Saturday 9 January 2016

The other gunpowder plot

An historical  anniversary today gives me an opportunity to follow up from my last post: If Cromwell was not the miserable tyrant that he is so often painted - he was no democrat either. He and the other grandees of the New Model Army may well have  represented the forces of progress in overturning the old social and political order of the Divine Right of Kings - but they replaced it only with a meritocracy based on the emerging  middle classes. 

Levellers like Miles Sindercombe felt that they had not fought through three civil wars in order to hand political power back to these men of property. And so today is the anniversary of a plot in 1657 to assassinate Cromwell and replace the office of Lord Protector with the rule of parliament.  It is the 'other' gunpowder plot and much more worthy of celebration than that of 1605 and the attempted military coup by the 17th Century Catholic jihad-ists of Fawkes and Catesby

Sindercombe had served throughout the civil wars and taken part in the Leveller mutinies of 1649 which Cromwell had brutally suppressed. He then went on to organise another mutiny in the army of General Monck in Scotland - the same man who would later go on to organize the military coup that led to the restoration of the monarchy. Escaping the authorities he went to the Netherlands where he met up with other Levellers, including the more famous Edmund Sexby,  and planned a bomb plot to kill the Lord Protector. His bomb in Whitehall was discovered and he was arrested - avoiding the horror of being hung - drawn and quartered by taking poison.

It was Sexby who called him a martyr to 'The Good Old Cause' -  the vision of a truly democratic and  egalitarian England that we are still waiting for ...

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