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OLIVER CROMWELL, son of Robert Cromwell, and Elizabeth Stuart, his wife, was born at Huntington, on the twenty-fourth of April, one thousand five hundred ninety-nine. His family, which was considerable, I shall give some account of in the note'.
'I shall give some account of his family.) We are naturally inquisitive about the descents and alliances of those who have figured in the world. Whether they sprung from new or old families ? whether their fathers were men of renown? or they themselves first gave lustre to their name? are questions usually asked by such as read or hear concerning them. To gratify the curiosity of the reader then, the following account has been collected. " Thạt his (Oliver’s) extraction by the father's side, was from Sir Richard Williams, knight, a gentleman of eminent note (says Sir William Dugdale) in the court of king Henry VIII, and son to Morgan ap Williams (a Welchman) by
sister to Thomas lord Cromwell earl of Essex, is not to be doubted. Who being by his uncle preferred to the service of king Henry, was for that cause (and no other) called Cromwell, as is apparent enough from
He was educated in grammar learning in the free-school at Huntington, under Dr. Thomas Beard, a minister of that town; from whence he was sent to Cambridge, entered into SydneySussex College, April 23, 1616, and placed under the tuition of Mr. Richard Howlett'.
What progress in learning he made in the
testimonies of credit b." If I have not been misinformed, many gentlemen of the name of Williams, in Wales, value themselves on this descent of Oliver Cromwell. Dugdale's account has been lately contested by a gentleman who thinks it “ more probable that this family descended by the females from Ralph lord Cromwell of Tattenhall in Lincolnshire, the last heir male of which was lord high treasurer in the reign of Henry VI. and one of his coheiresses married Sir William Williams, whose descendents might afterwards take the name of Cromwell, in hopes of attaining that title which Humphry Bouchier, a younger son of the then earl of Essex, who married the eldest of the coheiresses, actually had, and was killed at Barnet field, fighting on the side of king Edward IV“, – Which of these accounts is most probable must be left to the judgment of the reader.—However, this is certain, that Sir Richard Cromwell above mentioned was sheriff of Cambridgeshire and Huntingtonshire in the time of Henry VIII. was a great favourite and commander in the wars, and had grants of abbey lands in Huntingtonshire to the amount, as they were then rated, of three thousand pounds a year. His son, sir Henry, was four times sheriff of the county. Sir Oliver, uncle to the Protector, gave king James I. the greatest feast that had been given to a king by a subject, had a great estate, and
2 Peck's Desiderata Curiosa, vol. II. b. 7. p. 66. Wood's Fasti, vol. II. c. 88.
Short View of the Troubles in England, p. 458. Oxford, 1681. Folio. & Biographia Britannica, vol. III. Article Cromwell, note A.
university we have no particular account of, but as 'he understood (some Latin, and had a taste for polite literature, probably his time was not wholly misemployed there.
During his continuance at Cambridge, his
was a zealous royalista,” but “ had his composition: remitted by the parliament for his kinsman's sake 6." It is no wonder then to find a family of such a rank allied to the Hampdens, the St. Johns, and the Barringtons, names of some of our most ancient and eminent families. ----Mr. Coke tells us, “ his father being asked whether he knew the Protector, he said, Yes, and his father too, when he kept his brew-house in Huntington.” Dugdale will explain this.—“ Robert Cromwell,” says he, “ though he was by the countenance of his elder brother (Sir Oliver) made a justice of peace in Huntingtonshire, had but a slender estate; much of his support being a brew-house, in Huntington, chiefly managed by his wife, who was sister to Sir Robert Stewart of the city of Ely, knight, and by her had issue this our famous Oliver d." This every reasonable and considerate person will think no discredit to the family. For in England trade is not disgraceful to a gentleman. The younger brothers of our best families engage in it, and thereby raise themselves to fortune and independency, and advance the riches and power of their country. A much more honourable method of procuring a maintenance than following the levees of ministers and favourites, and engaging to execute their mischievous and fatal schemes! : * He understood some Latin, and had a taste for polite literature.] Here are my authorities. Burnet says, “ he had no foreign language, but the little Latin that stuck to him from his education, which he spoke very vitiously and
* Biographia Britannica, vol. III. Article Cromwell, note a. 6 Whitlock's Memorials, 2d edit. p. 300.
" Detection, vol. II. p. 57. Lond. 1694. * Short View, p. 459.
father dying, he returned home to his mother, who after some time sent him to Lincolns Inn,, where, instead of applying himself to the study of the law, he learned the follies and vices of the town.
scantily 2. Another writer observes that « The usurper loved, or affected to love, men of wit.--Mr. Waller frequently waited on him, being his kinsman; and as he often declared, observed him to be very well read in the Greek and Roman story b." The following passage I give at length, not doubting the reader will be pleased with it. “ When Cromwell took on him the protectorship, in the year 1653, the very morning the ceremony was to be perform’d, a messenger came to Dr. Manton, to acquaint hiin that he must immediately, come to Whitehall : the doctor asked him the occasion : he told him he should know that when he came there. The Protector himself, without any previous notice, told him what he was to do, i, e. to pray upon that occasion : the doctor laboured all he could to be excused, and told himn it was a work of that nature which required some time to consider and prepare for it. The Protector replied, That he knew he was not at a loss to perform the service he expected from him; and opening his study-door, he put him in with his hand, and bid him consider there ; which was not above half an hour: the doctor employed that time in looking over his books, which he said was a noble collection C." Manton was a judge. i
These passages do not indeed prove Oliver's application in the university ; but as a taste for books and learning is generally acquired in the early part of life, it is no way improbable that he formed it there.
Instead of studying the law, he learned the vices and
* Burnet's History of his own Timcs. Dinteh edit. 12mo. p. 100.' 1725. b Waller's Life, prefixed to his Poems, p. 30: Lond. 1722. 12mo. ' Life of Dr. Manton, p. 20. 8vo, Lond. 1725.