CROMWELL, Oliver (?1566-1655), of Godmanchester and Hinchingbrooke, Hunts.

Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1558-1603, ed. P.W. Hasler, 1981
Available from Boydell and Brewer

Family and Education

b. ?1566, 1st s. of Henry Cromwell alias Williams* of Hinchingbrooke by Joan, da. of Sir Ralph Warren, ld. mayor of London; bro. of Richard and Robert Cromwell and of Henry Cromwell. educ. Queens’, Camb. 1579; L. Inn 1582. m. (1) Elizabeth, da. of Thomas Bromley, 4s. 4da.; (2) July 1601, Anne (d.1626), da. of Giles Hoostman of Antwerp, wid. of Sir Horatio Palavicino, 2s. 2da. KB 1603. suc. fa. 1604.1

Offices Held

Capt. musters, Hunts. 1585. j.p. from c.1586, rem. 1587, rest. by 1594, custos rot. c.1605; sheriff, Cambs. and Hunts. 1598-9; gent. of privy chamber by 1603; attorney to Queen Anne 1604.2


Until the death of his father, Cromwell lived at Godmanchester, assisting with county administration. He is mentioned in 1585 as captain of a band of soldiers at the local musters, and was one of those in charge of the men raised in Huntingdonshire at the time of the Armada.3 Following the purge of justices of the peace in 1587 he was displaced, since his father was also on the commission, but he was reinstated a few years afterwards. It was probably felt that in a county as small as Huntingdonshire, the custom by which only one member of a family could be a justice was inapplicable — particularly in the case of the owners of Hinchingbrooke. On one occasion Cromwell was—together with Sir Edward Wingfield—in trouble for contempt of court in failing to render account to the Exchequer concerning a subsidy granted in 1593, owing to the ‘insufficiency’ of Matthew Wentworth, the collector. He is mentioned only twice by name in the journals of the Elizabethan parliaments: on a committee for draining.the fens (1 Dec. 1601) and when he was granted leave of absence (10 Dec). However, as knight of the shire, he could have attended committees on the subsidy (26 Feb.) and a legal matter (9 Mar.) in 1593; on enclosures (5 Nov.), armour and weapons (8 Nov.), penal laws (8 Nov.), monopolies (10 Nov.), the subsidy (15 Nov.), the poor law (5, 22 Nov.), Mr. Cotton’s lands (25 Nov.), and draining the fens (3 Dec.) in 1597; and on the order of business (3 Nov.), monopolies (23 Nov.) and draining the fens (28 Nov.) in 1601.4

Cromwell made a fortunate second marriage to the widow of the financial magnate Sir Horatio Palavicino after lobbying Sir Robert Cecil and Gilbert Talbot, 7th Earl of Shrewsbury for support. Cecil wrote to her ‘you cannot bestow yourself upon a gentleman in every way fitter for you’, and Shrewsbury said he had ‘the reputation of all men to be as sufficient and honest a gentleman as any lives’.5 Next, Cromwell’s heir Henry married Palavicino’s daughter, and two of the daughters of Cromwell’s first wife married Palavicino’s sons Henry and Toby. Cromwell soon became a favourite of James I, whom he entertained at Hinchingbrooke with ‘the greatest feast that had ever been given to a king by a subject’. A royalist in the civil war, his sequestered estates were restored to him through the influence of his nephew, the Protector. However, he had already sold many of them, including Hinchingbrooke, to meet debts contracted to London moneylenders. Some of the trouble seems to have been caused by his son-in-law Toby, who early squandered most of the Palavicino inheritance. Henry Maynard was one of those who bought Cromwell’s Essex lands.

Cromwell died in 1655 and was buried at Ramsey on 28 Aug.6

Ref Volumes: 1558-1603

Author: J.C.H.


  • 1. The date of his birth is sometimes given as 1562, but evidence is conflicting; Vis. Hunts. (Cam. Soc. xliii), 80; W. Berry, Co. Genealogies, Herts. 107; VCH Hunts. ii. 67; Chamberlain Letters ed. McClure; i. 126 and n; C142/283/106.
  • 2. CSP Dom. 1581-90, p. 338; Lansd. 53, f. 189; C66/1421, 1682; Harl. 6161, p. 132; Rylands Eng. ms 309; iv. 669; 311.
  • 3. VCH Hunts. ii. 67; CSP Dom. 1581-90, pp. 247, 522.
  • 4. D’Ewes, 474, 496, 552, 553, 555, 557, 561, 563, 567, 624, 649, 657, 660, 678; HMC Hatfield, xi. 260-1.
  • 5. D’Ewes, 474, 496, 552, 553, 555, 557, 561, 563, 567, 624, 649, 657, 660, 678; HMC Hatfield, xi. 260-1.
  • 6. H. R. Trevor-Roper, The Gentry, 1540-1640 (Econ. H.R. Supp. i), 21-2; Rylands Eng. mss; DNB (Palavicino, Horatio).