36. Oliver Cromwell, A.D. 1649—1660
Oliver Cromwell felt, as has been said, that there was no one who could set matters to rights as he could in England. He had shewn that the country could not do without him, if it was to go on without the old government. Not only had he conquered and slain Charles I., and beaten that king's friends and those of his son in Scotland, but he had put down a terrible rising of the Irish, and suppressed them with much more cruelty than he generally showed.
He found that the old Long Parliament did nothing but blunder and talk, so he marched into the House one day with a company of soldiers, and sternly ordered the members all off, calling out, as he pointed to the mace that lay before the Speaker's chair, "Take away that bauble." After that he called together a fresh Parliament; but there were very few members, and those only men who would do as he bade them. The Speaker was a leather-seller named Barebones, so that this is generally known as Barebones' Parliament. By these people he was named Lord Protector of England; and as his soldiers would still do anything for him, he reigned for five years, just as a king might have done, and a good king too.
He was by no means a cruel or unmerciful man, and he did not persecute the Cavaliers more than he could help, if he was to keep up his power; though, of course, they suffered a great deal, since they had fines laid upon them, and some forfeited their estates for having resisted the Parliament. Many had to live in Holland or France, because there was no safety for them in England, and their wives went backwards and forwards to their homes to collect their rents, and obtain something to live upon. The bishops and clergy had all been driven out, and in no church was it allowable to use the Prayer-book; so there used to be secret meetings in rooms, or vaults, or in woods, where the prayers could be used as of old, and the holy sacrament administered.
For five years Cromwell was Lord Protector, but in the year 1658 he died, advising that his son Richard should be chosen Protector in his stead. Richard Cromwell was a kind, amiable gentleman, but not clever or strong like his father, and he very soon found that to govern England was quite beyond his power; so he gave up, and went to live at his own home again, while the English people gave him the nick-name Tumble-down-Dick.
No one seemed well to know what was to be done next; but General Monk, who was now at the head of the army, thought the best thing possible would be to bring back the king. A new Parliament was elected, and sent an invitation to Charles II. to come back again and reign like his forefathers. He accepted it; the fleet was sent to fetch him, and on the 29th of May, 1660, he rode into London between his brothers, James and Henry. The streets were dressed with green boughs, the windows hung with tapestry, and everyone shewed such intense joy and delight, the king said he could not think why he should have stayed away so long, since everyone was so glad to see him back again.
But the joy of his return was clouded by the deaths of his sister Mary, the Princess of Orange, and of his brother Henry, who was only just twenty. Mary left a son, William, Prince of Orange, of whom you will hear more.
The bishops were restored, and, as there had been no archbishop since Laud had been beheaded, good Juxon, who had attended King Charles at his death, was made archbishop in his room. The persons who had been put into the parishes to act as clergymen, were obliged to give place to the real original parish priest; but if he were dead, as was often the case, they were told that they might stay, if they would be ordained by the bishops and obey the Prayer-book. Some did so, some made an arrangement for keeping the parsonages, and paying a curate to take the service in church; but those who were the most really in earnest gave up everything, and were turned out—but only as they had turned out the former clergymen ten or twelve years before.
All Oliver Cromwell's army was broken up, and the men sent to their homes, except one regiment which came from Coldstream in Scotland. These would not disband, and when Charles II. heard it he said he would take them as his guards. This was the beginning of there being always a regular army of men, whose whole business it is to be soldiers, instead of any man being called from his work when he is wanted.
Charles II. promised pardon to all the rebels, but he did try and execute all who had been actually concerned in condemning his father to death.