Thursday, 11 December 2008

King Oliver ?

Oh dear. Just as I was singing the praises of 'The Devil's Whore' for putting the Civil War back in the limelight it deserves and for rehabilitating the cause of parliament, it all went horribly wrong last night.

I was happy to overlook the bodice-ripping and swash-bucking, even the usual over simplification of Cromwell's campaigns in Ireland. But the climax last night saw Edward Sexby attempting to assassinate Cromwell on his way to be crowned king. The tolling of the church bells at the end was a dramatic sign that Sexby had failed and Cromwell had finally betrayed the cause.

NOOOOO !!!! Lest there are any viewers out there who might actually believe this, here are the facts:

Cromwell was proclaimed Lord Protector for life on 16th December 1653. There was no 'coronation' - only a simple swearing-in ceremony. And for the rest of his life he turned down any suggestions that he should style himself as monarch. Ultimately his powers as head of state, although far exceeding those that Lilburne or Rainsborough ever dreamed of, were still subject to the vote of the Council Of State.

On the otherhand Edward Sexby, who in real life was a Leveller and did oppose Cromwell's assumption of presidential-like power, also turned to the Spanish and the Cavalier party in-exile for support in overthrowing Cromwell. His involvement with a conspiracy to assassinate Cromwell was discovered in 1657 - four years after Cromwell's proclamation as Lord Protector. Despite his treason he was not executed but sentenced to imprisonment in the Tower Of London.

Does anybody care ? They should because yet again the truth about the struggle for democracy in this country is being misrepresented, and the vital role of the all too short lived Commonwealth is being denied.

Cromwell certainly had his faults - ultimately he did betray the aspirations of the Levellers and other proto-democrats and radicals. But he was a reluctant dictator, and never a king.

1 comment:

Dominic said...

What a shame! :( As a fan of Christpher Hill's excelent Marxist history books on the English Civil War I got quite excited by your earlier mention of the show. To take the pain away, enjoy this rather 'different' historical adaptation of the English Cvivil war thats up on youtube, you'll soon be laughing and forget all about it...if that fails...then you can always go read some Christopher Hill!