Brother against brother in the English civil war

‘The Wars of the Three Kingdoms’ is the best description of the devastating conflict that erupted in England, Ireland and Scotland during the 1640s and 1650s. While Britain lost 2.2 per cent of its population in the first world war, 4 per cent perished during these terrible 17th-century clashes. The kingdoms were, at the outset, Charles I’s. At a time when even a great leader would have struggled to navigate the political, religious and social torrents confronting him, the king was weak and apt to act on the latest advice he received; his only strengths were piety, art patronage and being a loving husband and father. When a ruler of

Oliver Cromwell: ruthless in battle – but nice to his men

One of the first retrospective accounts of Oliver Cromwell’s early career, Andrew Marvell’s ‘An Horatian Ode upon Cromwell’s Return from Ireland’ (1650), maintained that its subject was difficult to capture. Perhaps the finest political poem in the English language, it was written shortly after Cromwell’s return from a brutally successful military campaign overseas, which witnessed infamous atrocities at Drogheda and Wexford. It celebrates Cromwell as a victorious military commander, a supernatural epic hero who burns through the air, destroying all who block his path to establishing England as the greatest nation on Earth. But for all its praise and hyperbole, the abiding impression of the poem is that there is