Historical and Commemorative Medals
Collection of Benjamin Weiss


DASSIER, Jean: England, 1731, Silver, 38 mm
Obv: Bust of Cromwell    OLIVERIUS CROMWELL
Rev: Tomb decorated with the arms of Cromwell and four infant Genii: one points to his titles, a second holds a mirror indicating Prudence, and is weeping over his death typified by a skull, another represents his success by a laurel wreath and unanimity of the kingdom by a bundle of wands bond together, and a fourth, in the character of Hercules, symbolized his power by the club and the fruit of his labors by three apples, i.e., the three kingdoms.  ANGLIAE, SCO. ET HIB. PROTECTOR.
Signed: I. DASSIER. F.
Exergue: NAT. 3. APRIL. 1603. MORT. 3. SEPT. 1658.
Cromwell was born in 1599.
Ref: M.I. i, 435/87; Eimer 47/203; Eisler I, 265/35; Thompson 31/26;  Weiss BW803

Oliver Cromwell (1599-1658), the only son of Robert Cromwell and Elizabeth Steward, was born into a landed, though by no means very wealthy, family. He studied at the recently founded University of Cambridge where he developed a strong Puritan ideology. In 1628 Cromwell entered Parliament during a period in which there were serious antagonisms between King Charles I (the second of a line of Stuart kings, the first being James Stuart) and the members of parliament. Despite these disputes between the monarch and Parliament, Cromwell initially supported a settlement with Charles I, although this settlement required the crown to accept Cromwell's political allies as the king's ministers and guarantee religious liberty to Protestants. This brought Cromwell into conflict with those who wanted a more democratic form of government and with those who advocated replacing the old Church of England with a new Presbyterian church base on the teachings of John Calvin. Because of the duplicity of the king, however, Cromwell began to support actions against Charles.

Besides being the leader of the rebels in parliament, Cromwell became an outstanding military leader against the crown. The Civil War which erupted pitted the Crown (The Cavaliers) against the rebels in Parliament (the Roundheads), ultimately leading to a parliamentary victory for Oliver Cromwell and to the beheading of Charles I in 1649. Charles I was succeeded on the throne by his eldest surviving son Charles II, but like his father, Charles II was roundly defeated militarily and was forced into exile.

In 1653 a Protectorate was established with Oliver Cromwell given the title of Lord Protector of England Scotland and Ireland in the newly formed Commonwealth, becoming the first commoner to rule England. Cromwell's rule was that of a virtual military dictator although he resisted the temptation to take the title of King. He was rather inept politically, and with the Dutch Wars and the war against Spain financially weakening the government, parliament became increasingly disillusioned with the Commonwealth. His policy was both anti-Stuart and pro-Protestant, his most notable achievement being his championing a degree of unprecedented religious freedom. This religious freedom should be viewed as relative, however, because while Quakers, Catholics and Jews were now allowed to worship as they wished, they were still subject to regulation, and worship had to be done privately. Further there was still a recognized State Church under Cromwell. Indeed, unlike the policies that existed before 1649 and from 1660 (after the Restoration) until the nineteenth century, it was only during this brief period from 1649-1660 that membership in the State Church was not a qualification for entry into universities, the professions and public office. (Although in the intervening periods, anti-discriminatory laws were enacted from time to time, Jews still weren't permitted to enter the British Parliament until the late 1800s).

Oliver Cromwell died in 1658, and although he was succeeded for a brief period as Lord Protector of England by his son Richard Cromwell, a further series of mismanagements of government opened the way in 1660 for parliament to invite the exiled Charles II back to the throne, ushering in the Restoration and, thereby, ending the period in which a commoner ruled England.

LINK to Medallic History of Oliver Cromwell (from google.books)