Governments of the interregnum fail

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The outcome of this situation led to the formation of two factions: the religious radical army and the conservative parliament. The regicide created a power vacuum that was not resolved by either the Rump parliament or the New Model Army, as they struggled to establish a legitimate temporary government for England. In an attempt to expand their authority, parliament controversially recalled all moderate MSP from Pride’s Purge in December 1648.

Divisions within the Rump parliament persisted in 1650. The Councilors of State were requested to sign the Engagement, an oath showing loyalty to the new regime. However, only 22 out of 41 Councilors agreed to sign the oath, indicating disapproval of regicide by the state. The reactionary nature of the Rump parliament and their inability to establish a valid foundation for godly reform were responsible for creating divisions between the army and the Rump. Consequently, this hindered progress towards an agreeable resolution.

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Oliver Cromwell, along with his followers known as ‘Carnelians’, played a vital role in causing conflicts and hindering the ability to find a suitable resolution during the Interregnum. As Commander-in-Chief since June 1650 and later Head of State from December 1653, Cromwell’s appointment led to the emergence of numerous issues.

During Cromwell’s reign, there was a challenge of satisfying both the military and civilian supporters. The military advocated for a radical religious reform led by John Lambert, while the civilians preferred a more moderate regime supported by Parliament, with Lord Broglie as a prominent figure. Consequently, Cromwell faced a dilemma between these two groups, leading to division and earning him the reputation of an “ideological schizophrenic” (Worded).

Furthermore, the division was exacerbated by Oliver Cromwell (Worded), as evidenced by the fluctuation of Cromwell’s views between 1649-58. This can be seen in his dissolution of the Rump Parliament and his preference for the Nominated Assembly, created by fifth-monarchist Thomas Harrison. However, the Assembly came to be known as the Baroness Parliament. Despite Cromwell’s traditional beliefs, Lambert assisted in ending the Baroness Parliament out of fear of the growing power of religious radicals. Therefore, it was Cromwell’s indecisiveness that ultimately contributed to the failure of his attempts to establish a satisfactory balance in politics and religion.

Religious radicalism in 17th century England had strong ties to politics. The Civil War of 1642 was a pivotal moment, as the absence of censorship and the decline of the Church of England caused widespread social unrest. This presented challenges for Cromwell as he sought a satisfactory resolution. Lesser known factions such as the Diggers and Fifth Monarchists believed that human actions could expedite Christ’s return. However, the most notable radical group at this time was the Quakers, led by George Fox, which boasted around 100,000 members.

A Quaker believed that within each person there is an ‘inner light’ through which they can access the word of god. This belief led to questioning the necessity of authoritative figures such as the New Model Army or the gentry. The New Model Army, which had strong ties to religious radicalism, including the Quakers, faced a dilemma when James Analogy, a prominent Quaker, entered Bristol on a donkey with female followers. This action was considered blasphemous as it sought to imitate Christ’s entry into Jerusalem. Cromwell and the Protectorate then had to grapple with how much tolerance should be granted in response.

The presence of clauses 35-37, which Lambert recited to safeguard the army, added to the difficulty. These clauses attested that Analogy had not committed any wrongdoing. However, Cromwell questioned if the Analogy Crisis was an isolated incident and contemplated promoting religious freedom throughout England. Ultimately, he chose to align with parliament. In March 1657, Cromwell embraced the Humble Petition and Advice because it allowed him to designate his successor, essentially granting Cromwell kingship without the official title (Sherwood). Consequently, this shift indicated a move towards a more conservative government in accordance with the long-established tradition of a monarchy.

In summary, religious radicalism posed threats to the Cromwell regime, but it was effectively suppressed. Cromwell subsequently reinstated the tradition of monarchy during the later part of the interregnum. Ultimately, the governments of the interregnum failed to reach a satisfactory settlement mainly due to the absence of compromise between the New Model Army and the Rump Parliament in the early stages of this period. This created numerous challenges for Cromwell to resolve as the Lord Protectorate. Some argue that Cromwell exacerbated these divisions with his indecisiveness, often being labeled as an “ideological schizophrenic” (Worded).

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Governments of the interregnum fail. (2018, Feb 03). Retrieved from

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