Oliver Cromwell becomes 'lord protector'
The 16th of December 1653 AD
With the Civil Wars won, the battlefield turned into a political one, factions within the winning Parliamentary cause having to face up to the problem of replacing the king and with him the constitutional framework.
In April 1653 the Rump of the Long Parliament was dissolved, having wiped away the monarchy and the Lords, and created The Commonwealth . The army, now most definitely a power in its own right rather than a tool of Parliament, created what became known as The Barebones Parliament, 144 carefully selected members to represent the country.
Though chosen by the army, and with moderates in the majority, the Barebones Parliament, originally more of a council, included some very voluble and energetic radicals of whom Praise-God Barebone was one, giving the institution its sobriquet. When on December 12 the moderates walked out in frustration at their radical colleagues the army took the ultimate step.
On December 16 Oliver Cromwell was declared, within what amounted to a republican constitution (the Instrument of Government) Lord Protector 'for his life', to be addressed as Your Highness. Beneath him was a council of eight civilians and seven soldiers, and nominally there were constitutional constraints on his power, but when his first Parliament did not meet his expectations he dispensed with it. The country gradually felt its way towards what was in effect a military dictatorship, though civilian justices of the peace retained considerable power, divided into regions ruled by Major-Generals with cavalry to back up their authority.
As Lord Protector Cromwell was paid the vast salary of £100,000 a year; and it was his eventual right to nominate his successor, at which point he succumbed to the temptation of dynasty, choosing his son Richard, though the elder Cromwell did turn down the offer of the crown made by some within the army. The revolution had turned full circle: the absolutist king had to all intents and purposes been replaced by an absolute dictator, whatever the constitutional ribbons and bows.
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