Rule of the Major-Generals

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The Rule of the Major-Generals from August 1655 – January 1657,[1] was a period of direct military government during Oliver Cromwell's Protectorate.[2]

England was divided into 11 regions[3] each governed by a major-general who answered to the Lord Protector.[2]


Cromwell appointed the Major Generals soon after he had news of the defeat of the expedition to Hispaniola (commanded by William Penn and Robert Venables), reached London in late July 1655. He felt that this defeat was God punishing him for not trying to make England a more religious, godly place.[4][5]

Like Cromwell, the Major Generals were committed Puritans (hard-line Protestants). Part of their job was to try to make England more godly. They clamped down on what they considered to be rowdy behaviour (such as heavy drinking, music, dancing and fairs). They even tried to stop Christmas celebrations. Not surprisingly, the rule of the Major Generals was not popular.[4]

The Major-Generals and their regions

There were ten regional associations covering England and Wales administered by major-generals. Ireland under Major-General Henry Cromwell,[lower-alpha 1] and Scotland under Major-General George Monck were in administrations already agreed upon and were not part of the scheme.[6]

Name Period Region Deputies Notes
James Berry Appointed in 1655 Herefordshire, Shropshire, Worcestershire and Wales John Nicholas in Monmouthshire;
Rowland Dawkins in Carmarthenshire, Cardiganshire, Glamorgan, Pembrokeshire.
William Boteler (Butler)   Bedfordshire, Huntingdonshire, Northamptonshire and Rutland   Zealous and uncompromising in his hostility to his religious and political enemies, Boteler was a severe persecutor of Quakers in Northamptonshire; in 1656 he advocated that James Nayler should be stoned to death for blasphemy. Boteler was also aggressive in his persecution of Royalists in his area, unlawfully imprisoning the Earl of Northampton for failing to pay his taxes.
John Desborough   Cornwall, Devon, Dorset, Gloucestershire, Somerset and Wiltshire    
Charles Fleetwood Appointed in 1655 Buckinghamshire, Cambridgeshire, Essex, Hertfordshire, Isle of Ely, Norfolk, Oxfordshire and Suffolk George Fleetwood (a distant kinsman) in Buckinghamshire;
Hezekiah Haynes in Essex, Cambridgeshire, Isle of Ely, Norfolk, Suffolk;
William Packer as military governor of Hertfordshire and Oxfordshire
Owing to his other responsibilities on the Council of State, day to day matters in his region were overseen by Fleetwood's three deputies.[6]
William Goffe October 1655 Berkshire, Hampshire and Sussex    
Thomas Kelsey   Surrey and Kent    
John Lambert   Cumberland, County Durham, Northumberland, Westmorland and Yorkshire Charles Howard in Cumberland, Northumberland, Westmorland;
Robert Lilburne in County Durham, Yorkshire
Owing to his other responsibilities on the Council of State, day to day matters in his region were overseen by Lambert's two deputies.[6]
Philip Skippon   Middlesex; including the cities of London and Westminster Sir John Barkstead Skippon was by now elderly, and on the Council of State, so most of the day to day matters in his region were largely undertaken by Barkstead,[6]
Edward Whalley   Derbyshire, Leicestershire, Lincolnshire, Nottinghamshire, Warwickshire,  
Charles Worsley;
Tobias Bridge
1655–June 1656;
June 1656–January 1657
Cheshire, Lancashire and Staffordshire  


  1. Henry Cromwell was nominally under the Lord Deputy of Ireland, Charles Fleetwood, but Fleetwood's departure for England in September 1655 left Cromwell the ruler of Ireland for all practical purposes.
  1. Little 2007, p. 15.
  2. 2.0 2.1 Plant 2008.
  3. Royle 2006, p. 698.
  4. 4.0 4.1 The National Archives.
  5. Durston 2001, p. 21.
  6. 6.0 6.1 6.2 6.3 Royle 2006, pp. 698, 699.


  • Durston, Christopher (2001), Cromwell's Major-Generals: Godly Government During the English Revolution, Manchester University Press, p. 21, ISBN 978-0-7190-6065-6<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  • Little, Paterick (1 January 2007), "Putting the Protector back into the Protectorate", BBC history magazine, 8 (1): 15<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  • Plant, David (22 August 2008), Rule of the Major-Generals, British Civil Wars and Commonwealth website External link in |publisher= (help)<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  • Royle, Trevor (2006) [2004], Civil War: The Wars of the Three Kingdoms 1638–1660, Pub Abacus, ISBN 978-0-349-11564-1<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>


Further reading