Article link: Opinion: ‘Cromwell was Framed’ | The Irish Story

Oliver Cromwell death mask- Ashmolean Museum

At stake is this man’s posthumous reputation. Oliver Cromwell’s death mask at the Ashmolean Museum. Photo by Jun (Flickr: Oliver Cromwell Death Mask) via Wikimedia Commons

Here’s a brave man: historian and writer Tom Reilly, having gone back to the historical sources, says there is no credible contemporary evidence of the massacre of the population of Drogheda by Roundhead troops in 1649.

[…] in the eleven intervening years between the stormings of both Drogheda and Wexford and the Restoration there are just TWO contemporary accounts that allege Cromwell slaughtered the lawyers, merchants, servants, farmers, doctors, carpenters, washerwomen, widows, teenagers and children of Drogheda and Wexford.

These two accounts, Reilly argues, are later fabrications, written by Royalists intent on blackening Oliver Cromwell’s name.

I must confess to having always accepted the majority view, though in my Irish History Compressed I did also try to introduce some historical relativism by pointing out that “[a]ccording to the prevailing rules of war, the defenders of a city who had been given the chance to surrender peacefully and refused could expect no mercy from their opponents”. Nevertheless, a massacre of all inhabitants was not usual practice.

The massacre at Drogheda as imagined by Henry Edward Doyle

Fantasy? “Massacre at Drogheda” by Henry Edward Doyle – illustration from Chapter XXX from An Illustrated History of Ireland from AD 400 to 1800, by Mary Frances Cusack, Illustrated by Henry Doyle scanned into 091.jpg extracted from Gutenberg project’s zip file. First published in 1868. Licensed under Public domain via Wikimedia Commons

So, anyone who comes up with a major challenge to orthodoxy like this deserves a close hearing. Unfortunately, this is the kind of issue that few Irish people can discuss objectively. As Reilly himself notes,

[t]he idea that the massacre of the unarmed civilian populations of both Drogheda and Wexford by Oliver Cromwell’s New Model Army did indeed take place has survived through the centuries almost perfectly intact. Indeed, it is so well constructed that it is virtually indestructible.

I’m only surprised that so far (as of 29th August) there’s only been one reaction of the “This is heresy!!! Fingers in ears — I’m not listening to you! La la la la la…” variety on The Irish Story blog. No doubt the publication of Reilly’s book will occasion a good deal more flak. Personally, I admire his bravery.

Read the full article here:

Opinion: ‘Cromwell was Framed’ | The Irish Story.

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