In 1746, the Abbe Larudan, a critic of Freemasonry, published his Les Franc-Macons Ecrasses [see key extract translated into English below], apparently the child of the author’s imagination, in which he asserted that Cromwell, in 1648, at a dinner attended by Parliamentarians, Presbyterians, and Independents, first indicated his intentions to form such a society.
The development of this scheme was related by the Abbe with particularity and in detail. Cromwell, he tells us, held his confidants in suspense for four days, after which, he consummated the enterprise in dramatic fashion. Conducting his guests into a dark room, he prepared their minds for what was to follow by a long prayer in which he pretended to be in communion with the spirits of the blessed. After this, he explained his purpose to found a society to encourage the worship of God and to restore peace. Informing the company that they must all pass through a certain ceremony, and, gaining their consent, he appointed a Master, two Wardens, a Secretary, and an Orator. The visitors were then removed to another room in which was a picture of the ruins of Solomon’s Temple. They were next blindfolded, removed to another apartment and invested with the secrets, after which, Cromwell delivered a discourse on religion and politics, so impressing the novices that all sects united with Cromwell’s army in forming a secret association to promote the principles of the love of God and liberty and equality among men, but the real objective of which was the abolition of the monarchy and the establishment of the Commonwealth.
The Temple of Solomon, said the Abbe, was used as the symbol of glory or the primitive state of man, which, after some years, was destroyed by an army representing pride and ambition, the people being led away captive. Finally, the Freemasons were privileged to rebuild the Temple. The Order was divided into three degrees, the Master’s degree having a Hiramic legend differing somewhat from that later adopted. The death of Hiram represented the loss of liberty, and the confusion among the workmen represented the state of the people who were reduced to slavery by the tyrants. Cromwell is then said to have spread the Society over England, Scotland, and Ireland, the members being first called Freemasons, then Levelers, then Independents, next Fifth Monarchy Men, and, finally Freemasons.
The Abbe Larudan, like other fabricators, fell into the trap of his own ignorance. He did not know that Elias Ashmole had been made a Mason two years before Cromwell’s supposed theatrical performance, or that lodges had existed in most of the principal cities of Scotland before Cromwell was born, or that the Master’s degree was unheard of, and the Hiramic Legend, too, until sixty-five years after Cromwell’s death. The Abbe’s absurd story appears to have been composed by paraphrasing Edward Ludlow’s Memoirs in which he described Cromwell’s intrigues for the organization of a new political party, but in which nothing was said about Freemasonry.
Have you ever wondered whether the two important Cromwells in British history were related?
Henry VIII’s chief minister Thomas Cromwell who administered the takeover and sell-off, or dissolution of the monasteries in the 1530s…
and Oliver Cromwell, Puritan, roundhead & general of the parliamentary army in the 1640s English Civil war…
Yes, indeed they were. Thomas’ sister Katherine was the great-great grandmother of Oliver. Oliver was the great-great grandson of Thomas’ sister,
Oliver’s great-great-grandfather, Morgan Williams, had married Thomas Cromwell’s sister Katherine in 1497. Their three sons, Richard, another Richard and Walter, began the practice of calling themselves Cromwell in place of their true surname of Williams, in honour of their famous maternal uncle.
Thomas Cromwell’s older sister Katharine and her husband Morgan Williams, a Welsh lawyer, had a son, Richard, who later served in Thomas’s household and changed his surname to Cromwell. Oliver Cromwell was Richard’s great-grandson.
Map of UK monasteries before the dissolution
The Two Cromwells: Destroying Monasteries And Democracy, A Century Apart
Oliver Cromwell was a blood descendent, of Henry VIII’s smasher and grabber of the monasteries, Thomas Cromwell. Both knew the best way to attack Christendom was to pose as Christian men themselves. Thomas the reformer, Oliver the Puritan
Thomas Cromwell was the brother of Oliver Cromwell’s great, great grandmother. So Oliver Cromwell was the great, great grandson of Thomas Cromwell’s sister Katherine. The line went as follows: Katherine married Morgan Williams who were the parents of Richard Williams-Cromwell. His son Henry Williams-Cromwell’s son Robert Cromwell, was Oliver Cromwell’s father.
The Freemasons Crushed translated into English – Les Francs-Maçons Écrasés; Suite Du Livre Intitulé: L’ordre Des Francs-Maçons Trahi by Abbe Larudan (Amsterdam 1778)
Published over a century after the 1642-49 English Civil War Larudan’s ‘Freemasons Crushed’ was based on various rumours and sources which had been passed down in France. Charles’ wife Henrietta Maria had acted as a Paris magnet for pre-restoration exiles from England. This was published over a century after the events when their significance had been understood only after Freemasonry began to come out into the open in the mid 1700s.
Cromwell knew that whilst he held the king captive on the Isle of Wight he had to find some ‘legal’ means to execute him or Charles would continue as a political force after the war and may well succeed in having him, Cromwell, executed.
With some old wives tale about a (revived Knights Templar myth) ‘noble cause’ of restoring Solomon’s temple in Jerusalem, he hand picked self-seeking men from all political factions and initiated them into a classic secret society with the usual bloodthirsty oaths and penalties, with the object of the judicial murder of the king.
Cromwell’s cult began secretly gathering opinions of all the Long Parliament’s MPs on whether the king might have a role in a future settlement. On 6th December 1649 he ordered his son-in-law Colonel Thomas Pride to arrest 140 MPs of all parties who wanted to negotiate with the king, the infamous ‘Pride’s Purge’, thus ensuring the vote on whether or not to try the king for treason would go his way.
Extract from Les Francs-Maçons Écrasés, pp. 76 ff. Abbe Larudan – translated by former GCHQ linguist Alexander Thomson
In 1640, Cromwell, conversing one day with Sir [Thomas] Chicheley about religion, spoke to him in these terms: “I could very well tell you what I would not like, but I cannot tell you what I would like.” Ambiguous words, and ones which contain the design in which Cromwell was to lay the foundations of a Society in which all religious affiliations would be irrelevant. This is in fact easy to conceive of, if one considers the way in which he sought to reconcile, in 1648, a multitude of different denominations. Such, for example, were the Presbyterians; the Independents, who flattered themselves that they could exist under any kind of government; the Agitators, whose army supported the interests of, and who fought, they said, for the free exercise of the Anglican denomination; the Levellers, whose aim was the abolition of all monarchical power; in a word, so many other parties divided in their interests and sentiments, which his approach found the means to unite together.
The first undertaking that he managed to accomplish successfully, and that for some time he would not drop except to take care of another which seemed to him no less worthy of his attention, was the reform of politics among the English; a task which a heated dispute between Parliament and the soldiers in 1647 gave him an opportunity to bring about. Parliament, still attached to the party of King Charles, was trying maintain him against the Army, which had become his adversary; but Cromwell was so good at handling the divided sentiments that he was able to head off the uprising by making them understand that they would soon have satisfaction anyway. But this calm which he had just re-established was merely a favourable time that he had wished to buy for himself to sound out people’s feelings cunningly, and to exploit their varying attitudes to bring about the massive projects which he was incessantly pushing. And indeed, in 1648, he was not backward about making known the fruits he had plucked from this interval. Having arrived one day in Parliament with Ireton, his confidant, he held forth in a monologue in which he declared loudly: “King Charles has ceased to be the father of the people, becoming its tyrant; not only does England no longer belong to him as a subject, but moreover this nation is from now on going to have to govern itself. If Parliament is not disposed at once to make work of restoring liberty, I shall have no further obligation to him for the benefits which the nation might produce for him; but I shall owe it all to my belief in the spirit of the soldiers who fight before my eyes, and whose value is going to become England’s sole resource.”
Let it not be imagined here that Cromwell’s purpose in these discourses was only the exclusion of the King, to introduce democratic government: no; his views extended even further, since in the very time when he was enticing the Royalists, the Presbyterians, and the Independents with the hope of an elusive peace, his project was taking on new strengths. He had already communicated it to some of his friends, such as Algernon Sidney, Newell, Martin Wildeman, Harrington, Monk, Fairfax, and a great many others, all of them behind-the-scenes enemies of the King and Parliament. They had even already held some secret meetings, to plot the means of establishing [the plan] with safety, and to lead it with prudence: which brings me inexorably to relate what went on among them, the first day that Cromwell addressed them on this topic.
In the year 1648, a meal which he gave to his friends, at his expense and at the expense of those who knew his purpose, was the favourable moment which he seized to open up to the company. After there had been heavy drinking by all, and some vague speeches given on religion and politics, Cromwell — in the presence of all the guests, among whom were several Members of Parliament, together with some Presbyterians and Independents, broached the topic of the sad state of England: he made them feel pathetically how much this unfortunate nation was having to suffer from all the differences in religion and politics; what a shame it would be for minds as enlightened as they were, not to put an end to these evils which were cruelly tearing the nation apart. Scarcely had Cromwell reached this point when Ireton, who had had the opportunity to prepare his speech, rose abruptly, and looking penetratingly at the whole company, assured him of the necessity of reconciling together, for the public good, so many contrary parties which were its scourge. He added vehemently that he would not hesitate to sacrifice his goods and his blood to remedy so many misfortunes, and to show men the path they must take to shake off the yoke that oppressed them, and to shatter the iron sceptre under which they were being made to groan; but that to begin this great work worthily, it was first necessary to destroy all power which had betrayed the nation’s interests.
After this, he turned to Cromwell, urging him to explain what he thought of the matter. Never was a request more promptly indulged. Cromwell duly rose; and after endless grimaces, accompanied by so many metaphors, the better to prepare his audience, he set forth in ambiguous terms the duty of worshipping God, the necessity of repelling strength by force, of delivering our fellow-creatures from oppression and tyranny; and finishing his speech at once, he desired to pique the curiosity of all the guests by making them understand that he knew an infallible means of succeeding in this great enterprise, of restoring to England the peace which she longed for, by drawing her from the abyss into which she had been plunged; and that this means, communicated to the universe to draw the same advantage in it, would warrant the recognition of men, to the extent of causing the memory of its author to live on to the most remote posterity.
Cromwell was soon satisfied; no sooner had he ceased to speak than every guest prayed him, begged him to reveal this admirable expedient. But far from yielding to their eagerness, he only annoyed them even more by contenting himself with answering modestly that such a prodigious achievement surpassed man’s strength; that being merely the one man who was starting it, by the rectitude of his intentions and the firmness of his courage, but at the same time unable to accomplish it without help, he preferred to groan in secret, and to share in a common [to society] misfortune, than to expose to the most terrible danger men who were perhaps weak enough to be frightened by [the solution].
What address, what ruse [has ever been] better concerted! What political background could have been more ingenious to disguise his designs, and to bring them unwittingly to their purpose! Of all those who were at table with Cromwell, there was none of whose character he was unaware. This remarkable [intelligence] penetration, which revealed to him even the slightest movements afoot in the heart of his enemies, had evidently not abandoned him in the choice of those whom he intended to serve as a support for his project. He spent a few moments, during which he amused himself only by laughing and joking with his friends, making sure of them even more perfectly, and drawing from each heart its last secret, even while shrouding his own in impenetrable darkness. Thereafter, the proceedings recommenced, and they became more lively than before, especially on the part of his confidants, whom he had expressly urged that they should press him unyieldingly.
Cromwell, therefore, consented to open up, and after having greatly impressed upon the guests the value of a confidence such as this, he told them that he was ready to communicate a great plan to them, on the condition, however, that every guest should engage in an oath to reveal nothing to anyone, and to consider his design, and the plan he was going to propose, with an entirely calm spirit. The conditions were accepted unanimously, and Cromwell, having obtained what he had demanded, began by kneeling, and raising his hands to heaven, taking God and all the heavenly powers to witness to the innocence of his heart and the purity of his intentions. This prayer was accompanied by a pompous mass of emphatic expressions, after which, addressing the guests, he told them that the moment had not yet come for to reveal to them what he had promised; that a celestial inspiration which he had just felt obliged him to postpone for four days, at the end of which interval he urged them to reconvene at King’s Street, at six o’clock in the evening. However desire there was, then, however much keenness everyone felt to know this important secret, it was necessary to postpone the party to the day appointed by Cromwell, and to go their separate ways [for now], but not before having renewed the promise to disclose nothing of what they had witnessed: a promise all the less difficult to maintain, since Cromwell had not yet made anything known.
At last, on the fourth day, everyone went to the appointed place, still in fear, however, that Cromwell had not yet received a visit from the Holy Ghost, who might send him away as before. But this time, he had been so comfortable with Heaven that the ceremony could begin. So he led his band into a dark room, where he prepared them by long prayers, in which he behaved such a way as to make known that he was really in communion with the blessed spirits. This prelude done, he spoke to the whole assembly, saying that his purpose was to found a society whose sole object was to restore to God the worship which is due to Him, and to England the peace which she desired; but that a project of this consequence required consummate prudence and infinite skill. Then, taking the world’s most subtle censer [of incense or meant figuratively of speech], he lavished all its vapours on all those whom the room contained; and after having put them in the most favourable moods, by these praises and elegies with which he overwhelmed them, he made them understand that this had come to him in the spirit of practising a certain ceremony for the reception of every new member which he would have to undergo; that since this ceremony contained nothing relating to the Divinity, it seemed to him a most promising thing to establish, provided, however, that the band consented to accept it.
The proposition was universally received; and Cromwell having received the vote of all present, he chose five from among them, to occupy the places of which we shall speak later; that is, two Surveillants, a Secretary, a Speaker, and a Master; such were the titles which he gave them himself. This new promotion made, he made his band change rooms, introducing them to another prepared for the purpose, and on whose floor one saw a representation of the ruins of the Temple of Solomon: we will have occasion to speak about this anon. From this new room, he passed to yet another, where he advised them to redouble their prayers to be found worthy of finally entering the one that was the centre of this light which was to enlighten them. For his own part, having taken the lead, he sent to his disciples a Surveillant charged with asking each one politely to be willing to allow that his eyes be blindfolded until he had been introduced to the place destined to receive him. The desire to see things more clearly made each one willing to consent to lose his sight of the light for a moment; which was accomplished without having to blandish any of them.
All the ceremonial performed, and the blindfold removed from each man, Cromwell’s conversation turned first to politics and religion. He set out the Presbyterians and the Independents were to be mutually reconciled, exhorting them to abandon all these trivial disputes, which, not at all bearing upon the essence of the matter, merely embittered men’s souls and changed the most tender love into the most irreconcilable hatred.
Former English Civil War Army Officer, now ‘Leveller’ John Lilburne captured by Cromwell’s ‘Council of State’ in 1649
In March, 1649, leading Leveller writers John Lilburne, William Overton and Thomas Prince published ‘England’s New Chains Discovered’. They attacked the ‘arbitrary government’ of Oliver Cromwell pointing out: “They may talk of freedom, but what freedom indeed is there so long as they stop the Press, which is indeed and hath been so accounted in all free Nations, the most essential part thereof. What freedom is there left, when honest and worthy Soldiers are sentenced and enforced to ride the horse with their faces reverst, and their swords broken over their heads for but petitioning and presenting a letter in justification of their liberty therein?”
When Lilburne was jailed in the Tower of London there was uproar. Voices throughout England’s Leveller movement called for his release. This included Britain’s first ever all-women petition, supported by over 10,000 signatures. A group including John’s wife Elizabeth Lilburne, and one Katherine Chidley, presented the petition to the House of Commons on 25th April, 1649.
Pauline Gregg, Free-Born John: A Biography Of John Lilburne (1961) page 270
Although he agreed with some of the Leveller’s policies, including the abolition of the monarchy and the House of Lords, Cromwell refused to increase the number of people who could vote in elections. Lilburne attacked Cromwell’s suppression of Roman Catholics in Ireland and Parliament’s persecution of Royalists in England and the decision to execute Charles I.
In February, 1649, he published England’s New Chains Discovered. “He appealed to the army and the provinces as well as Londoners to join him in rejecting the rule of the military junta, the council of state, and their ‘puppet’ parliament. Leveller agitation, inspired by his example, revived. He was soon in the Tower again for the suspected authorship of a book which parliament had declared treasonable”.
In another pamphlet Lilburne described Cromwell as the “new King.” On 24th March, Lilburne read his latest pamphlet, out loud to a crowd outside Winchester House, where he was living at the time, and then presented it to the House of Commons later that same day. It was condemned as “false, scandalous, and reproachful” as well as “highly seditious” and on 28th March he was arrested at his home.
Richard Overton, William Walwyn and Thomas Prince, were also taken into custody and all were brought before the Council of State in the afternoon. Lilburne later claimed that while he was being held prisoner in an adjacent room, he [put his ear to the keyhole and] heard Cromwell thumping his fist upon the Council table and shouting that the only “way to deal with these men is to break them in pieces … if you do not break them, they will break you!”