Oliver Cromwell in popular culture

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Oliver Cromwell (25 April 1599 – 3 September 1658) was an English military and political leader and later Lord Protector of the Commonwealth of England, Scotland and Ireland.

In literature[edit]

The Posthumous execution of Cromwell, on the anniversary of the regicide in 1661, struck the imagination of the Italian writer, and State Secretary of Este court in Modena, Girolamo Graziani who involved himself since then in his masterpiece Il Cromuele (1671), a tragedy that deals with the theme of the dark cruel tyrant, (Oliver Cromwell) and the violated regality (Charles I of England's martyrdom). The plot is full of historical references as well as love affairs between the characters.

One of the earliest novels to feature Cromwell, Abbé Prévost's Le philosophe anglais (1731–39), portrays him as a hypocritical womaniser, a deceitful tyrant, and a coward. The protagonist of this novel, Mr Cleveland, is Cromwell's illegitimate son via one of Charles I's cast-off mistresses.[1] Cromwell’s adoption by the French Romantic movement was typified by Victor Hugo's 1827 play Cromwell, often considered to be symbolic of the French romantic movement, which represents Cromwell as a ruthless yet dynamic Romantic hero. A similar impression of a world-changing individual with a strong will and personality was provided in 1831 in the picture by French artist Hippolyte Delaroche, depicting the visit by Cromwell to the body of Charles I after the king’s execution.

Twenty Years After, Alexandre Dumas's sequel to The Three Musketeers, is set against the backdrop of the Second English Civil War and features Cromwell in a few scenes. The story's main fictitious villain, Mordaunt, is portrayed as Cromwell's secretary and spy.[2]

In Orson Scott Card's alternate history fantasy novel series The Tales of Alvin Maker, one of Cromwell's physicians is depicted as a healer able to prevent his death and thus the subsequent English Restoration, although Cromwell himself does not appear in the series. Another similar fantasy novel series, The Baroque Cycle by Neal Stephenson, contains many references to Cromwell as well as extensive descriptions of his grass-roots supporters and their behaviour after the Restoration. The novel series begins in 1655, three years before Cromwell's death, but once again he does not appear in the novels. The Adventures of Luther Arkwright, a comic-book fantasy adventure spanning countless alternative universes, depicts modern-day England as a fascist theocracy ruled by a descendant of Cromwell. Popular Australian fantasy author Kate Forsyth wrote Cromwell into her series The Chain of Charms.

Cromwell appears as a character in the 1632 series alternate history by Eric Flint and collaborators. He first appears in the book 1633, where he has been imprisoned 'in advance' by Charles I of England, scared by reports of Cromwell's actions in our own timeline. In 1634: The Baltic War, he (along with other historical persons and several fictional Englishmen and Americans) escapes from the Tower of London. After the escape, 1635: A Parcel of Rogues follows Cromwell and others in a return to the Fens to search for his children.

The Morganville Vampires novels feature Cromwell as a vampire.

A minor but important character in Robert Wilton's Traitor's Field, this novel starts with the aftermath of the Battle of Preston in 1648 until Charles II's flight into exile on the continent; it was published by Corvus, an imprint of Atlantic Books, on May 1, 2013 (UK).

In the Japanese light novel series Zero no Tsukaima, a noble of Albion (a country reminiscent of Great Britain) named Oliver Cromwell leads the nobles in a rebellion against the royal family in a bloody civil war reminiscent of the English Civil War.

In theatre, film and television[edit]

In music[edit]

  • Rutland Boughton's Symphony No. 1 (1904–05) was subtitled "Oliver Cromwell".
  • Cromwell has been mentioned in popular songs, such as:
    • "Oliver Cromwell" released by Monty Python in 1989 consists of a factually accurate but light-hearted capsule biography sung to Chopin's Polonaise in A-flat, Op. 53, for piano.[3]
    • "You'll Never Beat the Irish" by the Wolfe Tones included "curse of Cromwell plagued the land 'til our towns were red with blood."
    • "The Men Behind the Wire" also popularized by the Wolfe Tones alludes to Cromwell's conquests of Ireland in lyrics, "round the world the truth will echo, Cromwell's men are here again, England's name again is sullied, in the eyes of honest man," in reference to Irish prisoners interned by the British army during the Irish Revolution.
    • Elvis Costello's 1979 hit pop single "Oliver's Army"
    • The Pogues mention him in their 1989 song “Young Ned of the Hill”: about Cromwell's assault on Drogheda, it says: “A curse upon you Oliver Cromwell / You who raped our Motherland.”[4]
    • "Irish Blood, English Heart", the 2004 single by Morrissey includes the lyrics: "I've been dreaming of a time when the English are sick to death of Labour and Tories / And spit upon the name Oliver Cromwell / And denounce this royal line that still salute him / And will salute him forever".
    • Reverend Bizarre have a song named "Cromwell" on their album II Crush the Insects
    • Flogging Molly mention him in their 2004 song "Tobacco Island" from their album Within a Mile of Home about the deportation of Irish people to Barbados: "'Twas 1659 / forgotten now for sure / They dragged us from our homeland / with the musket and their gun / Cromwell and his roundheads / battered all we knew / Shackled hopes of freedom / we're naught but stolen goods". On the live album Live at the Greek Theatre, singer Dave King stated: "I suppose there's nothing like a good song written about a bad bastard, is there?" There's an error in these lyrics mentioning the year 1659, as Cromwell died in 1658.
    • "Anthem for Doomed Youth", a ballad by The Libertines from the band's 2015 album Anthems for Doomed Youth includes the line "Was it Cromwell or Orwell who first led you to the stairwell, which leads only forever to kingdom come?".
    • "Cromwell's Skull", from Steeleye Span's 2016 album, Dodgy Bastards, which is told from the point of view of the skull as it is situated on its spike outside Westminster Hall.


  1. ^ The Life and Entertaining Adventures of Mr. Cleveland, Natural Son of Oliver Cromwell, Cleveland Family Chronicles, retrieved 23 August 2012 
  2. ^ "Twenty Years After". Project Gutenberg. Retrieved 21 November 2011. 
  3. ^ "Oliver cromwell by monty python". YouTube. 18 February 2009. Retrieved 29 July 2011. 
  4. ^ "Young Ned of the Hill". Pogues.com. 30 December 1996. Retrieved 29 July 2011.