Oliver Cromwell was born in Huntingdon, Cambridgeshire on the
25th of April 1599. Educated first at Huntingdon Grammar school,
then at Cambridge University, Cromwell was not an outstanding scholar
but appears to have kept largely out of trouble. The most that can
be said of his early years is that they are unremarkable.
As a member of a declining gentry family, distantly related to Henry
VIII's chancellor Thomas Cromwell, Cromwell's father Robert was
only able to leave his son a small estate. This provided Cromwell
with an income from
farming and rent collection. The status of the family however kept
Cromwell in a prominent position locally. He was to become involved
in local administration and from 1629 onwards sat as M.P. for Huntingdon.
In 1620 Cromwell married Elizabeth Bourchier, daughter of a city
magnate, they were to remain a devoted couple until his death and
had eight children. The eldest two sons, Robert and Oliver, died
as young men from a fever and smallpox respectively. Cromwell's
favourite child Elizabeth was to die, watched by her father, of
cancer just two weeks before his own death. Bridget was to marry
two of the great Parliamentarian leaders of the day, Ireton and
after his death Fleetwood, she died shortly before the restoration.
Cromwell's widow and his remaining children survived into the restoration
period. Elizabeth died in 1665, unmolested by the new regime. Her
children were also treated charitably by Charles II. Richard, who
had briefly succeeded his father as Protector, lived abroad for
some years before returning to his English estates, as did his brother
Henry. Frances and Mary were both to marry men of some stature and
lived well into old age.
"I was by birth a gentleman, living neither in any considerable
height, nor yet in obscurity."
Cromwell's speech to parliament 12th