Edmund Ludlow c.1617-92

Leading religious radical, republican and regicide who bitterly opposed Cromwell's elevation as Lord Protector and was the last surviving adherent of the “Good Old Cause”.

Portrait of Edmund LudlowEdmund Ludlow (also spelt "Ludlowe") was born into a gentry family of Maiden Bradley in Wiltshire. His father was Sir Henry Ludlow (d.1643), his mother was Elizabeth (d.1660), daughter of Richard Phelips of Montacute in Somerset.

Edmund was educated at Trinity College, Oxford, and the Inner Temple. His father was MP for Wiltshire in the Long Parliament and a severe critic of the policies of King Charles I. With Sir Henry's encouragement, Ludlow enlisted for Parliament on the outbreak of the First Civil War in August 1642.

The Civil Wars

Ludlow joined the gentlemen of the Earl of Essex's lifeguard, which was recruited from the Inns of Court. He was present at the skirmish at Powick Bridge in September 1642, and at the battle of Edgehill in October. Returning to Wiltshire in 1643, Ludlow became captain of a troop of horse in Sir Edward Hungerford's regiment. In May 1643, Hungerford captured Wardour Castle in Wiltshire from Lady Blanche Arundell, and appointed Ludlow its governor. During December, the Royalists returned and besieged Wardour. Ludlow became famous for the tenacity of his defence of the castle. He held out until March 1644, then surrendered to Sir Francis Doddington and was taken prisoner.

After a short imprisonment at Oxford, Ludlow was exchanged in May 1644. He served a brief term as major in Hesilrige's regiment in Waller's Southern Association army before being commissioned by Waller to raise a regiment of horse in Wiltshire. Ludlow's regiment fought at the second battle of Newbury in October 1644, the second siege of Basing House and in an expedition to relieve Taunton in December. Ludlow was also appointed sheriff of Wiltshire, and was active on the county committee. On the formation of the New Model Army in 1645, Hesilrige recommended Ludlow for command of a regiment, but the Wiltshire committee insisted that they had greater need of his services.

In May 1646, Ludlow was elected recruiter MP for Wiltshire. He held strong Baptist religious convictions and worked for the complete separation of Church and State, emerging as a radical Independent in Parliament. He became an associate of the republican Henry Marten and sympathised with the Levellers. Ludlow supported the Army in its quarrel with Parliament in 1647, and became suspicious of Oliver Cromwell after the suppression of the Levellers at the Corkbush Field rendezvous in November.

After the Second Civil War, Ludlow helped persuade Commissary-General Ireton to purge the House of Commons rather than dissolve it, resulting in Pride's Purge in December 1648 in which all the potential supporters of the King were removed from Parliament. Ludlow sat as one of the King's judges in January 1649 and signed the death warrant, regarding the regicide as a righteous judgment on the King's tyranny. In February 1649, Ludlow was appointed to the first Council of State of the new Commonwealth.

Service in Ireland

In June 1650, Ludlow was appointed second-in-command to Henry Ireton who, as Lord Deputy, was engaged in completing the subjugation of Ireland after Cromwell's departure. Ludlow arrived in Ireland in January 1651 and took part in the siege of Limerick. When Ireton died in November, Ludlow took his place as provisional commander. He supervised the final military operations of the Cromwellian conquest of Ireland, insisting that the Irish submit rather than negotiate, and accepting the final surrender of Galway in May 1652. Ludlow began to prepare the civilian administration in the conquered territories, but was superseded as provisional commander in Ireland by the arrival of Charles Fleetwood in October 1652.

Ludlow bitterly opposed Cromwell's assumption of the office of Lord Protector in December 1653. He accused Cromwell of abandoning the principles for which the civil wars had been fought and declared that the Protectorate was illegal. Ludlow obstructed the proclamation of the Protectorate in Dublin for several weeks and refused to sign it himself. He resigned his civilian appointments in Ireland, but retained his military commission as lieutenant-general, refusing to surrender it until he was forced to do so. Cromwell preferred to avoid a confrontation with Ludlow, but Lord Deputy Fleetwood ordered his return to England in October 1655 after discovering that he had been circulating pamphlets critical of the Protectorate. Ludlow was arrested as soon as he landed in England.

Fighting for the Commonwealth

After six weeks' imprisonment, Ludlow was interviewed by Cromwell at Whitehall on 12 December 1655. He continued to insist that the Protectorate régime was illegal and refused to pledge his loyalty. Finally in August 1656, he was allowed to stay with his relations in Essex. He was prohibited from going to his home county of Wiltshire in case he stirred up dissent against the government, and he was obstructed from standing for the First and Second Protectorate Parliaments.

After Oliver's death, Ludlow was elected MP for Hindon, Wiltshire, in the Third Protectorate Parliament called by Richard Cromwell in January 1659. Ludlow worked diligently for the overthrow of the Protectorate and the re-establishment of the Commonwealth. When Richard was forced to recall the Rump Parliament and resign from office in May 1659, Ludlow was elected to the Council of State and to the seven-man committee for the nomination of army officers. In July 1659, he was appointed commander-in-chief of English forces in Ireland. He spent three months reorganising the army in Ireland, where he appointed republican officers and sectarians to replace Cromwellians.

By the time Ludlow returned to England in October 1659, Major-General John Lambert had dissolved Parliament as a result of the quarrel between army leaders and republicans. Concerned that the Commonwealth itself was under threat, Ludlow attempted to reconcile the two sides. He was appointed to the interim Committee of Safety, and to the committee formed in November 1659 to consider a new constitution. He opposed Lambert's plan for the establishment of a select Senate and argued for the recall of Parliament, but with constitutional guarantees for the preservation of the republic.

During the discussions, Ludlow was called away to Ireland, where dissident officers had seized Dublin Castle and were demanding the reinstatement of the Long Parliament. Finding little or no support in the army in Ireland, Ludlow returned to England in January 1660 to find that Parliament had been restored in his absence and that articles for his impeachment had been issued by his opponents among the officers in Ireland. Before Ludlow could present his case before Parliament, General Monck arrived in London with his forces from Scotland. With Monck's approval, the MPs who had been expelled from Parliament by Pride's Purge in 1648 were re-admitted on 21 February 1660. Realising that a restoration of the monarchy was imminent, Ludlow plotted an uprising of the republican regiments. He was preparing to join Lambert's insurrection of April 1660 when news arrived of Lambert's recapture and imprisonment.

Restoration & Exile

Unable to prevent the Restoration, Ludlow fled to the Continent. Rumours abounded regarding his intention to lead uprisings against the restored Charles II, and a reward of £300 was offered for his arrest. In April 1662, he was granted protection by the Swiss government along with fellow-regicides John Lisle and William Cawley. Lisle was assassinated at Lausanne in 1664, but attempts on Ludlow's life were frustrated by the vigilance of the authorities and by his own caution. He lived quietly at Vevey, where he was joined by his wife in 1663. However, Ludlow continued to be regarded as a potential leader of the remaining supporters of the "Good Old Cause" and several attempts were made to enlist his help in plots against the English government. He briefly returned to England in 1689 after the Glorious Revolution, but an order was issued for his arrest as an attainted traitor and regicide. He returned to Vevey, where he died in November 1692, probably the last survivor of the regicides.

Ludlow's autobiography A Voyce from the Watch Tower was heavily edited and re-written, probably by the republican John Toland, and published as The Memoirs of Edmund Ludlow in 1698-9. All traces of Ludlow's militant puritanism were removed and he was re-cast as a secular republican. The Memoirs were highly regarded by republicans and radical Whigs during the 18th century and were generally regarded as authentic until 1970, when part of Ludlow's original manuscript was discovered at Warwick Castle.


Maurice Ashley, Cromwell's Generals (London 1954)

C.H. Firth, revised by Blair Worden, Edmund Ludlow, Oxford DNB, 2004