Follow TV Tropes


Film / Cromwell

Go To

"Every man who wages war thinks God is on his side; I warrant God should often wonder who is on his."
Oliver Cromwell

Cromwell is a 1970 British epic Period Piece about the English Civil War and the events that led up to it. Based on the life of Oliver Cromwell and his role in the war, it was directed by Ken Hughes, and starred Richard Harris as the title character and Alec Guinness as King Charles I. The cast also features Robert Morley as the Earl of Manchester, Dorothy Tutin as Queen Henrietta Maria, Frank Finlay as John Carter, Timothy Dalton as Prince Rupert of the Rhine, Patrick Wymark as the Earl of Strafford, Patrick Magee as Hugh Peters, Nigel Stock as Sir Edward Hyde, Charles Gray as the Earl of Essex, and Michael Jayston as Henry Ireton.

Oliver Cromwell is a devout puritan, a country squire, a magistrate, and a former MP. He and many others are frustrated by the King's policies, such as his enclosing of common land for use by wealthy landowners and his introduction of rituals seen as "too Catholic" into the Church of England. While Cromwell plans to take his family to the New World colonies, his friends convince him to stay and make a return to politics. Needing to raise money for his wars in Scotland and Ireland, the King is forced to call Parliament for the first time in twelve years. However, Parliament refuses to grant him his requests unless he agrees to certain reforms that may lead to a constitutional monarchy. Convinced of the divine right of kings and encouraged by his Queen to stand firm, the King refuses. As the political and religious tension reaches a boiling point and coming to terms looks increasingly unlikely, the King attempts to arrest five members of Parliament. This incident causes a war to break out in England itself between Parliament and the King, both sides firmly believing that God is on their side.

One of the biggest British box office successes of 1970, the film received mixed critical reviews but was nominated for a number of awards, including Academy Awards for Best Original Score and Best Costume Design (winning the latter), a BAFTA for Costume Design, a Golden Globe for Best Original Score, and the Golden Prize for Best Picture at the Moscow International Film Festival (Harris won the Award for Best Actor for his performance as Cromwell).


  • Adapted Out:
    • Charles and Henrietta Maria had nine children, six of whom survived childhood. Of the six only Charles, Elizabeth, and Henry appear in the film.
    • Two of Rupert's brothers, Charles Louis and Maurice, were also involved in the English Civil War. Charles Louis was sent away early on because he sympathised with the Parliamentary forces, while Maurice was banished with Rupert after the surrender of Bristol.
  • Artistic License History: Has its own page.
  • Artistic License Religion: Just before the Battle of Naseby, Cromwell rhetorically asks "Was not Gideon outnumbered by the Amalekites?" It was the Midianites who Gideon fought while outnumbered.
  • Dated History: One of Cromwell's sons, also named Oliver, is depicted as having been killed in battle. This was thought to be the case at the time the movie was made, but later on, rediscovered letters revealed that he had actually died of smallpox.
  • Full-Circle Revolution: The movie begins with Royal troops storming the House of Commons and King Charles dissolving Parliament to rule alone. This triggers the English Civil War, in which the Commonwealth forces are victorious and defeat the Royalists. However, Parliament soon proves corrupt and incompetent. The movie ends with Commonwealth troops storming the House of Commons and Oliver Cromwell dissolving Parliament to rule alone.
    • Sir Thomas Fairfax even remarks, "I seem to recall that we cut off a king's head for such as this." Nevertheless, the movie portrays Cromwell positively as the founder of democracy and leader of a golden age for England rather than as a hypocrite.
  • Historical Hero Upgrade: The movie gives the impression that Cromwell spent the years of the Rump Parliament on his lands in Huntingdon. In actuality, he was leading a brutal military campaign in Ireland, which earned him a reputation for cruelty and has been retroactively accused of being tantamount to genocide by some historians.
  • Historical Villain Upgrade: Henrietta Maria is shown as a ruthless and manipulative woman. The real Henrietta's role in the English Civil War is hotly debated, and it's doubtful she was like that.
  • Home by Christmas: King Charles' nephew Rupert promises that they'll have taken the heads of the rebels within a week. Historically, the war lasted four years, with the Roundheads victorious.
  • Hot-Blooded: Cromwell. The man seems unable to go two or three scenes without erupting into righteous anger and bellowing his lungs out over some injustice or another.
  • Lady Macbeth: Queen Henrietta Maria.
  • Large Ham: Cromwell again.
  • One-Steve Limit: Averted. There are at least three Johns, two Richards, and two Henrys.
  • Outliving One's Offspring: Cromwell loses a son, also named Oliver, in battle.
  • Suddenly Shouting: Cromwell frequently goes into this when he's especially ticked off.
  • Training Montage: The creation of the New Model Army.

Alternative Title(s): Cromwell 1970