God’s Executioner: Oliver Cromwell and the Conquest of Ireland by Micheal O Siochru

The Sunday Times review by John Carey

Paying a courtesy call on the British foreign secretary Robin Cook in 1997, the Irish prime minister Bertie Ahern noticed a painting of Oliver Cromwell in the room. He instantly walked out and refused to return until the portrait of “that murdering bastard” had been removed. You might think that the long and tragic history of Anglo-Irish relations was so full of murdering bastards on both sides that the selection of any particular one was rather arbitrary. But Micheal OSiochru puts the Aherne anecdote at the start of his book to illustrate the continuing demonisation of Cromwell by the Irish, and he strives to discover how far it is justified.

The story begins in 1641, years before Cromwell set foot in Ireland, with the rebellion of the Catholic Irish against the Protestant settler community. Continue reading

Oliver Cromwell: The Protector (Letter One)

American history cannot be understood without an understanding of British history. And one of the most maligned of British characters has been Oliver Cromwell. His descendant, Oliver Cromwell, Esq., has this to say:

Death mask of Oliver CromwellIt has been the singular ill fortune of Oliver Cromwell, and of his family, that his character hath been left exclusively in the hands of his enemies. The short interval between his death and the Restoration, and the unsettled state of the nation in the intermediate time, left no opportunity for a faithful and impartial history of that extraordinary man. From that time to the present, his memory hath been abused and vilified without any allowance for the peculiar circumstances in which he was placed : his name alone is to this day deemed by many a sufficient description of every thing that is ambitious, hypocritical, and tyrannical. He has been held forth as a composition of every bad quality, without one virtue to counterbalance them. Continue reading