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Customer Review

on 22 June 2008
Antonia Fraser's 'Cromwell, Our Chief of Men', at over 700 pages, is certainly monumental in proportion to its subject. Lady Antonia has succeeded in writing an engaging, comprehensive, and sympathetic biography of Oliver Protector that challenges us to re-examine this much-maligned giant of English (and indeed Scottish, Welsh, and Irish) history. Cromwell emerges as an affectionate husband, friend, and father, a sincere Christian, a tremendously effective military leader and, despite his Irish atrocities, a humanitarian genuinely committed to alleviating the lot of the masses.

My greatest problem with Lady Antonia's account is that she seems torn between her like of Cromwell and her royalist convictions. This seriously plagues her description of the trial and execution of Charles I and Cromwell's agonising over whether to accept the crown in 1657. Lady Antonia concludes that the execution of the king was unlawful. So it certainly was, by the laws of the time; but by such standards the Nuremberg trials were equally unlawful. A sounder approach might have been to investigate the difficulties posed by a legal system that placed certain people above the law. Lady Antonia also refuses to give Cromwell credit for refusing the crown.

All in all, despite some downsides like the above, and some minor irritations (typographical errors and Lady Antonia's hostility towards the common comma), this is a well-written popular biography that is warmly recommended to all who wish to learn more (or, indeed, anything at all - as was the case with me) about the Lord Protector Oliver Cromwell.
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