How Far Can Oliver Cromwell’s Death Be Seen as the Key in Bringing About the Restoration?

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How far can Oliver Cromwell’s death be seen as the key in bringing about the Restoration? Oliver Cromwell was the dominant figure of the Interregnum. His death then was one of the key events in bringing about the restoration of the monarchy. The question must be whether his death made restoration inevitable, or whether it created the situation which made feasible, if not guaranteed. His death posed the question of who was to succeed him, and while Charles II ultimately returned, alternative leaders attempted to govern first. To answer the question this essay must analyse the situation under Cromwell and the events that followed to ascertain whether the Commonwealth could have survived, or whether the power vacuum could only have been filled by the monarchy. In the civil war Parliament fought to preserve the ‘ancient constitution’[1] of King, Lords and Commons. Parliament made generous offers to the king, such as the ‘Heads of Proposals’ drawn up by Cromwell and army officers. Charles would have kept his crown and most of his power and be assured of the retention of bishops.[2] The Army was one of the most radical bodies in the country, with many of its men belonging to millenarian and republican groups. It carried out the purge of conservative members of Parliament in December 1648. At Charles’ trial, Cromwell and other officers signed the death warrant. For such an organisation to have made a generous offer to the King previously shows a dichotomy between conservatism and radicalism. Cromwell embodied this dichotomy, first favouring the retention of the monarchy under Prince Henry,[3] later rejecting the chance to wear the crown himself, feeling that God had condemned monarchy. This is important because it shows a significant proportion of those that supported parliament were not opposed to monarchy, but rather wished to secure the rights of parliament. As
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