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May 2005 Meeting Report
The subject of the May meeting of the SVHS was "Oliver Cromwell" presented by Dr Sue Sadler, although she dwelt at some length on the execution of King Charles1on a cold winters day of January 30th 1649. Sue gave a very detailed, and indeed moving account of that fateful day, which sent shockwaves throughout Europe. This was a completely unique event as never before had a reigning monarch, regarded by many as ruling by divine right, been tried and executed by the "common people". Indeed, such was the fear the many who witnessed the execution that historic day of divine retribution following the regal decapitation, that there was "such a groan as I have never heard before" as one witness later recorded.

Charles nemesis was, before 1640 a somewhat undistinguished "yeoman farmer" living in St Ives, Thomas Cromwell. Like many at that time, he was very strongly puritanical and violently anti Catholic, and it was against that background he was elected as MP for Cambridge in 1640. He soon became very prominent in the campaign to reduce the Kings power and demanded that the control of the army be transferred from the King to officers appointed by parliament. As the rift grew between King and Parliament, Cromwell was one of the MPs who went into the provinces to raise troops to support Parliament. He also forcibly prevented some of the Cambridge Colleges sending their silver plate to the King. The country drifted into war in 1642, during the "Long Parliament" which was not formally dissolved until 1660.

The first major battle was the Battle of Edgehill on October 23rd. Charles army was poised to march to London and the Parliamentarian army were marched from London to prevent it. The two sides were fairly evenly matched with about 15, 000 soldiers each. The battle began badly for the Parliamentarians who were initially out manoevered on lower ground. They were badly mauled by Prince Ruperts cavalry who cut through the parliamentarian foot soldiers. However, instead of pressing home their advantage, the remaining cavalry men rode into the nearest village, no doubt emptying the local pubs. The Parliamentarians were able to regroup and avoid defeat but they left road to London open for the Royalists, but for some reason, they did not choose to continue on to London.

During this time, Oiver Comwell's rise was spectacular, from captain in 1642 to Lt. General of the New model Army in 1645 which he led to defeat the royalists at Naseby in June 1645 followed by further royalists defeats, leading to Charles final defeat in 1646. Charles, however, continued to believe his divine inheritance and would not agree to Cromwell's demands to accept a constitution that would promote a major redistribution of wealth, social and economic power. He formed an ill fated alliance with the Scots and called upon former royalists and disillusioned Parliamentarians to rise up against Cromwell's Parliament. This was ruthlessly defeated by Cromwell and culminated in Charles capture in 1648, his trial and death sentence later on that year and his execution.

Two events of local importance was the "Linton skirmish" involving a total of about 1000 soldiers, and later the sit down strike by possibly 15000 parliamentarian soldiers of the NMA on Thriplow Heath (perhaps on the site of the Pet Crem) in June 1646. They were fed up because they were hungry and had not been paid for weeks. Because of their relative proximity to London some sort of settlement was apparently made to appease the soldiers. Sue did not have time to dwell on Cromwell's later years as Lord Protector from 1653 until his death 5 years later but commented that he refused the offer of being made "King Oliver". His son Richard briefly inherited the title after Oliver's death, but, frankly, did not have the bottle, and soon stepped down to allow the restoration of the crown to Charles son, Charles who became King Charles 11, on return from exile, in 1660.
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