Wrapped in a purple velvet silk lined robe with white fur trim, Oliver Cromwell was girt with a sword of justice in one hand and was given a scepter made of massy gold when he was selected as Lord Protector. That unyielding and resolute man with the furrowed forehead and deep eyes is more chilling than inspiring if you knew more about the English military and political leader. Life under and with Cromwell was certainly one for the history books. He was the third on the list of signatures authorizing the execution and the beheading of King Charles in 1649. A starch Puritan, Cromwell believed that Christmas was basically just a pagan custom that the Catholics took over without having any Biblical basis for it. In Cromwell's view, everyone needed to follow his lead and follow in line if they wanted to flourish in England. Call him a tyrant, a hero or a foe--Oliver Cromwell was not only an elusive figure but a force during the 17th century. He truly believed he was doing God's work. He wrote after the Siege at Drogheda in Ireland, “I am persuaded that this is a righteous judgment of God upon these barbarous wretches." Wretches or not--here is what we do know about the man that made people tremble with fear while inspiring worship from others.
He tried to ban all pleasures.
The Puritans believed that festivities and enjoyment led to intoxication, sensuality and indulgence. Cromwell banned music, banned theater, banned pie and even banned Christmas. He believed that a Puritan needs to be pure and needs to live a good life. If you wanted to go to heaven--then having joy was antiquated. Having this position made the laws really stringent. This meant that all the inns and even sports were not permitted. If kids were found playing sports they were beaten. If you were caught swearing you were fined and thrown in jail! No wonder the Puritans received such a bad reputation.
He did not support Sunday activities.
Since Cromwell served in the Parliament, he believed that Puritans should honor Sunday as a special day. Most activities were banned and if you were caught doing any work or chores--you would be put in stocks. There was no walking, either. If you were caught walking in addition to church you would be hit with a fine under Cromwell and the Puritan law.
He helped execute a king.
Cromwell was a staunch advocate to end the life of King Charles I. The rationalizing behind the coup was to terminate the civil war between the King and Parliament (Cromwell was serving at Parliament) for the insurgence of the Irish. The English Civil War went on for 9 years and it was Cromwell who led the Parliamentarian New Model Army to victory over the Royalist army of King Charles I in the Battle of Naseby in 1865. Getting rid of the King was the only way to end the war. Parliament justified the action by quoting the Bible. They used the Book of Numbers for leverage. "Do not pollute the land where you are. Bloodshed pollutes the land, and atonement cannot be made for the land on which blood has been shed, except by the blood of the one who shed it (35:33)." The death warrant was signed and in an extremely controversial move, the King was executed by his own government. The event made Cromwell the undisputed leader of Parliament.
His army was brutal.
Cromwell's victories in Ireland brought him great respect by his followers, but the brutality is still remembered by the Irish today. It is believed that Cromwell encouraged the slaughter of over 3,500 people. This number could be even more as he ordered the execution of nuns, priests and monks during the siege at Drogheda. "You are part of Antichrist, whose Kingdom the Scriptures so expressly speaks should be laid in blood and ere it be long, you must all of you have blood to drink; even the dregs of the cup of the fury and wrath of God, which will be poured out unto you," he declared to the Irish Catholic Church.
He had a grisly afterlife.
The true resting place of Cromwell has been a mystery. It is believed that the body was buried at Westminster Abbey in 1658 before being dug up. According to the Guardian, the rest of the story is gruesome. The grave was dug up and "ritually executed, decapitated, and buried again in quicklime at the foot of the gallows." There is more to this story as it was said that his headless body is buried at Tyburn, England (a public execution site) where many people were killed by gunfire, burned alive or hung at the gallows. The peculiar tale continues, however. Cromwell's head was said to be impaled on a “traitor’s pole” at Westminster Hall for his support of killing King Charles I. Subsequently, a fierce storm came through and the pole broke and the head was found by a soldier who took it home. Cromwell's head is rumored to be buried in an unmarked location today.