Commonwealth -- Reigned: 1658-1659
Richard was the third son of the Lord Protector, Oliver Cromwell. Born on the 4th October 1626, he served in the Parliamentary Army in his younger days, being admitted as a member of Lincoln's Inn in 1647.
Upon his marriage to Dorothy Major, the daughter of a country squire from Hursley in Hampshire, he turned to the life of a gentleman farmer, representing Hampshire (1654) and then Cambridge University in Parliament (Nov. 1655 & 1656).
Richard was not brought forward into public life until the deaths of his elder brothers and the establishment of the second Protectorate in 1657. He succeeded his father as Chancellor of Oxford University and was made a member of the Council of State. He also received his own regiment and a seat in the House of Lords. Eventually, on his deathbed, Cromwell Senior nominated Richard as his successor.
On 3rd September 1658, Richard Cromwell was proclaimed Lord Protector of the Realm. His appointment, however, was resented by the military officers on the council who showed open animosity towards their civil counterparts. In order to raise money and settle such differences, Richard was forced to dissolve the Protectorate and reinstate the Rump Parliament in January 1659.
Anarchy ensued: bitter arguments between the men of substance and the military resulted in a break-away Army Council which took Richard into their power and forced him to dissolve the Rump in May. The Army Council then agreed with a reassembled Long Parliament on the Lord Protector's dismissal. Richard, passive throughout, submitted to Parliament's decision on 25th May 1659.
Many of the nobility, middle class tradesmen and army were disgusted with rule by force, while the generals found it impossible to unite behind a single policy. General Monck then became the chief mover behind a push to restore the monarchy. He marched his troops to London in support of the Rump, breaking the stalemate and reinstating the Rump for a third time.
Monck entered London in February 1660 and opened the doors of Parliament in the following April to those members that were barred ten years earlier. The House of Commons set up a monarchistic Council of State authorized to invite Charles II to take the crown. The Long Parliament finally dissolved itself following these actions and a Stuart once again sat on the throne.
Richard found it wise to leave England's shores in the Summer of 1660. He lived in France under the name of John Clarke for many years, before moving on Spain, Italy or possibly Switzerland. He was only finally allowed to return home, without recriminations in 1680.
He paid ten shillings a week for lodgings at the house of one Sergeant Pengelly at Cheshunt near his Hertfordshire estate. It is said that, in old age dressed in his poor farmer's clothes, he once saw Queen Anne sitting on the very throne that he himself had once graced. No-one suspected the old farmer of ever having occupied such a high position.
He died on 12th July 1712 at the age of eighty-five and was buried in the chancel of Hursley Parish Church.
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