1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Cromwell, Richard
CROMWELL, RICHARD (1626–1712), lord protector of England, eldest surviving son of Oliver Cromwell and of Elizabeth Bourchier, was born on the 4th of October 1626. He served in the parliamentary army, and in 1647 was admitted a member of Lincoln’s Inn. In 1649 he married Dorothy, daughter of Richard Mayor, or Major, of Hursley in Hampshire. He represented Hampshire in the parliament of 1654, and Cambridge University in that of 1656, and in November 1655 was appointed one of the council of trade. But he was not brought forward by his father or prepared in any way for his future greatness, and lived in the country occupied with field sports, till after the institution of the second protectorate in 1657 and the recognition of Oliver’s right to name his successor. On the 18th of July he succeeded his father as chancellor of the university of Oxford, on the 31st of December he was made a member of the council of state, and about the same time obtained a regiment and a seat in Cromwell’s House of Lords. He was received generally as his father’s successor, and was nominated by him as such on his death-bed. He was proclaimed on the 3rd of September 1658, and at first his accession was acclaimed with general favour both at home and abroad. Dissensions, however, soon broke out between the military faction and the civilians. Richard’s elevation, not being “general of the army as his father was,” was distasteful to the officers, who desired the appointment of a commander-in-chief from among themselves, a request refused by Richard. The officers in the council, moreover, showed jealousy of the civil members, and to settle these difficulties and to provide money a parliament was summoned on the 27th of January 1659, which declared Richard protector, and incurred the hostility of the army by criticizing severely the arbitrary military government of Oliver’s last two years, and by impeaching one of the major-generals. A council of the army accordingly established itself in opposition to the parliament, and demanded on the 6th of April a justification and confirmation of former proceedings, to which the parliament replied by forbidding meetings of the army council without the permission of the protector, and insisting that all officers should take an oath not to disturb the proceedings in parliament. The army now broke into open rebellion and assembled at St James’s. Richard was completely in their power; he identified himself with their cause, and the same night dissolved the parliament. The Long Parliament (which re-assembled on the 7th of May) and the heads of the army came to an agreement to effect his dismissal; and in the subsequent events Richard appears to have played a purely passive part, refusing to make any attempt to keep his power or to forward a restoration of the monarchy. On the 25th of May his submission was communicated to the House. He retired into private life, heavily burdened with debts incurred during his tenure of office and narrowly escaping arrest even before he quitted Whitehall. In the summer of 1660 he left England for France, where he lived in seclusion under the name of John Clarke, subsequently removing elsewhere, either (for the accounts differ) to Spain, to Italy, or to Geneva. He was long regarded by the government as a dangerous person, and in 1671 a strict search was made for him but without avail. He returned to England about 1680 and lived at Cheshunt, in the house of Sergeant Pengelly, where he died on the 12th of July 1712, being buried in Hursley church in Hampshire. Richard Cromwell was treated with general contempt by his contemporaries, and invidiously compared with his great father. According to Mrs Hutchinson he was “gentle and virtuous but a peasant in his nature and became not greatness.” He was nevertheless a man of respectable abilities, of an irreproachable private character, and a good speaker.
Bibliography.—See the article in the Dict. of Nat. Biography, and authorities there cited; Noble’s Memoirs of the Protectoral House of Cromwell (1787); Memoirs of the Protector ... and of his Sons, by O. Cromwell (1820); The Two Protectors, by Sir R. Tangye (1899); Kebleland and a Short Life of Richard Cromwell, by W. T. Warren (1900); Letters and Speeches of O. Cromwell, by T. Carlyle (1904); Eng. Hist. Review, xiii. 93 (letters) and xviii. 79; Cal. of State Papers, Domestic, Lansdowne MSS. in British Museum. (P. C. Y.)