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Oliver Cromwell (1599-1658) led the English Civil War against the Stuart Monarchy and later became the Lord Protector of the Commonwealth of England, Scotland and Ireland from 1653 to his death in 1658, the only period in English history where someone other than a monarch ruled Britain.
Cromwell was a convert to Puritanism and was elected to Parliament, beginning in 1628. His time in Parliament made him noted for the following:
- He became a cavalry leader for the Roundhead faction during the English Civil War
- Cromwell quickly rose to one of the commanders of the New Model Army, which defeated the Royalist forces.
- Cromwell was one of the men who signed the death warrant for King Charles I
- By 1653 he became the ruler of England, taking the title Lord Protector
During his rule, Cromwell spend considerable effort seeing to the "moral reform" of the English people, dividing the nation into military districts ruled by governors who answered only to him. During his reign, he increasingly became indistinguishable from a monarch, although he refused the offer of a crown.
Cromwell died in 1658 and was succeeded by his son Richard, but by 1660 Charles II was invited back from exile to resume as monarch. In 1661, Cromwell's body was exhumed from Westminster Abbey and subjected to a ritual execution. Oliver Cromwell remains a controversial figure in British history. Some view him as an autocratic tyrant, other see him as a hero of liberty. In 2002, he was selected as one of the ten greatest Britons of all time.