrison too eager to act when he felt the signs were right. During the Rump they were united in opposition, frustrated at the lack of progress, but their unity could not survive its downfall. Cromwell blamed Vane for not influencing parliament to avoid the breach of April 1653; Okey was worried that he and other officers had been hoodwinked by Cromwell; and in the following summer Harrison became increasingly concerned that his former ally was not constant to the radical godly agenda after all. In each case Cromwell’s opponents were willing to keep silent, but the protectorate was a step too far. Had Cromwell sold out altogether? Okey was the first to declare his opposition in October 1654, followed soon afterwards by Harrison in the spring of 1655, and eventually by Vane in May 1656. In each case it seems they acted in sorrow rather than anger, and Cromwell reciprocated, seeking to win over his old friends by argument, imprisoning them only reluctantly, and often for the briefest of periods.

There is also the sense that Cromwell felt himself unjustly accused of back- sliding and self-serving. ‘Necessity’ had forced Cromwell into making some uncomfortable decisions, but he clearly did not see that he had betrayed the ultimate aims of the godly revolution. He too believed in the Good Old Cause. His writings and speeches are full of references to ‘the cause’, as we have seen.44 And in the early weeks of 1658 Cromwell challenged his opponents’ claim to represent ‘the cause’, demanding that his opponents define it precisely, telling Parliament that it was a matter of civil and religious liberties, and elsewhere referring to ‘the Protestant cause and interest abroad’.45 In January 1658 Cromwell once again told parliament that: ‘The state of this cause… was the maintaining of the liberty of these nations; our civil liberties, as men; our spiritual liberties, as Christians’.46 This was the vision that he had shared with his friends in the later 1640s and early 1650s; and even in 1658 it was the means, rather than the end, that divided Cromwell from Okey and Vane and Harrison. Vane was surely right to emphasise that ‘honest’ people could still be reconciled, and that ‘the persons concerned and engaged in this cause are still the same as before’.47

1 The Speeches and Prayers of Major General Harrison… (1660), 6-7.
2 H.G. Tibbutt, ‘Colonel John Okey, 1606-1662’, Bedfordshire Historical Record Society 35 (1955), 146.
3 The Tryall of Sir Henry Vane (1662), 79-80.
4 Quoted in Oxford Dictionary of National Biography.
5 W.C. Abbott, The Writings and Speeches of Oliver Cromwell (4 vols., Harvard, 1937-47), i. 750.
6 J. Nickolls, Original Letters, 10.
7 Oxford D N B; Abbott ii. 411.
8 J. Nickolls, Original Letters (1743), 10.
9 C.H. Firth (ed.), The Memoirs of Edmund Ludlow (2 vols., Oxford, 1894), i. 346.
10 Quoted from Bernard Capp, The Fifth Monarchy Men (1972), 65.
11 Quoted from State Trials in Oxford Dictionary of National Biography.
12 Frances Henderson (ed.), The Clarke Papers V: Further Selections from the Papers of William Clarke (Cambridge, 2005), 141.
13 Clarke Papers V. 159.
14 Thomas Birch (ed.), A Collection of the State Papers of John Thurloe esq (7 vols., 1742), ii. 606, quoted in Oxford DNB.
15 Tibbutt, 10-11.
16 Tibbutt, 26.
17 Ludlow i. 347-8.
18 Ludlow i. 356.
19 Ludlow i. 356.
20 Tibbutt, 50-6; see also Patrick Little, ‘Light Vanquishing Darknesse: an insight into the private life of the New Model Army’, Cromwelliana series II, no. 7 (2010), 22-4.
21 Abbott ii. 353.
22 Clarke Papers V, 229.
23 Tibbutt, 65.
24 Tibbutt, 64.
25 Tibbutt, 69.
26 Clarke Papers V, 229.
27 See also Violet Rowe, Sir Henry Vane the Younger (1970), 32, 34, 63, 73, 89, 95-6, 99-103, 114.
28 Abbott i. 644.
29 Abbott, i. 677-8.
30 Abbott, ii. 329, 376.
31 Nickolls, 40-1.
32 Abbott, ii. 404-5, 411.
33 Nickolls, 78-9.
34 Nickolls, 84.
35 Abbott, ii. 643
36 Abbott, ii. 642.
37 Oxford DNB.
38 Thurloe State Papers, iv. 329, quoted in Oxford DNB.
39 Vane, A Healing Question (1656), 1.
40 Healing Question, 2.
41 Healing Question, 3, 16-17, 18.
42 Capp, Fifth Monarchy Men, 114-5.
43 Diary of John Evelyn, ed. E.S. de Beer (Everyman edition, 2006), 379-80.
44 See ‘Cromwell Day 2010’, above.
45 John Owen, God’s Work in Founding Zion (preached 17 Sept. 1656), 47; Ivan Roots, Speeches of Oliver Cromwell (1989), 175.
46 Roots, Speeches, 169.
47 Healing Question, pp. 1-2.

Dr Patrick Little is a Senior Research Fellow in the 1640-60 section of the History of Parliament Trust, and Chairman of The Cromwell Association.

PDF version

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.