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Henry Cromwell
Henry Cromwell.jpg
Lord Deputy of Ireland
Personal details
Born (1628-01-20)20 January 1628
Died 23 March 1674(1674-03-23) (aged 46)
Wicken, Cambridgeshire
Spouse(s) Elizabeth Russell
Profession Politician, soldier

Henry Cromwell (20 January 1628 – 23 March 1674) was the fourth son of Oliver Cromwell and Elizabeth Bourchier, and an important figure in the Parliamentarian regime in Ireland.

Early life

He was born at Huntingdon and educated at Felsted School and Emmanuel College, Cambridge.[1] He served under his father during the latter part of the English Civil War. His active life, however, was mainly spent in Ireland, whither he took some troops to assist Oliver early in 1650, and he was one of the Irish representatives in the Barebones Parliament of 1653. In 1653 Henry married Elizabeth (died 1687), daughter of Sir Francis Russell, who went on to bear him five sons and two daughters.


Henry Cromwell was the seventh Chancellor of Trinity College, Dublin between 1653 and 1660.

In 1654 he was again in Ireland, and after making certain recommendations to his father, now Lord Protector, with regard to the government of that country, he became major-general of the forces in Ireland and a member of the Irish council of state, taking up his new duties in July 1655. Nominally Henry was subordinate to the lord-deputy, Charles Fleetwood, but Fleetwood's departure for England in September 1655 left him for all practical purposes the ruler of Ireland. He moderated the lord-deputy's policy of deporting the Irish, and unlike him he paid some attention to the interests of the English settlers. Moreover, again unlike Fleetwood, he appears to have held the scales evenly between the different Protestant sects, and his undoubted popularity in Ireland is attested by Clarendon.

In November 1657 Henry himself was made lord-deputy; but before this time he had refused a gift of property worth £1500 a year, basing his refusal on the grounds of the poverty of the country, a poverty which was not the least of his troubles. In 1657 he advised his father not to accept the office of king, although in 1654 he had supported a motion to this effect; and after the dissolution of Cromwell's second parliament in February 1658 he showed his anxiety that the protector should act in a moderate and constitutional manner. After Oliver's death Henry hailed with delight the succession of his brother Richard to the office of protector, but although he was now appointed lieutenant and governor-general of Ireland, it was only with great reluctance that he remained in that country.

Later life

Having rejected proposals to assist in the restoration of Charles II, Henry was recalled to England in June 1659 just after his brother's fall; quietly obeying this order he resigned his office at once. Although he lost some property at the Restoration, he was allowed after some solicitation to keep the estate he had bought in Ireland.

His concluding years were passed peacefully at Spinney Abbey in Wicken, Cambridgeshire. He was unmolested by the government, and, indeed, the king on one occasion visited him there. He died at Wicken and is buried in the parish church alongside his wife.



  • Cunningham, John. Conquest and Land in Ireland: The Transplantation to Connacht, 1649-1680. Boydell Press, 2011.


  1. ^ "Cromwell, Henry (CRML644H)". A Cambridge Alumni Database. University of Cambridge. 
Political offices
Preceded by
Charles Fleetwood
Lord Deputy of Ireland
Succeeded by
Edmund Ludlow
Academic offices
Preceded by
The Marquess of Ormonde
Chancellor of the University of Dublin
Succeeded by
The Duke of Ormonde

1893 text

Colonel Williams —”Cromwell that was”— appears to have been Henry Cromwell, grandson of Sir Oliver Cromwell, and first cousin, once removed, to the Protector. He was seated at Bodsey House, in the parish of Ramsey, which had been his father’s residence, and held the commission of a colonel. He served in several Parliaments for Huntingdonshire, voting, in 1660, for the restoration of the monarchy; and as he knew the name of Cromwell would not be grateful to the Court, he disused it, and assumed that of Williams, which had belonged to his ancestors; and he is so styled in a list of knights of the proposed Order of the Royal Oak. He died at Huntingdon, 3rd August, 1673. (Abridged from Noble’s “Memoirs of the Cromwells,” vol. i., p. 70.)—B.

This text comes from a footnote on a diary entry in the 1893 edition edited by Henry B. Wheatley.

2 Annotations

Pedro  •  Link

Henry Cromwell.

(Antonia Fraser…King Charles II)

“It was a measure of the King’s forgiveness that by a decade after the Restoration he was accepting hospitality from Henry Cromwell, second son of the late Protector, at his home in Newmarket.”

(and speaking on the rights of succession)…

“Presence often constituted right in doubtful succession, as the weak Richard Cromwell gained over his stronger brother Henry, at the time of Oliver’s death, simply as Henry was absent in Ireland.”

Bill  •  Link

Pedro thinks that the Henry Cromwell referred to on 22 March 1663 was the Protector's son and not his grandson as mentioned in the 1893 text. Might be, as both men were colonels, though this Henry became a major-general and governor-general.

CROMWELL, HENRY (1628-1674), son of Oliver Cromwell; entered the parliamentary army; colonel, 1650; defeated Lord Inchiquin near Limerick, 1650; entered at Gray's Inn, 1654; represented Ireland in the Barebones parliament, 1653; sent to Ireland to counteract the influence of the anabaptists; major-general of the forces in Ireland, and member of the Irish council, 1654; remonstrated against the oath of abjuration imposed upon Irish catholics in 1657, but did not mitigate the rigour of the transplantation; lord-deputy, 1657; attempted to relieve the financial difficulties of the Irish administration, but was thwarted from home; urged his father to refuse the title of king, 1657; advised the remodelling of the army, 1658; governor-general of Ireland, 1658; unsuccessfully solicited by partisans of Prince Charles, 1659; returned to England and went into retirement, 1659; lost his lands at the Restoration, but subsequently had his possessions in Meath and Connaught confirmed to his trustees in compensation.
---Dictionary of National Biography: Index and Epitome. S. Lee, 1906.

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Chart showing the number of references in each month of the diary’s entries.