Oliver Cromwell, a landowner's son from East Anglia did the unthinkable: from a position of relative obscurity, he rose to mount a powerful and ultimately successful challenge to the accepted political order, which in turn led to the overthrow and subsequent execution of the reigning monarch. And all of this from a hypochondriac from Norfolk whose religious and spiritual awakening came when he was convinced that he was being spoken to by a huge cross in the local town square.
In this lecture, writer and broadcaster Mark Steel turns his spotlight to the life and work of the man who would eventually turn down the offer from Parliament to become the King of England.
Traditionally, Oliver Cromwell has been viewed as a misery, a killjoy whose Puritan beliefs led him to despise drinking, dancing, music and fun but Mark argues in this programme that far from being these things, Cromwell was in fact a bit of a laugh and never lost his childish sense of humour. We discover that whilst signing the King’s death warrant he and his co-regicides involved themselves in a huge ink fight and that whilst a student at Cambridge he was barred from local pubs for his rowdy behaviour and that he would often accost women in the street to ‘perforce ravish a kiss or some lewder satisfaction upon them’. Nowadays he’d get an ASBO or a reality tv show for that sort of thing.
Join Mark Steel as he charts Cromwell’s course through British history; his election and resignation from parliament, the formation of his New Model Army, the overthrow and subsequent execution of the King, Charles I, the monumental shift of power from monarchy to parliament, the abolition of the House of Lords right through to the massacre at Drogheda. Oh, and the introduction of the first ever pineapple to Britain.
First broadcast: Tuesday 7 Oct 2003 on BBC Four