Written in the spring of 1648, in the midst of the country’s descent into renewed civil war, the letter contains detailed instructions relating to the proposed marriage of Cromwell’s son and successor Richard to Dorothy, daughter of Hampshire gentleman Richard Maijor.
Cromwell came to see his son as lacking devotion to God and being overly fond of good living. He looked to Dorothy and to Dorothy’s father to correct these perceived faults. The marriage produced four children who survived into adulthood, but ended unhappily: Richard went into semi-voluntary exile on the continent in 1660 following the Restoration, after which the couple did not see each other again.
The personalities of great historical figures often prove elusive, but this extensive and intimate letter, written entirely in Cromwell’s own hand and running to over 700 words, provides an engrossing insight into the domestic arrangements of the future lord protector, his keen eye for financial advantage, and a touching concern for the future well-being of his ‘two little wenches’, identified by Thomas Carlyle as his daughters Mary and Frances, who by their own respective marriages later became Countess Fauconberg and Lady Russell.
A month after writing this letter Cromwell fought his first battle in full command, at Preston, where he routed the invading Scottish force. By January the following year, having outmanoeuvred Fairfax to see through the trial and execution of the king, he was the single most powerful figure in England.
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