On the 16th of December, 1653, Oliver Cromwell became Lord Protector of the Commonwealth of England, Scotland and Ireland.
Oliver Cromwell, eh? Oliver Cromwell inspires various emotions, both good and bad. The Irish certainly do not love him. The Scots are probably unequivocal in their distaste and the English are split down Parliamentarian and Royalist lines, even to this day you could say. He was a Puritan and a Roundhead and in the days before ur-tribalism morphed into urban gang rivalry, he and his mates in the New Model Army were the first skinheads. Cromwell is said to have been the only invader of Scotland to conquer the whole country; the mainland anyway; so Old Ironsides did something that neither the Romans nor Edward Longshanks managed to do.
The Royalist Rising of 1650 to 1653 took place in Scotland between Scots ‘loyal’ to King Charles II against English parliamentary forces led by Oliver Cromwell. The events of that period were part of the Wars of the Three Kingdoms and it was a time when men thought nothing of splitting religious hairs with cannonballs. The nine years long English Civil Wars, an historical misnomer if one there ever was, since most of the carnage in was in fact suffered by Ireland and Scotland rather than England, had just come to an end. The Battle of Naseby had recently taken place as had Oliver Cromwell’s subsequent execution of King Charles I in January, 1649. James Graham, the Marquess of Montrose, had been defeated at the Battle of Carbisdale, in April, 1650, and executed in the May, following which, Charles Stuart had reached Scotland in the June and given way to the demands of the Covenanters, making a number of humiliating concessions in exchange for a Crown. Charles had agreed to impose Presbyterianism throughout the Three Kingdoms, when he regained the throne, but that was easier said than done.
Cromwell’s army had dirtied its hands in Ireland during 1649-50 and fresh from having sent every Catholic in Ireland to Hell or Connacht, an army of about 16,000 veteran butchers arrived in Scotland in July, 1650, with Irish curses ringing in their ears. Thankfully, the ‘Curse of Cromwell’ didn’t have the same affect during his time in Scotland. The most powerful Scotsman of the day, the Duke of Argyll, maintained his equivocal position, however, the majority of Scots showed no sign of accepting Cromwell’s English domination. Oliver’s army fared badly at first when it was opposed by a Scottish army of about 20,000 under the command of veteran General David Leslie. Leslie’s army carried out a scorched earth policy in East Lothian, in order to deny the English food supplies, and established a strong position near Edinburgh by August 1650.
Denied Edinburgh, Cromwell’s Roundhead army turned back south as it was fast running out of supplies and thousands of its men went down with disease and were unable to fight. The Lord Protector might have thought his Puritan God had also turned – perhaps not; fanatics don’t have doubts. Leslie went off in pursuit and the outcome of that chase was the fateful Battle of Dunbar, which took place on the 3rd of September, 1650. The Scots lost and with its defeat at Dunbar, the Scottish army squandered an incredible opportunity to defeat Cromwell and change the course of British history. It was Scotland’s best and last realistic chance to chart its own political and religious destiny and it was wasted by a committee of Presbyterian ministers, blinkered by religious fanaticism. Fanatics there were on both sides as Cromwell pronounced the victory as “A high act of the Lord’s Providence to us [and] one of the most signal mercies God hath done for England and His people”.
After Dunbar, Leslie prudently fled with the skeleton of his army to defend Stirling, the gateway to the Highlands. He left Edinburgh undefended and open to a triumphant Oliver Cromwell, whose victorious New Model Army took possession of the City on the 7th of September, 1650. The Scottish garrison in Edinburgh Castle above the City held out until December and at Scone, on the 1st of January, 1651, the Scottish Parliament had the effrontery to recognise Charles II as its King. Later in 1651, Scottish Royalist army, made up of Engagers and Covenanters, previously enemies of Charles, who were now his supporters, because he’d signed the National Covenant, marched into England. That was really a desperate attempt to invade England and capture London while Cromwell was still in Scotland. Cromwell promptly followed them south and caught them at Worcester, where a battle occurred on the 3rd of September. The Scots’ army was defeated at Worcester and from there, Charles made his famous escape, spending the day of the 6th hiding in the ‘Royal Oak’ at Boscobel House. He subsequently fled to exile in France and the Netherlands, where he remained until 1660.
In the final stages of the Scottish campaign, Cromwell’s men, under George Monck, sacked the town of Dundee, killing up to 2,000 of its population of 12,000 and destroying sixty ships in its harbour. Later, on the 28th of October, the English Parliament passed a declaration known as the ‘Tender of Union’. That stated that Scotland would cease to have an independent parliament and would join England in its emerging Commonwealth republic. It was proclaimed in Scotland on the 4th of February, 1652, and regularised the ‘de facto’ annexation of Scotland by England. Under the terms of the ‘Tender’, the Scots were given thirty seats in a united Parliament in London, with General Monck appointed as the Military Governor of Scotland. Scotland, which had twice attempted to impose its Presbyterian will on both Royalist and Puritan England, found itself reduced to the status of an English province under martial law. A number of Royalist strongholds in Scotland continued to hold out against Cromwell, namely the Bass Rock, Dumbarton Castle, Dunnottar Castle, and Brodick Castle. Dunnottar Castle was the last Royalist stronghold to capitulate, on the 24th of May, 1652, but Cromwell wasn’t able to lay his hands on Scotland’s Regalia, which were spirited away from the Castle.
After the dissolution of the Rump Parliament and the Barebones Parliament, Oliver Cromwell was sworn in as Lord Protector on the 16th of December, 1653, with a ceremony in which he wore plain black clothing, rather than any monarchical regalia. From then on, Cromwell signed his name ‘Oliver P’ – Oliver Protector – in a monarchical style and it became the norm for others to address him as ‘Your highness’.