Oliver Cromwell's Death Mask,
Gallery 27, First Floor.

Historical background


Oliver Cromwell (1599-1658) played an important part in the Civil War and the downfall of Charles I. He was Lord Protector of England from 1653 to 1658.

Oliver Cromwell was born in Huntingdon, Cambridgeshire, and attended Huntingdon Grammar School and Sidney Sussex College, Cambridge. He became MP for Huntingdon in 1628.

The City of Oxford featured prominently in the Civil War but was on the side of the king. Charles I spent the winter here in 1642 when other cities closed their gates to him. In 1645, when Parliament (and Cromwell) created their New Model Army, Charles I set up separate commands in the royalist cities of Bristol and Oxford. Parliament's New Model Army was victorious, largely because the soldiers were properly paid, whereas the infrequently paid royalist armies were soon demoralised.

In 1649 Cromwell signed Charles I's death warrant and was
declared Lord Protector in 1653. He was asked to take on the title of King in a document called the Grand Remonstrance (dated 31 March 1657), but he refused. He died on September 3rd 1658 and was buried with great ceremony in the burial place of the Kings at Westminster, but after the Restoration his body was gibbeted at Tyburn and buried there. His son ruled briefly after him but was replaced in 1660 by Charles II and the Restoration of the monarchy.