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Post Monuments to Cromwell
Created by John Eipper on 02/02/13 5:21 AM

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Monuments to Cromwell (Nigel Jones, UK, 02/02/13 5:21 am)

Cameron Sawyer (1 February) is spot-on to spot the irony of a Cromwell statue sited bang outside the Houses of Parliament that he dissolved on several occasions, once with the immortal words re-cycled by the Tory politician Leo Amery, which were the final nail in Neville Chamberlain's hapless Government in 1940, just before it was replaced by Churchill:

"You have sat here too long for any good you may be doing--depart, I say, and let us have done with you. In the name of God, Go!"

(Cromwell himself was a Member of Parliament--sitting for his native Cambridgeshire.)

His military capabilities were enormous. Having never picked up a sword in anger until he was past 40, Cromwell never lost a battle thereafter, and his masterstroke, Dunbar, was an act of genius worthy of Napoleon. Pinned against a sea by a hostile Scottish army three times his size, with his own men sick of dysentery, he attacked uphill in driving rain and routed his opponents with the loss of a couple of hundred men--masterly!

Actually Cromwell is a hero of mine. (Apart from anything else he was a master of the English language in its Springtime. His original cause was worthy, but having overthrown and finally executed the King, he had no plans for a viable state form to put in place of the monarchy. He himself refused Parliament's offer of the Crown--although he was briefly succeeded by his hopeless son Richard.)

As for the statue, it was erected by an admirer of Cromwell, the Liberal Premier Lord Rosebery in the 1890s. The Liberals were strongly supported by Nonconformist elements, who also admired Cromwell. Nevertheless, opposition to the statue was strong--so strong that the unveiling ceremony had to be performed in the wee hours of the morning!

I think the Victorian historian Thomas Carlyle summed Cromwell up superbly as "a great, bad man."

JE comments: Other "great, bad men"? Napoleon immediately comes to mind. Some men (and women, too) were merely bad, and still others (far fewer), simply great.  What about Stalin?  He looks bad to me, but as Randy Black pointed out earlier today, the Stalin mini-revival in Russia is a celebration of his "great badness." 

Nothing helps the bad become "great, if bad" more than victory in war.

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