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CHAPTER II.

ANCESTRY, FAMILY, AND EARLY DAYS.

IT

T cannot be an unimportant thing to glance at the

ancestry of a powerful man; and that of Cromwell is very curious, more like that of the Tudors, whom he so much resembles, than like that of any other royal name of England. He was descended from a Celtic stock by his mother's side. He was a ninth cousin of Charles I. Elizabeth Steward, Mrs. Robert Cromwell, the mother of Oliver, was descended from Alexander, the Lord High Steward of Scotland—the ancestor of the whole family of the Stewarts. This is one of the most singular coincidences occurring in history; but the family of Cromwell's father was from Wales. He was the second son of Sir Henry Cromwell, himself eldest son and heir to Sir Richard Williams, alias Cromwell, who, as the issue of Morgan Williams, by his marriage with a sister of Thomas, Lord Cromwell, Earl

1 For a stream of Cromwell's ancestry, and proof of this, see Forster's “ Lives of British Statesmen,” vol. vi. pp. 35-307. But more explicitly in “ The Cromwell Family”. of Mark Noble

of Essex, assumed-like his father—the name of Cromwell. Morgan ap Williams is said to have derived his family from a noble lineage, namely, that of the Lords of Powys and Cardigan, who flourished during the period of the conquest. But of this we are not herald sufficient to declare the truth; however, all Welsh blood is royal or noble. The elevation of the Cromwell family is to be dated from the introduction of Richard Williams to the Court of Henry VIII., by Thomas Cromwell, the son of Walter Cromwell, some time a blacksmith, and afterwards a brewer at Putney, in Surrey, and a great favourite with the bluff old Hal. Richard Williams appears to have been—and he was one of the few royal favourites who did not lose his head as the penalty for his sovereign's favouritism. We have an account of a great tournament, held by King Harry, where Richard acquitted himself right gallantly. There the king knighted him, and presented him with a diamond ring, exclaiming, “Formerly thou wast my Dick, but now thou art my Diamond,” and bidding him for the future wear such a one in the fore gamb of the demi-lion in his crest, instead of a javelin as before. The arms of Sir Richard, with this alteration, were ever afterwards borne by the elder branch of the family ; and by Oliver himself, on his assuming the Protectorship, though previously he had borne the javelin. Henry himself, it will be remembered, was of Welsh descent; and he strongly recommended it to the Welsh to adopt the mode of most civilized nations, in taking family names, instead of their manner of adding their father's and, perhaps, their grandfather's name to their own Christian one, as Morgan ap Williams, or Richard ap Morgan ap Williams.

Great was the munificence, and large the possessions of the Cromwell family. Our Oliver, indeed, appears to have been poor enough for so great a connection; but his uncle, Sir Oliver, inherited all the estates of his ancestor, Sir Richard ; and these included many of those wealthy monasteries and nunneries for the escheatment and confiscation of which Thomas Cromwell has become so famous, constituting him Malleus Monachorum, the “Hammerer of Monasteries," as Oliver has been called Malleus Monarchorum, or the “Hammerer of Kings and Thrones.”

Hinchinbrook, near Huntingdon, was the residence of Sir Oliver. There, no doubt, he kept up a magnificent old English cheer. Beneath his gateway he received, and in his halls he entertained, three English monarchs. Elizabeth, when she left the University of Cambridge, paid him a visit; King James I. was entertained by him several times; as was also Charles I. But the great festivity of his life was his reception of James on his way to London from Edinburgh, when he succeeded to the English throne. High feasting days were those at Hinchinbrook House.

The king came in a kind of state ; Sir Oliver entertained all comers with the choicest viands and wines, and even

the populace had free access to the cellars during His Majesty's stay. At his leaving Hinchinbrook, after breakfast, on the 29th of April, he was pleased to express his obligations to the baronet and his lady, saying to the former, with his characteristic vulgarity, “Marry, mon, thou has treated me better than any one since I left Edinburgh;” and an old chronicler remarks, “It is more than probable, better than ever that prince was treated before or after;" for it is said Sir Oliver at this time gave the greatest feast that had been given to a king by a subject.

We shall not have occasion to refer to Sir Oliver again throughout this biography, and therefore we may close this notice of him by saying that he continued throughout his life loyal to the cause of king and cavalier. He obliged all his sons to serve in the Royalist army, and was ever more obnoxious to the Parliamentarian cause than any person in his neighbourhood. At last he was obliged to sell his seat of Hinchinbrook, and he retired to live in silence and quiet in Ramsey, in the county of Huntingdon. His whole estates were sequestrated, but spared through the interposition and for the sake of his illustrious nephew. He never, however, courted the favour of Oliver, and no doubt was heartily ashamed of him. The losses he sustained from his loyalty were so great that, as the shades of the evening of life closed round him, they found him deep in pecuniary difficulties; and he is said to have been buried, in the evening of the day on which he died,

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