Letter: Britain's republic

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The Independent Online
Sir: To demonstrate that a republic needs no figurehead, Spencer Hagard (Letters, 12 September) cites the first time Britain was a republic, from 1649 to 1653. It is not a choice which helps his argument, as during that long period Parliament did nothing else of note but to send Cromwell (of whom they were afraid) and his army (ditto) on infamous punitive missions to Ireland and to Scotland, the adverse consequences of which have been reflected in every news bulletin of the last seven days.

As well for them that they kept Cromwell abroad, because when he did return he at once took over Parliament personally. With armed soldiers he entered the House, arrested the Speaker, dissolved the Parliament, locked the doors and pocketed the keys. Shortly afterwards he formed a new parliament - the "Barebones" - but when it quickly became clear that it was not going to vote him into power, he dismissed it too, and ordered his council of officers to elect him Lord Protector.

Hardly an auspicious start to our first and only republic. Like the Germans in the early Thirties to whom Donald Foreman (Letters, 10 September) refers, Parliament found they could not get the genie back into the bottle.


Whitchurch, Hampshire