Cromwell (1970)

Cast: Richard Harris, Alec Guinness, Robert Morely, Dorothy Tutin, Frank Finlay, Timothy Dalton, Patrick Wymark, Patrick Magee, Nigel Stock, Charles Gray, Michael Jayston, Geoffrey Keen

Director: Ken Hughes

Country: British film

Leonard Maltin misses the boat on this one.  He writes that Richard Harris is "coldly unsympathetic," while one feels sorry for King Charles I (Guinness), "which is not the idea."

But it is the idea.  There are men and religions that are so far to the right or the left politically that they lose human perspective.  Cromwell was too "puritanical," too mean-spirited.  His excesses helped lead to the restoration of the monarchy with Charles II.   (Although in the long run Cromwell helped bring democracy to England.)

The movie opens in Cambridge, England in 1640 with Oliver Cromwell planning to go off to America where there will be more economic opportunity.  Friends talk to him of possible civil war and Cromwell is scandalized.  But the injustices under King Charles I soon become too much for Cromwell.  

In 1640 Cromwell as a member of parliament attends the sessions.  After three weeks, the Short Parliament is cancelled by the King on the grounds of high treason. Cromwell's arrest is ordered by the King.

The disputes end in Civil War.   


Patrick Louis Cooney, Ph. D.


Historical Background:

1599  -- Cromwell born at Huntingdon in eastern England. His father had been a member of one of Queen Elizabeth's parliaments.

Stuart Rule:

1603-25 -- James I. James Stuart, already King of Scotland as James VI, becomes James I of England, thus bringing the two countries together.

1620 -- Cromwell marries Elizabeth, daughter of Sir James Bourchier, a London merchant; together they have five sons and four daughters.

1625-49 -- Charles I.

c. 1628 --  Cromwell experiences conversion at nearly 30 years of age.

1628 --  Cromwell is elected a member of Parliament for the borough of Huntingdon.

1629  --  King Charles I dissolves Parliament and does not call another for 11 years.

Charles I seeking to bend the line toward divine-right monarchy of the continental type. Behind this struggle lay the fact that the business of state was gradually growing in scope and therefore in money cost. The Parliament was an expression of the ruling classes (not a democratic legislature).

The Royalist cause was identified with High Church Anglicanism. The parliamentary cause, at first supported by many moderate Low Church Anglicans, also attracted a strong Puritan or Calvinist element.

1640 --  Cromwell is elected member of Parliament for the borough of Cambridge.

1640 -- Charles I needs money to help fight the Scots. So he calls Parliament back. Cromwell finds himself among a host of friends at Westminster who, led by John Pym, a veteran politician from Somerset, are highly critical of the monarchy. This Short Parliament is dissolved at once.

1640, November -- Cromwell gets elected again by Cambridge to what was to be known as the Long Parliament, which sits until 1653.  At this time his public career begins.

He had to call Parliament back because he had promised to Scots money to buy them off. This was the Long Parliament, which put through a great series of reforms.

1642 -- Charles I leaves for the north and in the summer of 1642 rallies an army at Nottingham; Parliament simply takes over the central government.

1642-49 -- Civil War.  Parliamentary forces contemptuously called "round-heads" by the monarchial forces due to the former's close-cropped haircuts.

1642, July --  Cromwell in Cambridge forms a defensive troop.  He becomes a captain at the head of a troop of cavalry in his birthplace of Huntingdon. First appearance with his troop in the closing stages of the Battle of Edgehill (October 23, 1642) where Robert Devereux, 3rd earl of Essex, is commander in chief for Parliament in the first major contest of the war.

1643, July 28 -- Cromwell wins the Battle of Gainsborough in Lincolnshire.

1644  --  with so many Parliamentary victories, Parliament agrees to form a new army under the command of Edward Montagu, 2nd earl of Manchester.  Cromwell becomes second in command.

1644, July 2  --   Charles I's commander in chief, Prince Rupert, is defeated in the Battle of Marston Moor that in effect gives the north of England to Parliament.  

1645  --  Cromwell fights at the battles of Naseby and Langport, where Charles I's last two field armies are destroyed.

1648  --  Second Civil War begins as Charles I escapes from his captivity at Hampton Court Palace, and flees to the Isle of Wight to negotiate with Scots to restore him to the throne.

1649  --  Charles I beheaded.

1649  --  Cromwell defeats a Scottish army that invaded England in June; enters Scotland and restores order there; conducts siege of Pontefract.

The British Isles are declared a republic and named the Commonwealth.  Cromwell serves as first chairman of the Council of State, the executive body of a one-chamber Parliament.

Cromwell attacks Ireland.  He detests the Irish, thinking they had carried out a huge massacre of English settlers in 1641. As commander in chief and lord lieutenant, he wages a ruthless war against them (especially ruthless was the massacre at the garrison at Drogheda near Dublin in September 1649).  

1650  -- returns to London, leads an army into Scotland, where Charles II had been acknowledged as its new king. Defeats them at Dunbar, September 3, 1650

1651  -- when Charles II advances into England, Cromwell destroys his army at Worcester, ending the Second Civil War.

1653, April 20  --  amid reports of corruption in Parliament, Cromwell expels the members from the House.

1653, December --  after a coup d'etat planned by Major General John Lambert and other officers, the majority of the Assembly of Saints surrenders power into Cromwell's hands. He becomes lord protector.  

1654 --  Cromwell brings about a satisfactory conclusion to the Anglo-Dutch War

1655, January --  Cromwell dissolves Parliament.

1656  -- calls Parliament back; they are not happy with his dictatorship.

1658  --  again dissolves Parliament.  Dies in September of 1658.  

The Restoration

1660, May 29  --  Charles II , son of the now beheaded Charles I, arrives in London to claim the throne on his 30th birthday.

1660-85 -- Charles II. A period of moral looseness, of gay court life, of the Restoration drama with its indecent wit, of the public pursuit of pleasure, at least among the upper classes.


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