Young Folks' History of England HTML version

36. Oliver Cromwell, A.D. 1649—1660
Oliver Cromwell felt, as has been said, that there was no one who could set
matters to rights as he could in England. He had shewn that the country
could not do without him, if it was to go on without the old government. Not
only had he conquered and slain Charles I., and beaten that king's friends
and those of his son in Scotland, but he had put down a terrible rising of the
Irish, and suppressed them with much more cruelty than he generally
He found that the old Long Parliament did nothing but blunder and talk, so he
marched into the House one day with a company of soldiers, and sternly
ordered the members all off, calling out, as he pointed to the mace that lay
before the Speaker's chair, "Take away that bauble." After that he called
together a fresh Parliament; but there were very few members, and those
only men who would do as he bade them. The Speaker was a leather-seller
named Barebones, so that this is generally known as Barebones' Parliament.
By these people he was named Lord Protector of England; and as his soldiers
would still do anything for him, he reigned for five years, just as a king might
have done, and a good king too.
He was by no means a cruel or unmerciful man, and he did not persecute the
Cavaliers more than he could help, if he was to keep up his power; though, of
course, they suffered a great deal, since they had fines laid upon them, and
some forfeited their estates for having resisted the Parliament. Many had to
live in Holland or France, because there was no safety for them in England,
and their wives went backwards and forwards to their homes to collect their
rents, and obtain something to live upon. The bishops and clergy had all been
driven out, and in no church was it allowable to use the Prayer-book; so there
used to be secret meetings in rooms, or vaults, or in woods, where the
prayers could be used as of old, and the holy sacrament administered.
For five years Cromwell was Lord Protector, but in the year 1658 he died,
advising that his son Richard should be chosen Protector in his stead. Richard
Cromwell was a kind, amiable gentleman, but not clever or strong like his
father, and he very soon found that to govern England was quite beyond his
power; so he gave up, and went to live at his own home again, while the
English people gave him the nick-name Tumble-down-Dick.
No one seemed well to know what was to be done next; but General Monk,
who was now at the head of the army, thought the best thing possible would
be to bring back the king. A new Parliament was elected, and sent an
invitation to Charles II. to come back again and reign like his forefathers. He
accepted it; the fleet was sent to fetch him, and on the 29th of May, 1660, he
rode into London between his brothers, James and Henry. The streets were
dressed with green boughs, the windows hung with tapestry, and everyone