In 1746, the Abbe Larudan, a critic of Freemasonry, published his Les Franc-Macons Ecrasses, 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