The Protectorate

The founding of the Protectorate The new written constitution
Developments down to December 1653 The instrument of government assessed
The Protectorate established, 12-15 December The Protectorate praised
The Protectorate inaugurated, 16 December Conclusions
The Protectorate at work, 17-20 December

The founding of the Protectorate

1653 saw the establishment of the Protectorate. The new form of government founded on 16 December proved to be the most durable and stable regime of the entire republican or commonwealth period (1649-60). At home, it provided stability and orderly civilian rule, restored many of the traditional forms and, with its peaceable and inclusive approach, began the process of healing the divisions of the war years; but it also provided the platform for further reforms, with attempts to advance godly reformation and to bring about a fairer, purer and less sinful society. Abroad, the regime was strong and interventionist and won international respect.

The Protectorate is important in other ways. It was a British, not an English, regime, uniting England, Wales, Scotland and Ireland under a single system of government and, for the first time, giving all the component nations seats in a single, new, elected British parliament. It was also the first (and, to date, only) government in this country to be established and to operate under the terms of a detailed written constitution, which set out the composition and powers of the government. The constitution established an assured succession of elected, single-chamber parliaments, exercising extensive though not unlimited legislative powers, and set up a permanent, largely independent council, exercising extensive though not unlimited executive powers. It provided for a large and potent army and navy and guaranteed extensive religious liberty for most Protestant faiths.

The constitution also appointed a single head of state, who was to act with, and to coordinate the work of, both parliament and council, but who was to exercise only very limited powers alone and in his own right. The head of state was to be called a Lord Protector, not a king, and hence the regime as a whole became known as the Protectorate. The constitution appointed Oliver Cromwell as head of state for life, and he remained Protector until his death in September 1658. Although the office was not hereditary, he was in fact succeeded by his elder surviving son, Richard Cromwell, who served as Protector for around eight months, until an army coup in spring 1659 led to his ejection and to the collapse of the Protectorate as a whole. Roughly a year later, in spring 1660, the Stuart monarchy was restored.

Developments down to December 1653

The advent of the Protectorate in December 1653 ended a period of constitutional experiment and uncertainty. Since the effective collapse of the king’s government early in the civil war, both executive and legislative functions had in practice been exercised by a parliament, almost always in session. Down to 1649, the Long Parliament had run the country, technically acting with and on behalf of the defeated king; following the trial and execution of Charles I and the abolition of monarchy, the purged remnant or Rump of the House of Commons of the Long Parliament had run the country. In April 1653 Oliver Cromwell, parliament’s commander-in-chief, had used the army to end the rule of the Rump by ejecting or dissolving it. He acted thus because he and the army had become frustrated by the Rump’s failure to advance what they believed to be important and urgent reforms in several fields, including justice and the legal process, poverty and social problems, the promotion of godly religion and the pursuit of a purer, more godly society. Viewing the Rump merely as an ad hoc, stop-gap regime, they had also been urging it to make a long-term constitutional settlement by agreeing the forms and operation, the rules and regulations, for the future government of the nation, and then by dissolving itself and making way for that new government. Having dragged its feet over this, too, in spring 1653 the Rump pressed ahead with a new constitutional settlement to be contained in a Government Bill. Cromwell and his senior army colleagues believed the Bill to be faulty in some way, to contain provisions which would imperil the parliamentary cause and further inhibit reform, and the Rump’s refusal to drop or amend its Bill precipitated the crisis of April 1653 and led Cromwell to use the army to eject the Rump on 20 April.

Shying away from naked military rule, Cromwell and the army officers sought a new form of civilian government, and by early July they had established a non-elected body, comprising around 140 men who in theory represented England, Wales, Scotland and Ireland, but instead of being elected by the people they were selected by the army and its friends on the basis that they were deemed godly, were sympathetic to reform and would advance the type of godly reformation which the army was seeking. This body, known variously as the Nominated Assembly, the Barebones Parliament, the Little Parliament or the Parliament of Saints, first met on 4 July 1653, when it was opened by Cromwell, acting in his capacity as Lord General of the army. In a long and exultant speech, he welcomed the Assembly and handed over to it supreme executive and legislative powers over the three nations. The Assembly was seen as a medium-term solution, designed to hold power for around eighteen months, giving way to a second nominated assembly for a further year and then, in the mid 1650s, making way for elections and a return to more traditional parliaments. In practice, the Assembly soon became deeply divided between moderate reformers and a far more radical and active minority who sought to sweep away existing religious and judicial frameworks, even though nothing had been agreed and established to put in their place. By the second week of December the moderates had had enough and, in a clearly pre-planned move, early on 12 December they joined in signing a letter resigning their powers back to Cromwell. For the second time in eight months, the existing government and constitution had collapsed and in the resulting power vacuum effective governmental control had reverted to the army and its commander-in-chief, though once again they drew back from direct military rule. It was in these circumstances that the Protectorate was established in mid December 1653.

The Protectorate established, 12-15th December

Once the Nominated Assembly resigned on the morning of Monday 12 December 1653, events moved quickly, Cromwell and his army colleagues showed none of the uncertainty which characterised their initial response to the ejection of the Rump earlier in the year and it is clear that planning and tangible preparations had already been put in place during the autumn, presumably as a contingency in case the Assembly collapsed. Indeed, although Cromwell professed to have had no prior knowledge of the Assembly’s resignation – he told a later parliament that he “did not know one title of that resignation, until they all came and brought it” – it is likely that the leading moderates who coordinated the resignation on 12 December were in collusion with key players who then quickly advanced and established the Protectorate. Circumstantial evidence points to the prominent role played in this process by Major General John Lambert, who apparently began drawing up a new written constitution in the autumn, working first at home and then in London, where he probably consulted a wider group of officers about his proposals. Cromwell himself later recalled that at some stage before the Assembly resigned – perhaps in late November – this small group had brought their plans to Cromwell and repeatedly urged him to accept them, but that he had steadfastly refused to go along with their ideas, which at this stage would presumably have involved forcibly ejecting the sitting Assembly. Moreover, Cromwell later alleged that at this stage the draft constitution envisaged calling the new head of state king rather than Lord Protector, something he could not support or endorse. But once the Assembly itself had resigned, the plan and the draft constitution were quickly dusted down and put into operation.

On the afternoon of 12 December and again on the 13th, Cromwell met with groups of colleagues and advisors, identified variously in the contemporary sources as the Council of Officers or the Council of State, the latter perhaps a reference to the old Council established by the Nominated Assembly. In reality, it is unlikely that Cromwell conferred with either or both of these Councils in full at this stage, but rather with selected military and civilian colleagues, several of whom had held seats in these bodies. Meanwhile, on Tuesday 13 December Lambert convened a large meeting of army officers at Whitehall and there he summarised or read to them the draft constitution upon which he had been working for several weeks. Some officers responded by trying to open up discussion about this document and, more broadly, about the future constitutional settlement of the country, but Lambert responded by preventing debate and telling the officers that it had already been resolved – by whom, he did not make clear – that his draft constitution would serve as the blueprint for the new government. In the face of further mutterings, Lambert rather vaguely agreed that further amendments would be considered, and on that basis the officers seem to have acquiesced in the plan. This led on to more detailed discussions between Cromwell, Lambert and a group of senior officers and civilian politicians, with several meetings on 14 and 15 December. We do not know exactly what was discussed, but it seems that minor amendments were made to the written constitution and that the members of the new executive Council were chosen and agreed around this time. By or at this stage the name of the new head of state was also finalised, for the proposal to revive the title of king was dropped and, although the alternative form Lord Governor was reportedly being considered, the title Lord Protector was selected. By the evening of Thursday 15 December the written constitution was in sufficiently good shape and enough key players were in place – with Oliver Cromwell to serve as the first Lord Protector and a respectable number of new Councillors on board – for the plans to be made public and for the new government to be installed, openly inaugurated and start work.

The newspapers which went to press during this period were all very cautious in reporting the resignation of the Nominated Assembly and gloriously vague in giving accounts of the negotiations which followed, probably because the editors knew very little about what was going on. The following examples give a flavour of how these developments were being reported:

Severall Proceedings of Parliament, 6-13 December

“Monday 12 December: This Day there was a Debate concerning the Ministers, and their maintenance, or which the Lord General and a great part of the House have much declared themselves, but the House this day not agreeing, and the honour of the Church being of great Concernment; It was thought fit the Parliament should be Dissolved, which accordingly was done.”

Severall Proceedings of Parliament, 6-13 December

“Monday 12 December: It being moved in the House this day, That the sitting of this Parliament any longer as now constituted will not be for the good of the Commonwealth; And that therefore it was requisite to deliver up unto the Lord Generall Cromwell the powers which they received from him; and that Motion being seconded by several other Members, the House rose, and the Speaker with many of the Members of the House departed out of the House to Whitehall; where they, being the greater number of the Members sitting in Parliament, did by a writing under their hands resign unto his Excellency their said powers, and Master Speaker attended with the Members did present the same to Excellency accordingly.”

A Perfect Account, 7-14 December

[12 December: repeats word for word the report in Several Proceedings of Parliament]

“Tuesday 13 December: The Lord General Cromwel and Councel met this day at Whitehall, and his Excellency declares (as formerly) that he will use his uttermost endeavour to defend all honest, peaceable people of this Nation in their just Rights and Liberties, against all the enemies of this Commonwealth.”

The Faithful Scout, 9-16 December

[After a standard account of the resignation on 12 December, adds a note about the short speech made by Cromwell at a meeting with the officers on 12 or 13 December]

“His Excellency the Lord Generall Cromwell and his Councell of Officers met this day, at which meeting, after a most excellent wise, gracious, and pious speech made by his Excellency, full of Religion towards God, prudence towards the State, and love and care towards this distracted Nation, some things were transacted in order to a settlement, and sweet composure; the union of all that fear the Lord is much desired, that so we may sit down comfortably under a safe and well grounded peace.”

Mercurius Politicus, 9-16 December

[Again, repeats the standard account of the events of 12 December which appeared in other newspapers, but then adds a further note]

“Since the Parliament were pleased to put a period to their own Authority, by resigning back the power, there have been very earnest deliberations for a settling of the Government of this Nation in time to come; the result whereof will ere long be made public.”

The Weekly Intelligencer, 13-20 December

“13 December: The Generall had a meeting with his Councel of Officers, where having expressed himself with that zeal and fluency which are natural in him, some things were transacted both here, and afterwards at the Councel of State, for the settling of the Government of this Nation.”

Severall Proceedings of State Affairs, 15-22 December

“15 December: This day his Excellency the Lord General Cromwell by the advice of the Councell of Officers and other persons of Interest and Authority concurred to accept their desires that he should be made Lord Protector of England, Scotland, and Ireland.”

The protectorate inaugurated, 16th December

The new Protectoral government began work on the morning of Friday 16 December, when ten Councillors gathered to conduct their first formal, minuted meeting; according to the records, Cromwell himself did not attend this meeting. It was probably quite brief, for the only recorded decision was to order the circulation of a proclamation announcing the new government: “that the Proclamation printed and now read be sent forthwith to the severall sheriffs, accompanied with a letter, the forme whereof was also now read, and same to be signed by Mr Thurloe”, who was already acting as principal secretary to the Council. The proclamation itself, which was quite brief, was subsequently circulated as a printed broadsheet, but its text was also carried in most of the newspapers which went to press during the third week of December:

“Whereas the late Parliament dissolving themselves, and resigning their Powers and Authorities, The Government of the Commonwealth of England, Scotland and Ireland, by a Lord Protector and successive triennial parliaments, is now established; And whereas Oliver Cromwell, Captain Generall of all the forces of this Commonwealth, is declared Lord Protector of the Nations, and hath accepted thereof; We have therefore thought it necessary (as we hereby do) to make publication of the Premises, and strictly to charge and command all and every person and persons, of what quality and condition soever, in any of the said three Nations, to take notice hereof; and to conform and submit themselves to the Government so established, and all Sheriffs, Maiors, Bayliffs, and other Publick Ministers and Officers whom this may concern, are required to cause this Proclamation to be forthwith published in their respective Counties, Cities, Corporations and Market-Towns, to the end none may have cause to pretend ignorance in this behalf. Given at Whitehall this 16 day of December 1653.”

The new regime was then inaugurated in a fairly simple, low-key ceremony held during the afternoon of Friday 16 December. It was a public ceremony, but only in the sense that members of the public who happened to be out and about around Whitehall, Westminster and Westminster Hall had a chance to see something of the proceedings; it had not been announced and publicised in advance, so most people, even Londoners, had little opportunity to make a conscious decision to attend, and many who happened to witness some of the events probably had no real grasp of what was occurring. None the less, all the newspapers carried full and detailed accounts of the ceremony. One of the most detailed appeared in Severall Proceedings of State Affairs.

Severall Proceedings of State Affairs, 15-22 December

“His Excellency the Lord Generall Cromwell about one of the clock in the afternoon, went from Whitehall to Westminster in his Coach, foot soldiers being on both sides the streets all along, and in the Palace of Westminster were more soldiers both Horse and Foot; His Excellency was attended by the Lords Commissioners of the Great Seal of England, the Judges and Barons of the severall Benches in their Robes, and after them the Councell of the Common-wealth; And the Lord Mayor and Aldermen of the City of London, in their Scarlet Gowns, with the Recorder and Town Clerk, all in their Coaches, who passed before his Excellency; and last of all came his Excellency in a black suit and cloak in his Coach, with his life-guard, and divers bare before him; and many of the chief officers of the army with their cloaks, and swords, and hats on, passed on foot before and about his coach.

In this equipage his Excellency, and Attendants, came to Westminster Hall, where was a Chair, placed in the High Court of Chancery; where being come, the Lords Commissioners of the Great Seal of England stood next to the chair, the one on the one side, the other on the other side, and next to the Lord Commissioner Lisle who stood on the left hand of the chair, stood his Excellency (all being bare, and his Excellency also) on every side of the chair; in the next place stood all the Judges and Barons on both sides; and the Lord Mayor and Aldermen on the right side of the Court, next unto the Judges and the Councell, and the chief officers of the army on the left side of the Court.

The Rules for this new Government were then read, which consist of many particulars, expressed in an Instrument; the Instrument is large, which took up above half an hours reading, and was read by Mr Jessop, one of the Secretaries of the Councell. After which, the Lord Commissioner Lisle read a parchment in the nature of an oath, to engage his Excellency to perform on his part, according to the Government before mentioned; During which time his Excellency held up his hand, and having heard it read, accepted thereof, and subscribed thereto in the face of the Court. Then the Lords Commissioners of the Great Seal, and the Judges, etc, invited him to take possession of the Chair, as Lord Protector of England, Scotland, and Ireland, which he did and sat down with his head covered, the Court continuing all bare. The Lords Commissioners delivered up to His Highness the Purse and Seals, and the Lord Mayor of London his Sword, which were presently delivered to them back again by his Highness; and then after a salute, the Court rose.

First came the Aldermen and Councell before his Highness, from the Court to Westminster Hall Gate, where the coaches were; after them the Judges, then came the Lords Commissioners of the Great Seal, one of them bearing the Purse and Seals; and before his Highness came the Life-Guard, then 4 Serjeants-at-Arms with their Maces, one being the Mace of the City of London, the second of the Chancery, the third of the Councell, and the other of the Parliament, born by the sword-bearer, Serjeant Middleton, Serjeant Dendy, and Serjeant Berkstead; and the Lord Mayor of London went before his Highness with the sword, and the officers of the army about his person; and in the Palace they took coach at the Hall Gate, and returned to White-Hall in the same equipage they went; the Lord Major rode bare with the Sword in the Boot of the coach with his Highness; and there were great acclamations and shoutings along the streets as they passed.

His Highness the Lord Protector being returned to Whitehall, he went with his Attendants to the Banqueting House, where they had an exhortation made by Mr Lockier, Chaplain to his Highness; which being ended, they were dismissed with 3 vollies of shot between 4 and 5 o’clock at night.

There is more than ordinary joy in and about London (both by the Inhabitants and the Souldiery) for this happy day.”

The reports in the other newspapers generally carried much the same information, sometimes following this account word for word, sometimes rephrasing certain sections, though sometimes adding a few details. Thus The Weekly Intelligencer of 13-20 December prefaced its account of the ceremony by noting that since the resignation of the Assembly Cromwell had been meeting with “a Councel of Officers, where advice was taken with some other persons of Eminence, how the great Burthen of Governing the Three Nations should be born” and reporting that the final shape of the new government had been agreed after “three days Councell, and prayers unto God to direct the councel”. Of the ceremony itself, The Weekly Intelligencer stressed that Cromwell “was apparel’d in black, without any formality of Robes at all” and added that as the new Protector rode back from Westminster “the soldiers in Westminster Hall and the Pallace Yard made acclamations of joy, and the great guns afterwards did go off at the Tower, and some great ships that lay not far off from thence”. Another very pro-Protectoral account of the events of 16 December was contained in a pamphlet, published on 21 December, entitled A Declaration Concerning the Government of the Three Nations, which adds that after agreeing to and signing the oath as Protector, Cromwell made a short speech: “That seeing it was the will of God, and the pleasure of the council, that he should be invested with so great an honour as to be Lord Protector, that he desired to rule and govern the three Nations no longer then it might have a perfect dependencie on the great work of the Lord; that so the Gospel might flourish in its full splendour and purity; and the people enjoy their just Rights and Propriety. His speech being ended, he sat down in the chair covered…”

Several contemporary sources also give the text of the oath which Cromwell took, accepted and signed during the ceremony on 16 December:

“Whereas the Major part of the last Parliament (judging that their sitting any longer, as then constituted, would not be for the good of this Common-wealth) did dissolve the same, and by a writing under their hands, dated the twelfth day of this instant December, resigned unto Mee their Powers and Authorities; And whereas it was necessary thereupon, That some speedy recourse should be taken for the settlement of these Nations upon such a Basis and foundation, as, by the blessing of God, might be lasting, secure Property, and answer those great ends of Religion and Liberty, so long contended for; And upon full and mature Consideration had of the Form of Government hereunto annexed, being satisfied that the same, through divine assistance, may answer the Ends afore-mentioned; And having also been desired, and advised, as well by several persons of Interest and Fidelity in this Commonwealth, as the Officers of the Army, to take upon mee the Protection and Government of these Nations in the manner expressed in the said Form of Government, I have accepted thereof, and do hereby declare my acceptance accordingly. And do promise in the presence of God, That I will not violate or infringe the matters and things contained therein, but, to my power, observe the same, and cause them to be observed. And shall in all other things, to the best of my understanding, Govern these Nations according to the Laws, Statutes and Customs, seeking their Peace, and causing Justice and Law to be equally administered.”

The French and Venetian ambassadors and other dignitaries reported back on the change of government and gave accounts of the ceremony on 16 December, but the latter appear to be based on the newspaper reports rather than eye-witness accounts and generally added nothing to those newspaper reports. However, we possess at least one account which, although brief, may have been written by someone who had witnessed the event. Samuel Percivall wrote to his kinsman John Percivall from London on 17 December, mixing a breathless account of the ceremony with a summary of some of the key elements of the new written constitution:

“Yesterday…the grand solemnization of the General’s Protectorship was performed, with no less state and magnificence than any former Kings have used. From Whitehall to Westminster, a lane of soldiers being made, his Excellency, seated in a rich coat, the Lord Mayor in one boot, Major General Lambert and another in tother, advanced leisurely, attended with a multitude of coaches, the colonels, officers and lifeguard all on foot bareheaded (as were all from My Lord Mayor to the meanest). Coming to the Hall, in the Court of Chancery, Lord Commissioner Lisle gives him the Oath, and he ratified (I know not what to call it) an instrument of three or four skins of parchment, covenants, I suppose, for his government.

Among other particulars of this stipulation, tis covenanted that a Parliament, to be chosen as heretofore, shall be assembled at or before September next, that the ministry, laws and properties of every man shall be maintained as heretofore until the Parliament sit, that all titles and honours shall be in his dispose; he shall have £200,000 per annum out of the three nations for maintenance of his court and the honour of the nations, besides all forests, chases, houses and crown lands not yet disposed of. A thousand other particulars are contained, but variously reported; they will shortly appear in print. This being ratified, the Lord Mayor, Lord President, Lord Commissioners and the late Speaker deliver to him their maces; he returns them again, to be held during pleasure, charging them and the Judges to be careful in their places, and see justice impartially distributed to all. And so being proclaimed Lord Protector and Conservator of the three nations, returned in the same pomp, all the street uncovered. They say Lambert hath the generalship, but that’s not believed by many, and that a peace with the Dutch is already made, and shall be the prologue to his future happy government.

Twenty one are to be of the Privy Council; he to have a negative voice there and in Parliament. This is all the certainty I can pick out of the confused discourses among men in a maze, as are most, and possibly I may err in many relations; when time hath better informed, expect more.”

The protectorate at work, 17-20th December

The new Protectoral Council gathered again on Saturday 17 December to draw up and sign orders to ensure that the document proclaiming the new government, agreed the day before, would be proclaimed in London on the following Monday. Although the order books have no record of a formal Council meeting on the Saturday, at least one of the newspapers picked up on the meeting, for Severall Proceedings of State Affairs reported under 17 December: “This day his Highness the Lord Protector met with those named of his Council in the Council Chamber at Whitehall…and several things were transacted in order to a settlement”

On the morning of Monday 19 December the Council gathered for what appears to have been quite a brief meeting which decided various procedural matters, including the form of address to be used by petitioners, ambassadors and others, and the appointment of Henry Lawrence as chairman and president of the Council. Several Councillors then attended the formal proclamation of the new government in the City of London. The newspapers reported that “this day with sound of Trumpet and great solemnity, his Excellence was proclaimed Protector of the Three Nations…by a Serjeant at Arms at the Exchange in London, the Lord Mayor, Aldermen and Common Councel being present, and in several other places of the City of London and in Westminster”. A slightly different account records that “The Lord Maior and Aldermen…on Monday went in their scarlet gowns to meet the Herauld of Armes and to proclaim the Lord Protector which was accordingly done by 12 Trumpets both in Cheapside and at the Royal Exchange, where the ensuing Proclamation was publikely read, to the end that all men may conform and submit themselves to this present government”. The Venetian ambassador reported that the proclamation met with a very poor response, but how far his sour report genuinely reflected the public mood and how far it was coloured by his antipathy to the new regime is questionable:

“With no Council of State and everything depending on the will of the new Protector, the Lord Mayor and Sheriffs and some officers of the army without loss of time proceeded to proclaim him, preceded in state by 3 heralds in rich tabards, with a cavalry escort and a number of coaches, at the usual thoroughfares, charging all to tender respect and obedience to the actual government. But I noticed that the people seemed rather amazed and dashed than glad, and no shout of public or private satisfaction was heard. Men shrug their shoulders and all admire the address and cleverness by which this man has reached so far as to become the absolute master of the country and to give the law to the people here. These regret the past but cowed by force and spiritless, one may say, they no longer show the courage for determined action and submit tamely to grievances which in the past they would not have tolerated even in imagination, a case of human fallibility, which snatches at the evil in mistake for the good, and spurns the latter for the former. Some have been heard to mutter, We deserve this for our foolish action, putting to death our legitimate king in order to submit to a base born fellow of no standing. This is the opinion of more than one and as it chimes in with the universal feeling it is impossible to say as yet what it may lead to in the course of time, which has brought about these events and is preparing other great changes of which this is the foretaste. It is true that the strength of the army upholds Cromwell in his position, but if this took things ill, or some party were formed in it, that might give a turn to his fortunes and make his fall even more precipitous than his rise has been easy and astonishing.”

Having attended the proclamation of the new government in the City during the morning of Monday 19 December, the Councillors returned to Whitehall to join the Protector at a religious service, with Thomas Goodwin preaching. Then in the afternoon the Protector and his Councillors held an informal, unminuted meeting, at which Cromwell made a brief speech, summarised in Severall Proceedings of State Affairs and other newspapers: “his Highness the Lord Protector and the Council…met in the Council Chamber at Whitehall, where his Highness in a sweet speech to them pressed the Council to act for God and the peace and good of the Nation, and particularly recommended to them to consider and relieve the distress of the poor and oppressed”.

On Tuesday 20 December the Councillors held their first, full, working session, beginning to tackle some of the realities and intricacies of everyday government. Cromwell again was not present – this was not unusual, for during the Protectorate as a whole he attended just under 40% of formal, minuted meetings – but thirteen Councillors gathered to handle a considerable quantity and variety of business, producing a long list of decisions and orders which were duly entered into the order books. Thus Secretary Thurloe was ordered to draw up a fair copy of the new written constitution to go to the printers and several items of conciliar legislation were initiated, including regulations to renew the excise and the probate of wills, to extend the powers of various financial commissioners and officers and to alter the form and wording of patents and writs to correspond to the new government. The Council also ordered a proclamation drawn up announcing that judicial procedures should continue, despite the recent change of government. It was read, amended, passed and ordered printed the following day:

“A Proclamation of His Highness, with the consent of his Councel, for continuing all Persons being in office for the Execution of Publick Justice at the time of the late change of Government until His Highnesse further declaration.

Oliver, Lord Protector of England, Scotland, and Ireland, considering that whereas the exercise of the chief Magistracy and the administration of Government within the said Commonwealth is invested and established in his Highnesse assisted with a Councel. And lest thereupon the settled and ordinary course of justice in the Commonwealth (if remedy were not provided) might receive interruption, his Highnesse in his care of the state and publick justice thereof (reserving to future consideration the reformation and redress of any abuses of misgovernment upon better knowledge taken thereof) is pleased, and doth hereby signifie, declare and ordain, by and with the advice and consent of his Councel, who have power until the meeting of the next Parliament to make Laws and Ordinances for the peace and welfare of these Nations, which shall be binding and in force until order shall be taken in Parliament concerning the same, That all persons who on the tenth of this instant December were duly and lawfully possessed of any place of Judicature or Office of Authority, Jurisdiction or Government within the Commonwealth, shall be and shall so hold themselves continued in the same offices and places respectively as formerly they held and enjoyed the same, and not otherwise, until his Highnesse pleasure be further known. And all Commissions, Patents and other Grants, and all proceedings of what nature soever in Courts of Common Law or Equity or in the Court of Admiralty or by Commissioners of Sewers shall stand and be in the same and like force to all intents and purposes as the same were on the said tenth day of December, until further order given by his Highnesse therein, And that in the meantime (for preservation of the publick Peace, and necessary proceedings in matters of Justice and for Safety of the State) all the said Persons of whatsoever Place, Degree or Condition, may not fail every one severally according to his respective place, office or charge, to proceed in the performance and execution of all Duties thereunto belonging, as formerly appertained to them and every of them, whilest the former government was in being.

Given at Whitehall, 21 December 1653”

Meanwhile, at the meeting on 20 December the Councillors further ordered that all prisoners committed by the Nominated Assembly were to remain in custody. Two forestry commissioners were appointed to negotiate the repurchase of parks and lands around Hampton Court, which had been designated for the use of the new Lord Protector. The Council assured the late customs farmers that the new government would honour the terms and conditions agreed with them by the Nominated Assembly, including a deal whereby they would gain some ex-forest land in return for advancing £250,000 to the government. This assurance was made in response to a petition which the customs farmers had addressed to the Lord Protector, the first of many thousands of petitions which were to come before the Council during the Protectorate. Business had begun in earnest.

The new written constitution

One of the most important items of business which the Council addressed in late December was to “perfect” the new written constitution and to render it into a form fit for printing and circulating. The document was clearly in an advanced state by 16 December, sufficient for the new government to be launched and the constitution read out during the ceremony in Westminster Hall. However, the constitution was not printed for a further fortnight or more, until 2 January 1654. In the interim Protector and Council appear to have been working on the document, perhaps making further changes to its content and amending some of the clauses. Although the Council’s own order books merely point to repeated directions to “perfect” the document and reveal the curious delay in its publication, there is other evidence that the constitution printed in early January varied in some respects from the version of mid December. At least six summaries of the constitution were produced unofficially and circulated during the latter half of December. They were presumably based upon notes made during its public recitation on 16 December. In several respects these summaries differed from the final constitution, the definitive text which was published on 2 January 1654, perhaps therefore revealing amendments made by Protector and Council between 16 December and the beginning of January. The final, official version of the written constitution, known as the Instrument of Government, became readily available from 2 January and it soon circulated widely both as a separate pamphlet and through substantial summaries and extensive extracts carried in almost all the newspapers in editions which went to press on or after 4 January.

The full text of the constitution ran to 42 clauses and a little over 4,500 words. For the full text of the document click here.

The instrument of government assessed

The Instrument of Government was hatched beyond the public gaze during the closing weeks of 1653 and little was ever revealed about its background or gestation. It clearly drew upon earlier constitutional plans, including the draft settlement prepared by the senior army officers in summer 1647, the Heads of the Proposals, the final officers’ version of the Agreement of the People of early 1649 and the Rump’s abortive Government Bill of spring 1653, but much seems to have been new and written from scratch. Little was and is known about its authors. Many contemporary sources identified its main author as Major General John Lambert, who reportedly “first contrived and brought forth the Instrument” and who, when the Instrument was attacked in parliament at the end of the 1650s, sprang to its defence and all but admitted authorship. But several sources also stressed that Lambert did not act alone in drafting and advancing the constitution, instead ascribing responsibility to a group or “junto” of between five and eight senior officers, though sadly the other members of this group were generally not identified. The divine Richard Baxter linked Lambert with Major General James Berry as the “two chief men” involved in drafting the Instrument. A third name may be added, that of Major General Thomas Kelsey, who in 1659 was alleged to have “had a great hand in the very change of the Government from a Commonwealth to a Single Person” and to have altered “something” within the constitution; interestingly, Kelsey’s role in amending the constitution was placed chronologically before his alleged role in persuading the Nominated Assembly to resign. On the other hand, another later account, of 1659, suggested that the authorship of the Instrument may have rested with a mixed group of soldiers and civilian politicians, identifying the “5 or 6 persons who projected and designed the Protectoral Government”, those “who at first contrived and brought forth the Instrument and Government”, as Lambert, Colonel William Goffe, Henry Lawrence, John Thurloe and Oliver St John. Lambert was as usual accorded eminence, but only one other military figure (Goffe) was named, Major Generals Berry and Kelsey were not included, and instead three of the five named authors were exclusively civilians (Lawrence, who served as President of the Council throughout the Protectorate, Secretary of State Thurloe and St John). However, we should note that Oliver St John vigorously denied any involvement in the establishment of the Protectorate and later claimed that he was dangerously ill throughout the whole period from October 1653 until May 1654.

Whoever they were, the authors of the Instrument had clear intentions. The constitution restored separate and powerful legislative and executive arms of government, while building in a series of checks and balances to prevent one arm either going too far without the consent of the other or attacking and undermining the other. Legislative power was vested in an assured succession of triennial parliaments, the first to meet in September 1654. They were to comprise a single chamber of 460 elected MPs, representing England, Wales, Scotland and Ireland. Accordingly, the constitution distributed the seats in a manner very different from a traditional early Stuart parliament; it also greatly revised the franchise and laid down new conditions on who could vote in elections for, and sit and serve in, the Protectorate parliaments. The constitution gave parliament a guaranteed minimum lifespan, during which it could only be dissolved with its own consent, though thereafter it could by implication be dissolved by a higher authority. There was provision for extra parliaments to be called and to meet in the intervals between the regular triennial parliaments if need arose. The constitution made detailed and complex provision for elections to be triggered and for the triennial parliaments to meet, even if the head of state or local officials for some reason failed to issue writs or convene elections. Parliament was given extensive legislative powers, to make new laws, and once bills had been approved by the House they would apparently automatically become law, even if the head of state failed to give his assent. However, the head of state had power to veto any parliamentary bill which in his sole opinion, against which there was no appeal, ran contrary to the constitution.

The constitution vested executive power in the hands of a permanent Council, comprising up to twenty-one members; the first fifteen founder-members were named within the constitution. This Protectoral Council was to be very different from the old royal Privy Council, for the king had the right to appoint and dismiss Privy Councillors entirely at will. In contrast, Protectoral Councillors could only be removed by death or by conviction for serious miscarriage and only after a long and complex procedure in which the head of state played no part. Similarly, the head of state played little role in appointing new Councillors to fill any vacancies, for again quite a long and complex procedure was laid down to draw up and whittle down a shortlist of candidates. In short, the constitution attempted to establish a Council which was at least semi-autonomous and semi-independent of the head of state. However, the Council was given very few powers of its own – alone it could do little more than elect a new head of state on the death of the old and vet newly-returned MPs to ensure they met the qualifications laid down in the constitution.

The constitution restored a single head of state, to be called a Lord Protector, who was to hold office for life. It was not a hereditary office, and on the death of one Lord Protector, his successor was to be elected by the Council. Oliver Cromwell was named in the constitution as the first Lord Protector. The Protector was built up as a substantial figurehead – state land and properties were vested in him, official documents were to run in his name, he was to be the font of honour and magistracy, he had power of pardon, he was provided with an assured annual income to maintain himself and the civil aspects of his administration, in effect he held a veto over parliamentary bills and in practice he exercise the power to dissolve parliament once its guaranteed minimum lifespan had expired. But most of the major and important powers needed to run the state – to make peace and war, to deploy the armed forces, to appoint to senior offices of state and to raise and spend large parts of the state’s finances – were not held by the Lord Protector alone, nor indeed by parliament or Council acting alone. Instead, clause after clause of the constitution laid down that these key powers were to be shared between at least two, generally all three, of these key players in central government. Thus in these crucial aspects of government, typically the Lord Protector could only act and exercise power if he first sought and obtained the advice and consent of a parliament if one was in session, or the advice and consent of the Council in the intervals between parliament. In some cases, decisions taken by Protector and Council when parliament was not sitting were to be reviewed, confirmed or rejected when the next parliament met.

The constitution made provision for a regular army of 30,000 men and for a navy of an unspecified size “convenient” for guarding the seas. But it also recognised that because of threats to security there would be a need to maintain the existing much larger army, at least for a time, and it did make allowance for funding the existing army, which in 1653-54 probably numbered over 55,000 men. The constitution also authorised the continuation of a ministry funded through the existing tithe system, at least until some better system had been found, but it stressed that no one was to be compelled to adhere to any particular faith or official church. Instead there was to be broad liberty of conscience for a variety of Protestants, though it would not extend to Catholics, to Prelatists – those who were actively promoting the restoration of an espiscopal church and system – or to anyone indulging in licentious practices.

The Instrument left some issues unclear and there are a few ragged edges, perhaps indicative of hasty drafting or revision. For example, in several places it mentions that the Channel Islands of Guernsey and Jersey were to be given seats in the new parliament, but in fact no such provision was made. The meaning of “triennial” was ambiguous, for in places the constitution states or implies that a new parliament was to meet every third year, with parliaments to meet in autumn 1654, 1657, 1660, 1663 and so on, thus limiting the duration of any one parliament to just under three years; however, other clauses state or imply that the three years ran from the date of the dissolution (not the first meeting) of the previous parliament, so that if the first parliament had sat from September 1654 until, say, March 1656, the next triennial parliament would not have fallen due until 1659. While article IV laid down that during parliamentary sessions the Protector needed parliament’s consent before disposing and ordering “the militia and forces, both by sea and land”, it stated that if parliament was not in session he needed council’s consent to “dispose and order the militia”, with no reference here to “the forces”. It is not clear whether, by accident or design, the constitution was drawing some distinction between the militia, that is the part-time, county-based defence units of England and Wales, and the regular armed forces, giving the Protector a freer hand to deploy them when parliament was not sitting. The Instrument contained no mechanism permitting or enabling its own amendment or revision; indeed, MPs and parliament were barred from making any changes to the existing text. In places, the constitution was gloriously vague, implicitly or explicitly leaving it to Protector and Council to sort out the distribution of seats in Scotland and Ireland, the size of the navy necessary to defend the state and the size and funding of the army over and above the 30,000 allowed for in clause XXVII. Much of Clause XXX has the feel of an afterthought, added on to an existing provision. Thus in the eight months or so before the first Protectorate parliament was to meet in September 1654, Protector and Council were given temporary powers to raise money to pay for the extra troops and, even more curiously, to make laws and ordinances, thus giving temporary but potentially sweeping legislative powers to the executive arm. In this awkward interval before parliament was to meet, Protector and Council were also given temporary powers to distribute the Scottish and Irish seats and to co-opt further Councillors, up to the maximum of twenty-one. In practice, Cromwell and his Council made extensive use of their temporary financial and legislative powers during 1654, renewing and imposing taxes and passing over 180 ordinances covering public, private and local issues.

The Protectorate praised

The new government, its constitution and head of state were warmly received by many. Thus A Declaration Concerning the Government of the Three Nations of 21 December rounded off its account of the establishment of the new regime with the comment:

“So that now this Commonwealth is become the wonder and emulation of Europe, nay of the whole world; since that the Lord Protector is resolved to defend and maintain our national rights, laws, liberties and privileges, against all sort of persons whatsoever that shall dare to attempt the violation or extirpation thereof. And indeed, deplorable it is unto many to observe the bird-witted opinionators of this age, who already begin to break forth a disowning and dislike of this great and unparallel’d change. Alas! How great a madness are these Antinomies captivated with, who blindly endeavour the ruine of so prudent a Governor, so excellent a Protector. Defend us, O God.”

On 7 January 1654 one of the new Councillors, young Sir Charles Wolseley – son of an active royalist, he was still just 23 and would live to see a Hanoverian on the throne – wrote to the politician and diplomat Bulstrode Whitelock who was on a mission to Sweden and who was newly arrived at Gothenberg:

“My Lord, The state and complexion of affairs are much altered here since you left us and I think very much for the better. The parliament you left sitting, the main part of them delivered up their power to my Lord General from whence they received it. The government now established is by a Lord Protector (who hath much the same power which the king formerly) assisted with a council not exceeding 21 and parliaments to be chosen triennially who have the legislature wholly in them, save for some time till the first parliament be elected when it rests with the Protector and his council. The nation is much generally satisfied with it and providence seems to promise us a great deal of settlement and peace under this government. The present Protector is my Lord General, whose personal worth I think I may say without vanity qualify him for the greatest monarch of the world. The succeeding Protectors are elective by the council.”

In the same batch of correspondence Whitelock would have received a broadly similar letter from the journalist and author Marchamont Nedham, written on 6 January, also announcing the change of government in very positive terms: “we have a new world formed (like the old) out of chaos, by the prudence and industry of that excellent person”, the new Lord Protector. Nedham followed this up with perhaps the greatest and most detailed defence of the new regime to appear in print, his A True State of the Case of the Commonwealth of early February 1654. This eulogy sought not only to praise the Protectorate government but also to justify its advent as the will of God and its structure as a sensible blend of the old and the new which would bring security and stability to the troubled nation. The very positive tone is evident from the opening words:

“Seeing it hath pleased God, after many various and wonderfull Turns of Affairs,…at length to fix the Government of these Dominions in the present Form of Establishment: As it is a matter much beyond the expectation of those whom He hath used as Instruments in the whole course of his Providence, and of admiration to the World; so it affords abundant cause of praise and thanksgiving; that those great Changes and Revolutions which have been in the midst of us, have not engaged us in blood among our selves, nor exposed us for a prey and spoil to the Common Enemy, who watcheth all advantages and opportunities to promote the ruine of that Interest, which the Lord himself hath owned by many glorious Deliverances in the behalf of our Nation: for no other Reason can be imagined of the happy peace and tranquillity which we now enjoy, but that He who stretches out the Heavens, and laid the foundations of the Earth, and formeth the spirit of Man within him, hath brought forth these things, as the accomplishment of his own good will and purpose toward his People; who have been carried on by a Divine hand, through many admirable difficulties and successes, in all the contests they have had with the Enemies of their Peace and Liberty.”

Having stressed that the Protectorate had been established by God and not through mortal hands or secular ambitions, Nedham then embarked upon a lengthy review of the events of the previous decade, demonstrating both the virtue and godliness of the parliamentary cause and the way in which God’s providences had brought down the successive regimes of that decade and had thus led the nation and its people to this point and this new government. In the second half of A True State, Nedham analysed, defended and praised the Protectoral constitution, as offering “a solid and certain course of Settlement”, which guarded against the defects evident in earlier regimes, and restored the people “(as near as may be, with most convenience) to our antient way of Government, by Supreme Magistrates and Parlaments”, while at the same time providing “for the security of those great ends of Religion and Liberty, which were as the blood and spirits running through every vein of the Parlament and Armies Declarations; so that though the Commonwealth may now appear with a new face in the outward Form, yet it remains still the same in Substance, and is of a better complexion and constitution than heretofore.” In his ensuing analysis of the Instrument, Nedham repeatedly stressed that it gave power to the people through an assured succession of elected parliaments and that both Protector and Council exercised limited authority and were ultimately answerable to the people’s elected representatives in parliament – “all the grand Acts of Soveraignty are either immediately, or influentially, lodged in the People.” In line with this, he sought to explain and justify the apparent limitations placed upon parliament in the constitution – the qualifications on those permitted to vote in elections and to stand and serve as MPs, the right of the Protector to veto parliamentary bills running counter to the constitution and both the expectation that there would be significant periods when parliament would not be in session and the provisions for government to continue during these intervals between parliaments. Moving on, Nedham emphasised that key powers in government were shared between Protector, parliament and Council, that religious liberty was secured and guaranteed and that the state was to be defended by a strong army and navy, “such as will not only give us credit and esteem among our Friends abroad, but strike Terror into our Enemies”. Nedham defended the re-establishment of a single head of state, though one possessing strictly limited powers, and he praised the many qualities of Oliver Cromwell which made him an excellent choice as the first Lord Protector. He stressed that in the future Councillors would be chosen from a shortlist drawn up by parliament – he defended the non-parliamentary appointment of the first Councillors by reminding his readers “It must be remembred, that we were in the beginning of a new Government, necessitated to create a little World out of Chaos, and bring Form out of Confusion; so that there was an absolute necessity, that some who are known to be persons of Integrity, and firm for the present Settlement, should at the same instant be taken in, to carry on the work” – so that in due course new Protectors would be elected by Councillors who had themselves been initially shortlisted by the people’s representatives in parliament. Having analysed and defended several specific aspects of the new written constitution, Nedham closed with a broad and ringing endorsement of the new regime:

“Let us ruminate then a little in our hearts touching these things, and behold the great hopes and blessed benefits of Security and Freedom that we have, and may shortly enjoy under the Government, as it is now established. The Quarrel for hereafter is not between two Persons contesting both for a Crown; it is not the Interest of Grandeur of any single Person, or particular Family, that is contended for on our part: But if ever the Enemy should (for our sins) arise to the possibility of a future Contest, remember what it is he fights for, and what must be the wretched Consequents of his prevailing; remember also what we of this Nation are to stand for, the preservation of our Religion, our Liberties, and all that is dear and precious among men, which appear plainly to be imbarqued in the great Bottom of this present Establishment. If we falter, or be mis-led through phant’sie, or if that fail through our default, we are immediately swallowed up by Tyrannie, and have nothing left to do, but to put our mouths in the dust, and sit down in sorrow and silence for the glory of our Nation. Moreover, if on the other side any opposition of malecontent and refractory men should (which God forbid) arise at home here among our selves, the like Confusions will follow, the effect whereof must needs be a straining up the Pins of Power, to spoil the harmony of Government, and a constraining men, for necessary preservation, to fence themselves in such a manner as they never intended. Having therefore a fair and noble way of Administration provided, under which men may live in a plenary enjoyment of their Liberty as Christians, and their Rights as Men; we do not, we cannot in any measure doubt (though we thus expostulate the matter with our Friends and Countrymen, and lay open those great Inconveniences and dangers before them) but that we shall find a ready and cheerfull concurrence from all sober Persons; and have ground chiefly to expect it from all the People of God, though of different Judgments, seeing equal Liberty is given to them all (without just offence to any) and the principal care is for preserving true Religion, and the countenance of its Professors. We, for our parts, have done our duty, in declaring the grounds of our Judgment, and know we have therein discharged a good Conscience, in answer to all the Ends of our first Principles and Engagements, believing we shall find comfort in it in the day of our Account: For, when we look back upon what is done, we find nothing that stares in our faces; and if there could have been imagined any better way of Settlement, we should have imbraced it with the same spirit of submission: But here we see, our Friends have taken in the good of all the three sorts of Government, and bound them all in one. If War be, here is the Unitive vertue (but nothing else) of Monarchy to encounter it; and here is the admirable Counsel of Aristocracie to manage it: If Peace be, here is the industry and courage of Democracie to improve it. And whereas in the present Constitution, the Legislative and Executive powers are separated; the former being vested in a constant succession of Parlaments elective by the People, the latter in an elective Lord Protector and his Successors assisted by a Council; we conceive the State of this Commonwealth is thereby reduced to so just a Temper, that the Ills either of successive Parlaments, furnished with power both of executing and making Laws, or of a perpetual Parlament (which are Division, Faction, and Confusion) being avoided, on the one side, and the Inconveniences of absolute Lordly power on the other; the Frame of Government appears so well bounded on both sides, against Anarchie and Tyrannie, that we hope it may now (through the blessing of God) prove a seasonable Mean (as for the better defending these Dominions against Enemies abroad, and promoting our Interests in Forein parts, so also) of Peace and Settlement to this distracted Nation; and be of a durable continuance to succeeding Ages, for the glory of the most high God, the advancement of his Gospel, and protection of his People, and the benefit of Posterity.”


Marchamont Nedham was a skilled propagandist who sold his services, and his A True State is best viewed as a good example of semi-official propaganda. Sir Charles Wolseley was a newly-appointed Protectoral Councillor, an insider, a government man, who naturally praised the new regime. Although government censorship was not as strict at this stage as it was during most of the seventeenth century, the newspaper editors were generally very cautious and they were invariably hesitant and uncritical when reporting on the regime of the day, with a strong tendency to take a pro-government line and avoid anything remotely controversial. Accordingly, historians should not and do not take these uncritical assessments of the Protectorate at face value. Instead, historical assessments of the Protectorate tend to be quite balanced, with positive achievements run against failures and limitations.

Many of the Protectorate’s weaknesses, limitations and failures sprang from the circumstances in which the regime was born and from its written constitution of December 1653. For all its civilian appearance, the regime rested upon military might and the army, the Instrument was hatched by a small group of senior army officers, perhaps with limited civilian assistance, and the constitution had no wider standing, endorsement or legitimacy. It restored a semi-traditional government, with a single head of state, so alienating many firm republicans who had welcomed the abolition of monarchy in 1649 and who deplored the advent of the Protectorate as a step back towards semi-monarchical rule. On the other hand, although the Protector and his regime sought to reconcile ex-royalists and few, in fact, openly and actively opposed the Protectorate, equally few actively supported it; most royalists always viewed the regime as an unwelcome aberration, with something of the night about it, and yearned for the restoration of the traditional Stuart monarchy. Similarly, strict supporters of the old Church of England and of a narrower Presbyterian system were never won over by the religious freedom of the Protectorate, and some of the sects which flourished at the time were seen by many as heretical, troublesome or disturbers of the peace. The complex and inadequate financial provisions of the constitution, compounded by the continuing presence of a large and expensive army and navy and by the regime’s attempts to reduce taxes in order to court popularity, led to increasing state debt and severe financial problems. The constitution failed to give Protector and Council clear and adequate powers to run government during lengthy intervals between parliaments, and after the first Protectorate parliament was dissolved at the earliest opportunity and without settling anything, the executive struggled to run the country in strict accordance with its constitutional powers. All three Protectorate parliaments were problematic and contained many opponents of the Protectoral regime; the first two were heavily purged at or near the beginning of the session, though the first still proved troublesome and the second got out of hand and had to be dissolved once the pre-session purge lapsed, while the unpurged third parliament triggered a breakdown in the relationship between Protector and army and precipitated the coup of spring 1659. In the course of the Protectorate, the executive resorted to questionable financial ploys, bullied defendants, their legal advisors and even judges, imprisoned without trial, for a time experimented with a novel and semi-military form of regional government and imposed a heavier level of censorship, though in all this the Protectoral regime probably acted less harshly or questionably than most Stuart monarchs and most early modern regimes. In the end, the regime survived for barely five and a half years, collapsing and swept away in May 1659. Most of its principal goals, both in healing and settling and in advancing godly reformation, had made limited headway by that time and many were largely reversed or rendered irrelevant by the traditional monarchical government restored in 1660.

Yet it is right that we should remember the Protectorate and that on a number of grounds we should commemorate the anniversary of its foundation in December 1653. Firstly, the Cromwellian Protectorate was the first truly British government in our history, the first to lay serious claim to rule over and to pull together the disparate nations of England, Wales, Scotland and Ireland. Secondly, the Protectorate was the first and so far the last government in our history to be empowered and to operate according to the terms of a detailed written constitution. Thirdly, that constitution raises a number of issues which are still very much alive today – whether there should be a written constitution to lay out the mechanisms of government; whether there should be a single head of state and, if so, what titles and powers that individual should possess; how power should be divided between the legislature and the executive and how one arm of government should relate to the other; whether parliament should comprise a single elected chamber or whether it is desirable to balance it with a second parliamentary chamber and, if so, what powers that second chamber should possess and how its members should be elected or selected; whether it is sensible or practical to unite the British nations into a single polity or whether separate or devolved governments should exist in each; and whether there should there be a single, state church or a plurality of faiths of equal standing, none of them tied to, or promoted by, the state? Fourthly, while the Protectorate government met with mixed success during its own day and many of its policies were undone at the Restoration, it did leave some more durable legacies which continued or re-emerged in the later seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, including a shift in the balance of power in Ireland, a system of taxes which raised far more than the early Stuart fiscal system and which more effectively tapped the wealth of the nation, a demonstration that Britain had the resources, will and ability to be a front rank military nation and to maintain dynamic and interventionist foreign, colonial and commercial policies and the establishment of a range of strong and vibrant Protestant faiths which could not thereafter either be crushed by, or accommodated within, the restored state church. But fifthly, the real importance of the Protectorate is not to be measured primarily in the sometimes tenuous or uncertain long-term legacies it left behind. Rather, it rests in the fundamental decency and moderation of the regime, in its attempts to work for the good of the people and to achieve something positive, in its pursuit of progress, improvement, liberty and godliness, in its integrity and vigour even in the face obstacles, opposition and disappointments. The new regime generally held true to the path Cromwell set for it in December 1653 – “to act for God and the peace and good of the Nation, and particularly…to consider and relieve the distress of the poor and oppressed”. We should remember and commemorate it.