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Interregnum Failed in Politics and Religion

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The governments of the interregnum failed to find an acceptable settlement predominantly due the power vacuum which was left by the King when he was executed. This wasn’t helped by the lack of legitimacy of the regicide where only 59 MP’s signed Charles’ death warrant. However one could argue that Oliver Cromwell, Parliament and The New Model Army’s want and desire for more power also led to the failure to find an acceptable settlement.

After Charles was executed several political problems arose because there was no direction of settlement due to the degree and nature of the reform.

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As a result of this, two sides formed, the army who were religious radicals and parliament, who were after a conservative settlement. The result of the regicide left the existence of a power vacuum which wasn’t helped by either the Rump parliament or the New Model Army because they were unable to find a legitimate regime to temporarily rule over England.

However, parliament tried to broaden their regime, creating more controversy, by bringing back all the moderate MPs from Pride’s Purge in December 1648. Divisions within the Rump parliament continued in 1650, when the Councillors of State were asked to sign the Engagement, an oath of loyalty to the new regime, however only 22 of 41 Councillors signed the oath declaring the state disapproved regicide. Therefore it was the reactionary nature of the Rump parliament and their failure to establish a legitimate basis for godly reform which created divisions between the army and the Rump and therefore halted the movement towards an acceptable settlement.

Oliver Cromwell was a key figure in the failure of finding an acceptable settlement during the interregnum as both Cromwell and his supporters ‘Cromwellians’ were key causes in the creating division. After Cromwell’s appointment of Commander-in-Chief in June 1650 and his appointment as Head of State in December 1653 many problems began to rise above the surface. The first of the problems being that because Cromwell won the support of the both the militia and the civilians, he had to adapt his policies to suit both sides. For example, the military wanted a radical religious reform, led by John Lambert, whereas the civilians (or parliament) wanted a more moderate, parliament endorsed regime, led by figures such as Lord Broghill. Therefore, Cromwell was a major source of division and was said to be an “ideological schizophrenic” (Worden). Furthermore “division was made worse by Oliver Cromwell” (Worden) which is seen with the fluctuation of Cromwell’s views between 1649-58, beginning with the dissolution of the Rump Parliament, because he favoured the Nominated Assembly, devised by fifth-monarchist Thomas Harrison, however the Assembly was named the Barebones Parliament. Despite Cromwell initially siding with a “Godly rule” (Smith), he reverted back to the regime to protect tradition, helped by Lambert who ended the Barebones Parliament due to the fear of the increasing power of religious radicals. Therefore, it was the indecisive nature of Oliver Cromwell that led to the failure in attempting to create an acceptable settlement in politics and religion.

Religious radicalism was fundamentally linked politics. Following Civil War in 1642, religious radicalism evolved due to the collapse of censorship and the Church of England which brought social upheaval across England, making it increasingly difficult for Cromwell to achieve an acceptable settlement. The less influential groups amongst society were the Diggers and Fifth Monarchists who believed that human action could or will accelerate the second coming of Christ. The most notable radical group at the time were known as the Quakers. The Quakers consisted of around 50,000 people and were led by George Fox. A Quaker believed in an ‘inner light’ where everyone can access the word of god, which began to question whether the State needed authoritative figures like the New Model Army or the gentry.

The New Model Army was deeply involved with religious radicalism, and in particular the Quakers. James Naylor is a prime example, who was a leading Quaker in 1656, and in October that year, Naylor rode a donkey into Bristol with women followers. This act was supposed to mimic that of Christ’s entry into Jerusalem, an act of blasphemy. The issue that arose for Cromwell and his Protectorate was the level of toleration that should be shown. This wasn’t helped by clauses 35-37, which Lambert wrote to protect the army, which stated that Naylor had done nothing wrong. However, Cromwell questioned whether the Naylor Crisis was an anomaly, and that he should allow religious freedom across England and decides to side with parliament. In March 1657, Cromwell accepted the Humble Petition and Advice as it allowed him to nominate his successor, making Cromwell “King in all but his name” (Sherwood). This therefore shows a shift towards a more conservative regime due to the tradition of there being a monarch. Therefore, religious radicalism did pose threats to Cromwell’s regime, however it was effectively crushed and Cromwell brought back the tradition of the monarch for the latter stage of the interregnum.

To conclude, the governments of the interregnum failed to find an acceptable settlement fundamentally due to the lack of compromise between the New Model Army and the Rump Parliament in the early stages of the interregnum leaving a lot of problems for Cromwell to clear up as Lord Protectorate. However you can argue that Cromwell made these divisions worse by his rather indecisive nature by being an “ideological schizophrenic” (Worden).

Cite this Interregnum Failed in Politics and Religion

Interregnum Failed in Politics and Religion. (2016, Oct 06). Retrieved from https://graduateway.com/interregnum-failed-in-politics-and-religion/

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