'The Royal Oake of Brittayne' in The Compleat History of Independency


This elaborate engraving was originally published in Anarchia Anglicana, in 1649, by the pamphleteer and Member of Parliament, Clement Walker (1595-1651), under the pseudonym Theodorus Verax. It depicts a tyrannical Oliver Cromwell (1599-1658), later Lord Protector of the Commonwealth (1653–58), presiding over the destruction of the ‘Royall Oake of Brittayne’, representing the constitution based upon the Crown, the Church and the law. Although Walker was initially sympathetic to Parliament during the English Civil Wars, he became disillusioned with Cromwell in the late 1640s. In Walker’s opinion, Cromwell had become a religious radical and despot whose attempts to usurp absolute power had led Britain into anarchy, an idea depicted brilliantly in this engraving. Standing on a locus lubricus (slippery place), an armoured Cromwell directs the ignorant multitude to cut down the ‘Royall Oake’, from one branch of which hangs ‘Magna Charta’, the ‘Statutes’ and Edward Coke’s ‘Reportes’. The allegory is clear: if continued unchecked, Cromwell’s rule would result in godless, lawless tyranny.

Full title:
The compleat History of Independency. Upon the Parliament begun 1640. By C. Walker. Continued till ... 1660, etc.-(Anarchia Anglicana: or the history of independency. The second part ... By Theodorus Verax.-The High Court of Justice ... Being the third part ... by the same author.-The history of independency. The fourth and last part ... by T. M. Esquire, a lover of his King and country.).
Clement Walker
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British Library

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