CONSOLIDATING HIS POWER, FIVE MONTHS AFTER BECOMING
LORD PROTECTOR, CROMWELL DISMISSES AN OLD COMRADE
WHO DARED TO QUESTION HIS AUTHORITY
Letter Signed, Oliver P, one page, folio, May 16, 1654. To his old army comrade, Colonel Alured, requiring him to give up his command in Scotland to Lieutenant-General Fleetwood. With the integral address leaf attached.
“I desire you to deliver up unto the hande of Lieutenant General Fleetwood such Authorities, and Instruments as you had for the prosecution of the business of the High Lands in Scotland, and that you doe forthwith repaire to mee to London, the reason whereof you will know when you come hither, which I would have you doe with all speed, I would have you alsoe give an Account to the Lieutenant Generall before you come away, how farr you have proceeded in this Service, and of what Money you have in your hands, which you are to Leave with him.”
A very interesting letter. Only a year before Colonel Matthew Alured, considered by Oliver Cromwell to be an able soldier, though perhaps with a loose tongue, was given command of all the forces in western Scotland. With Scotland subdued, Alured was returned to the more problematic situation in Ireland. In the spring of 1654, he was one of three colonels who met to discuss their grievances against the Cromwellian government which they considered as contrary to parliamentary government, and the imposing of the Instrument of Government, which had been drawn up by only a few officers.
Together with John Okey and Thomas Saunders, Aulred signed a petition that denounced Oliver Cromwell’s unfettered control over a standing army and demanded successive Parliaments, freely chosen by the people and holding supreme power over the state. Their petition was printed and circulated throughout the army across England and into Scotland and Ireland. As army officers represented the only critics who could destroy the regime, and as these three had been trusted and loyal to Cromwell before the Protectorate, the threat to the Lord Protector brought a swift response. The three were court-martialed but eventually acquitted of treason.
Lieutenant-General Charles Fleetwood was Oliver Cromwell’s son-in-law (married to his eldest daughter Bridget). As Lieutenant General of all the army and a member of the Council of State, his authority was second to that of only Cromwell himself; it was said that at one stage, Cromwell planned to have Fleetwood succeed him a Protector. After the Restoration, he retired into private life as he had not actually signed Charles I’s death warrant.
After he was sworn in as Lord Protector on December 16th, 1653, Cromwell signed his name “Oliver P,” the “P” being an abbreviation for Protector which was similar to the style of monarchs who used an “R” to mean Rex or Regina. An unusually beautiful signature.
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