Cromwell’s statue in Westminster

Published in 18th–19th - Century History, Cromwell, Features, Issue 5 (Sep/Oct 2008), Volume 16

Because of bitter opposition from the Irish Parliamentary Party, Cromwell’s statue outside Westminster had to be privately funded by Liberal prime minister Lord Rosebery and was eventually unveiled in a low-key ceremony in 1899.

Because of bitter opposition from the Irish Parliamentary Party, Cromwell’s statue outside Westminster had to be privately funded by Liberal prime minister Lord Rosebery and was eventually unveiled in a low-key ceremony in 1899.

The struggle over Cromwell’s legacy came to a head in the 1890s with the plans to erect a statue on the grounds of the British parliament at Westminster. The governing Liberal Party strongly supported the proposal in the hope of consolidating the nonconformingfe in England and by all accounts detested the place. Neither man could be described as a democrat, and, like Cromwe Protestant vote, but the bitter opposition of the Irish Parliamentary Party at Westminster forced the withdrawal of a motion seeking funds from the House of Commons. According to the radical MP John Morley, news of the climb-down was greeted ‘with anger and disgust from English Liberals; with thick-witted jibes from Unionists . . . and with wild cries of aboriginal joy from our Irish friends’. The Liberal prime minister, Lord Rosebery, privately financed the project, and the statue was finally unveiled at a low-key ceremony in 1899, the 300th anniversary of Cromwell’s birth. Cromwell shares this distinguished location with Richard the Lionheart, an equally ambiguous historical figure, who spent little of his lill, King Richard famously exported his own militant brand of Christianity, not to Ireland but to the Holy Land. In fact, both statues say more about the mind-set of Victorian England than about the historical realities of the twelfth or seventeenth centuries.

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