Sir Oliver Cromwell

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Sir Oliver Cromwell (c. 1566–1655) was an English landowner, lawyer and politician who sat in the House of Commons at various times between 1589 and 1625. He was the uncle of Oliver Cromwell, the Member of Parliament, general, and Lord Protector of England.


Cromwell was the heir of Sir Henry Williams, alias Cromwell, of Hinchingbrooke, and his wife Joan, a daughter of Sir Ralph Warren, Lord Mayor of London. He matriculated from Queens' College, Cambridge, at Lent 1579 and was admitted at Lincoln's Inn on 12 May 1582.[1] He lived at Godmanchester until the death of his father.[2]

Cromwell held a number of local offices: In 1585 he was captain of musters for Huntingdonshire and at the time of the Spanish Armada he was in charge of the men raised in Huntingdonshire. He was recorder of Huntingdon in 1596.[3] He was Sheriff of Cambridgeshire and Huntingdonshire from 1598 to 1599[2] and while Sheriff, in 1598, Queen Elizabeth may have dubbed him a knight bachelor.[4]

He was a Justice of the Peace from about 1585 but was removed in 1587,[2] when there was one of the periodic purges of justices.[5] In 1594 he was restored to his position as a J.P.; as the online History of Parliament observes: "It was felt that in a county as small as Huntingdonshire, the custom by which only one member of a family could be a justice was inapplicable — particularly in the case of the owners of Hinchingbrooke."[2]

Cromwell was first elected one of the Members of Parliament for Huntingdonshire in 1589. He was re-elected to each Parliament up to and including the Addled Parliament of 1614 (that is, in 1593, 1597, 1601, 1604, and 1614). In 1621, the seat was occupied by Richard Beavill, but Sir Oliver stood for and was elected to the Happy Parliament of 1624, and its successor, the Useless Parliament of 1625, after the dissolution at King James' death.[2][6]

Hinchingbrooke House

He entertained King James at Hinchingbrooke on 27 April 1603, when the King was travelling south to occupy the English throne. Cromwell's presents to the King included "a cup of gold, goodly horses, deep-mouthed hounds, and divers hawks of excellent wing" and a some of the heads of Cambridge University came dressed in scarlet gowns and corner caps to present a Latin oration.[3] It was described as "the greatest feast that had ever been given to a king by a subject".[2] In gratitude King James conferred the Order of the Bath upon Cromwell at the coronation on 24 July 1603. He became attorney to Queen Anne of Denmark and a gentleman of the privy chamber.[2]

On 6 January 1604, his father died and Sir Oliver succeeded to Hinchingbrooke and the family estates;[3] about 1605, he also succeeded to his father's office, Custos Rotulorum of Huntingdonshire.[7]

King James was frequently at Hinchingbrooke, apparently treating the place as his own – in 1614 he appointed a keeper of the wardrobe there.[3] By 1623 Sir Oliver was trying to sell Hinchingbrooke to the King, to pay off his debts, but the death of James I in March 1625 ended the negotiations on Hinchingbrooke. Hinchingbrooke was finally sold on 20 June 1627 to Sir Sidney Montagu.[3] Other estates had been sold to meet debts contracted to London moneylenders[2] and he was left with the property at Ramsey, Cambridgeshire.

Cromwell was loyal to the crown at the outbreak of the English Civil War.[1] His nephew and godson Oliver Cromwell was sent by parliament to the house at Ramsey to search for arms which could be sent to the King at York. The younger Cromwell is said to have stood head uncovered in the presence of his uncle.[8] Later the Ramsey estates were sequestered but were restored to him on 18 April 1648[9] through the influence of his nephew who became the Lord Protector.[2]

Cromwell died in 1655 and was buried at Ramsey on 28 August.[2]


Cromwell married firstly Elizabeth Bromley, daughter of Thomas Bromley, the Lord Chancellor and Elizabeth Fortescue, and had four sons and four daughters. He married secondly in July 1601, Anne Palavicino, widow of the financier Sir Horatio Palavicino[10] and daughter of de:Gillis Hooftman of Antwerp. He had a total of eleven children, he himself being the oldest of 11 siblings:[11] two of Cromwell's sons by his first marriage subsequently married two of Anne's daughters by her first marriage.[12] Another daughter, Elizabeth (probably also by his first marriage), married secondly the Roundhead Sir Richard Ingoldsby: one of their many children, Richard Ingoldsby, was among those who signed Charles I's death warrant.[13] His second son John married Abigail Clere, daughter of Sir Henry Clere, 1st Baronet; Abigail is familiar to readers of the Diary of Samuel Pepys as "Madam Williams", who left her husband to live openly with Pepys' colleague William Brouncker, 2nd Viscount Brouncker. It seems that John and Abigail, like many of the Cromwells, thought it prudent after 1660 to use the older family name Williams. Another daughter, Mary, married Edward Rolt in 1628. Mary died in 1634.

He was the brother of Richard, Robert[14] (the father of the Lord Protector) and Henry Cromwell.[2]


  1. ^ a b Venn & Venn 2011, p. 423.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k J.C.H. 1981.
  3. ^ a b c d e Page, Proby & Ladds 1932, pp. 121–139.
  4. ^ Sources are divided on the knighthood: Bennet and other sources state that he was, but Shaw & Burtchaell do not record the knighthood in their list of knights bachelor and Poulton wrote in 1982 that Mark Noble "is incorrect however in giving Master Oliver's knighthood as 1598" (Bennett 2006, p. 4, Shaw & Burtchaell 1906, p. 95) and Poulton 1982, p. 401).
  5. ^ Wall 2004, abstract.
  6. ^ For a list of the Parliaments of Queen Elizabeth, see "The Online History of Parliament, 1558–1603"., for a list of the Parliaments of James I and the early Parliaments of Charles I, see "The Online History of Parliament, 1604–1629".
  7. ^ Sainty 2004.
  8. ^ Clark 1893, p. 58.
  9. ^ Parliament 1830, pp. 206–207.
  10. ^ Pollard, A. F. Palavicino, Horatio. Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900, Volume 43.
  11. ^ Harrison 1888, p. 34.
  12. ^ Lysons 1810, pp. 82-3.
  13. ^ "Elizabeth Ingoldsby (Cromwell)". Retrieved 14 January 2016.
  14. ^ N.M.S. 1981.


Further reading[edit]

  • "Cromwell, Oliver (CRML578O)". A Cambridge Alumni Database. University of Cambridge.
  • Nichols, John (1828). The progresses, processions, and magnificent festivities, of King James I. 1. J. B. Nichols. pp. 98–101. – A four-page account (with footnotes) of James I's stay at Hinchingbrooke House

External links[edit]

Parliament of England
Preceded by
Edward Wingfield
George Walton
Member of Parliament for Huntingdonshire
With: Edward Wingfield 1589–1593
Sir Gervase Clifton 1597–1601
Sir Robert Cotton 1604–1611
Sir Robert Payne 1614
Succeeded by
Richard Beavill
Sir Robert Payne
Preceded by
Richard Beavill
Sir Robert Payne
Member of Parliament for Huntingdonshire
With: Edward Montagu
Succeeded by
Edward Montagu
Sir Robert Payne