Draw a comparison between the reign of Cromwell and that of Charles II.

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larrygates | College Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

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Odd as it might seem, Oliver Cromwell, who ruled as Lord Protector after the execution of Charles I, was more absolutist and autocratic than Charles II; in fact he bore more resemblance to Charles I than he would likely have admitted.  Cromwell was a dedicated Puritan and at times idealistic to a fault. He was determined that no one, not even Parliament, would prevent him from instituting the reforms which he considered necessary. The "Rump Parliament" had prepared a Constitution known as the "Instrument of Government" in 1653 which ostensibly created the office of Lord Protector; however when Parliament refused to dissolve itself, Cromwell destroyed the Constitution and ruled under virtual Martial Law. He was able to do so as the Puritan Army from the Civil War were loyal to him, and he was thus able to create a virtual military dictatorship. As a result, he imposed taxes without the consent of Parliament, closed theaters, prohibited sporting events, and even censored the Press. He was so unpopular that he found it necessary to wear armor under his clothing, and travel through London by circuitous routes for his own safety.

Charles II, restored in 1661 after Cromwell's death, was in his own words determined "not to set out on my travels again." Whereas Cromwell had been idealistic, Charles proved to be conciliatory. He was determined to cooperate with Parliament by whatever means, and agreed to summon Parliament frequently. He also agreed to not impose taxes without Parliament's consent. Whereas Cromwell had been dour and uncooperative, Charles had a keen sense of humor and could be quite charming when he saw the need. Even so, Charles' reign was not altogether successful. Parliament was much more conservative than the King, a fact which led to continuing conflict over the proper relationship between King and Parliament. One interesting development in Charles' reign was the creation of a council of five advisers who were to act as liaisons between Charles and Parliament. The advisers were all members of Parliament, which indicated his intent to cooperate whenever possible. Interestingly, the first five advisers (Clifford, Arlington, Buckingham, Ashley-Cooper, and Lauderdale) became known as the "Cabal," based on the first initials of their names. This was the beginning of the Cabinet system of government in England.