Was Cromwell really that bad? This week in the Leader we look at a newly discovered diary of his time in Drogheda that suggests he was an OK kinda guy.
Calls have been made for a re-evaluation of town bogeyman Oliver Cromwell after a previously unknown campaign diary was discovered in parliamentary archives during recent renovations. The diary, which covers the 1649 siege of Drogheda, has been authenticated by academics from Oxbridge and DIFE.
Though it has been known in academic circles for centuries that Cromwell specifically instructed that civilians be left unharmed by the conflict, local history will tell you that everyone in the town was put to the sword.
The accepted narrative is that Cromwell beseiged the town, breached the walls, set up camp at Millmount and micro-managed the slaughter. Tales have a triumphant and Martini swilling Cromwell (slaughtered, not stirred) watching the massacre through his telescope at Millmount, cackling as he sent messanger pigeons to direct the ‘mop up’ of any hiding peasants he’d spied.
However, excerpts from the diary paint a different picture from the cruel and ruthless puritan that Droghedians love to hate. In fact, Cromwell comes across as a fashionista with a surreal sense of humour. Cromwell critics may well owe the Lord Protector an apology. The diary confirms his assertion that the massacre at Drogheda was an unfortunate miscommunication.
Extracts from Cromwell’s diary.
8 September 1649, Drogheda.
Royalist troops sledging us from the walls again. Saying our uniforms are bland, dour even. Calling us out for having no style. Blood boiling! Very hurtful. Warts throbbing with fury.
9 September 1649, Drogheda.
Drat and crapsticks! They’ve only gone and slaughtered everyone! Those were not my orders. I said to Colonel Axtell, “How dare they mock our uniforms! They wouldn’t know a slashed doublet from a donkey. Lets teach them a lesson. Just for the laugh lets mascara the lot of them! Then we’ll see who’s laughing at who. Round them up and mascara every man, woman and child. Pets too if they haven’t eaten or married them, the savages. That’s an order.”
Axtell noted the order and summonsed a rider.
“You there! What’s your name?”
“McEntee, sir. Nobber Regiment, sir.”
“Right, I want you to pass on the order to mascara all survivors. None are to be spared.”
“You heard me soldier! Now get to it. Haste is of the essence!”
McEntee in turn passed on the message to other riders.
“We’re to mascara them all adin the town so we are.”
“Mascara? What’s that?”
“I’ve no idea so I haven’t. Not a bean. Some English thing I guess.”
“Ah no. He must’ve meant massacre so he must.”
“Yeah no, that makes more sense. I’m some eejit so I am! Sorry.”
10 September 1649
Turns out that Axtell gave the order to a barely literate peasant. The ensuing game of Chinese Whispers will ruin my reputation! They warned me before I came here. “Only trust your own Ollie,” they said. “Don’t give any important jobs to the Irish.” They were right. Be it through cunning or fecklessness they make a hames of everything as sure as they’ll follow a potato thrown from a horse.
Hung for a sheep as a lamb. You can’t win. Off to Wexford next.