top of page
Check back soon
Once posts are published, you’ll see them here.

Jan 30 - Cromwell and the day of two Executions

Updated: Jul 2, 2021

Today in 1661 the puritan, Oliver Cromwell, and former Lord Protector of the Commonwealth of England, was ritually executed more than two years after his death. One of the most controversial men in English history. He had overseen the execution Charles I, this same day in 1649. The first and only time a ruling British monarch has been executed. Cromwell then lead England's only experiment in living as a republican. How did his puritanism drive him on? We explore that in todays pod and look at the problem of ideological possession in a small reflection below.


Today, the puritan, Oliver Cromwell, and former Lord Protector of the Commonwealth of England, was ritually executed more than two years after his death. His corpse was dug up , hung in chains and then beheaded. This was a spiteful act and brutally political, as it was the 12th anniversary of the execution of the monarch that Cromwell himself had deposed, having overseen the execution of Charles I in 1649. The first and only time a ruling British monarch has been executed, 140 years before the French Revolution. The King had lost the English Civil War against parliament but it was still three years later when he was executed, so it could be described as a reluctant revolution. Charles, still convinced by the divine right of Kings, had refused to accept defeat and attempted to start a second war. Cromwell, had been willing to make a deal with the king, but described his actions as a "prodigious treason" and with others signed a warrant to his execution. So today in 1529 King Charles I of England walked under guard from St James's Palace, where he had been confined, to the Palace of Whitehall, where an execution scaffold had been erected in front of the Banqueting House. England then began its own experiment with a form of republicanism, and Cromwell assigned himself as Lord Protector until his death in 1658. He acted simultaneously as head of state and head of government of the new republican commonwealth. After his death he was succeeded by his son Richard, whose weakness led to a power vacuum causing Parliament to arrange the return to London of Prince Charles as King Charles II. Cromwell's corpse was subsequently dug up, hung in chains, and beheaded, also today in 1661. Cromwell is one of the most controversial figures in British considered a military dictator by Winston Churchill and a class revolutionary by Leon Trotsky.

His tolerance of Protestant sects did not extend to Catholics, and his record is strongly criticised in Ireland and has been characterised by some as near-genocidal. However, he was also selected as one of the ten greatest Britons of all time in a 2002 BBC poll and his statue still stands proudly outside of parliament, although in 2004, a group of Members of Parliament including Tony Banks proposed a motion that the statue should be removed and melted down. The move was not supported, and other MPs suggested that the statue should be moved somewhere else. An intensely religious man, Cromwell became an Independent Puritan after undergoing a religious conversion in the 1630s, and believed in God guiding him to victory. Member of Parliament for Huntingdon in 1628, he entered the English Civil Wars on the side of the "Roundheads", or Parliamentarians, and gained the nickname "Old Ironsides". His ability as a commander quickly led to his promotion to being one of the principal commanders of the New Model Army, selected to take command of the English campaign in Ireland in 1649–1650, they occupied the country, bringing to an end the Irish Confederate Wars, introducing a series of Penal Laws against Roman Catholics in England, Scotland and Ireland), confiscating a substantial amount of land. Cromwell also led a campaign against the Scottish army between 1650 and 1651. On 20 April 165. His policy of religious toleration for Protestant denominations extended only to "God's peculiar", and not to those considered by him to be heretics, such as the Quakers, Socinians, and Ranters. He died from natural causes in 1658 and was buried in Westminster Abbey. Both King Charles and Oliver Cromwell who were executed and ritualistically executed today where men of strong convictions, whether in the Divine Right of Kings or Puritanism and seemed unable to compromise.

Reflection (not in pod) : Ideological Possession and the need for patience

The great German Philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche, expounded his phisophy in his classic book Thus Spake Zarathustra. It is really the philosophy of its author through the voice of the Persian Prophet Zoroaster who after years of meditation has come down from a mountain to offer his wisdom to the world. Here Nietzsche makes the famous (and much misconstrued) statement that “God is dead” and goes on to present some of the most influential and well-known (and likewise misunderstood) ideas of his philosophy, including those of the Übermensch (“superman”) and the “will to power.”

The great Swiss psychologist and near contemporary of Nietzsche, Carl Jung was fascinated with Nietzsche, as a university student in Basle just 15 years after Nietzsche's death, In his diaries he wrote When I read Zarathustra for the first time as a student of twenty-three, of course I did not understand it all, but I got a tremendous impression. I could not say it was this or that, though the poetical beauty of some of the chapters impressed me, but particularly the strange thought got hold of me. He helped me in many respects, as many other people have been helped by him. Jungs fascination with Neitzche would continue his whole life and the challenge that God is dead would lead Jung to calarify his thought on truth. Jung predicted that an archetype, which was first expressed in Nietzsche will take over Europe. That archetype is Wotan, his renaming of Dionysus – the wild intoxication and madness that we usually consider the result of baser emotions. This would be the basis of ideological possession. And he believed in the face of this that there was a psychological function in religion as a safeguard against deadly mass movements.

This would lead to a search for an authentic and meaningful life rejects extremism and is open to authentic spiritual experiences as a counterbalance to mass mindedness.

However it seems in the case of Oliver Cromwell and many of the puritans had become caught in a form of ideological possession which is possibly based on the unfiltered reading of scripture. Cromwells dream was short lived as Milton laments in Paradise Lost and its failure to grow roots that would outlast his death indicated it was a false reform, based on a religious ideology that became more extreme, and ultimately that power had corrupted. Patience according to Yves Congar is not just about time, but also about humility, or in modern leadership theory, having strong opinions that are lightly held.


bottom of page