THE PURITAN PRINCESS published by Orion Fiction 2 April 2020
Following her father Oliver Cromwell's unprecedented ascent to become Lord Protector of the Commonwealth, Frances Cromwell has moved from her humble childhood home to the sumptuous surroundings of the palaces of Hampton Court and Whitehall. Dreaming of romance, fulfilment and a love match that must surely be found at court, 18-year-old Frances is the youngest of Cromwell's daughters.
These are uncertain times, however, and after an assassination attempt on her family, Frances realises that her future is no longer in her own and that danger is everywhere. Then Oliver Cromwell is officially offered the crown and Frances' fate suddenly assumes diplomatic and dynastic importance.
Will she become a political pawn, or can Frances use her new status to further her own ambitions?
Available now in hardback, ebook and audiobook; paperback released February 2021
I am a historian specialising in the history of Oliver Cromwell and the Interregnum. I studied at Cambridge University, leaving with a PhD in 2010, and continue to publish journal articles and book reviews. I am also a Trustee of the Cromwell Association - find us and sign up at www.olivercromwell.org
I love fiction - especially historical fiction - and am passionate about sharing the rich yet untapped history of Oliver Cromwell and the Interregnum with a wider audience. My first novel THE PURITAN PRINCESS - about Cromwell's youngest daughter - was published by Orion Fiction on 2 April 2020 and is available in all bookshops. Represented by Giles Milburn of MMLA.
Through the tumult of the English Civil War the Cromwell family rose from obscurity to become the first family of England. Oliver Cromwell ruled as Lord Protector from 1653-8 followed by his son Richard. For six years the family lived and loved in the palaces of Hampton Court and Whitehall - a new dynasty?
'There is much to enjoy in this evocation of a family whose lives are so upended by the convulsions of history'
"She can now take her place alongside the wonderful historical novels of SG MacLean... A great service has been done to the neglected and often misunderstood years of the English republic."
The Times reviewer Antonia Senior chooses The Puritan Princess in her roundup of April 2020's best new historical fiction
"There is much to enjoy in this evocation of a family whose lives are so upended by the convulsions of history."
Historia Magazine April 2020 lead article: "Oliver Cromwell’s daughter Frances, the ‘puritan princess’"
Miranda Malins, author of The Puritan Princess, writes for Historia about the extraordinary life of Oliver Cromwell’s youngest daughter, Frances, and how we need to forget everything we thought we knew about the Lord Protector’s rule.
Historia January 2020: "The Puritan Princess by Miranda Malins is the second book out on 19 March. When Oliver Cromwell is offered the crown, his daughter Frances becomes important, diplomatically – and dynastically. Miranda is writing a feature about the history behind her novel for Historia."
The Bookseller July 2019: "Orion lands 'heart-wrenching' Cromwell debut from Malins".
Victoria Oundjian, Orion: "The Puritan Princess is that rare book where you already know the ending and yet are so swept up in the narrative that you find yourself desperate for history to work out differently. I have been desperate to find an authentic and fresh new voice in this area of historical fiction that brings with it a fresh perspective on a period of history we all believe we know so well, whilst also giving a voice to the women behind the throne, who have been all but forgotten.”
Giles Milburn, MMLA: "I have long been enthralled by Miranda’s writing, who uses her astounding knowledge and passion for the 17th Century to bring it into vivid colour. I’m therefore utterly thrilled that The Puritan Princess has found a home at Orion Fiction. Without doubt Victoria shares Miranda’s vision of bringing the fascinating – and surprising – world of Oliver Cromwell’s court to life, through the eyes of his vivacious youngest daughter Frances.”
Miranda Malins: “The 1650s was a time of conflict and contrast as the country, led for the first time by an ordinary non-royal family, experimented with new forms of government and struggled to find its place in the world; everything was to play for at Cromwell’s colourful court. It is thrilling to embark on this journey with the wonderful Victoria and her team at Orion and I cannot wait to introduce Cromwell’s youngest daughter Frances - the real Puritan Princess - to readers searching for new historical heroines and eager to discover more about this pivotal but often overlooked period.”
The Bookseller February 2019: "An interesting sub-trend is the number of books that are set in the 1600s... For example, Giles Milburn at Madeleine Milburn has Miranda Malins’ Puritan Princess (about Oliver Cromwell’s daughter’s search for love)"
In this article for @HonestMum I share my experience of releasing The Puritan Princess and having a premature baby during Covid-19. "I was trying to be a mother and an author and yet I felt I was an imposter at each. I had just given birth but had no baby at home to show for it, just a breast-pump for company. And I had just released my book into the world, and yet it was as if it hadn’t happened at all..."
"After he became Lord Protector, Cromwell never left London. Yet in London today the Lord Protector is largely overlooked; the Protectorate ignored or dismissed as an aberration from our neat national story of kings and queens. But to do so is to miss a unique and fascinating period, the most revolutionary in British history." This article takes you back in time to 1650s London with Timeless Travels.
"As historians we are taught not to look to the past for answers to the present. Analogies can seem too easy, too anachronistic, too readily politicised. Yet it is human nature to look for patterns in what has gone before in order to illuminate what is happening now." This column examines the similarities between the Civil Wars and the Brexit crisis.
This article presents some of my PhD findings on the civilian politicians who attempted to make Cromwell king in 1657 and the ways in which they succeeded (or didn't) to continue their careers after the Restoration of Charles II.
This article examines letters between Oliver Cromwell and Robert Hammond, governor of the Isle of Wight and jailor to King Charles I. The King's imprisonment thrust Hammond into the eye of the political storm of 1648-9 and this correspondence provides a unique window onto the events of the English Revolution.
This article considers Richard Cromwell's life after his abdication as Lord Protector. Having been head of state at a young age, Richard lived over fifty years afterwards in exile. This period is full of incident, producing some valuable new insights into the Protectorate and Restoration.
My new novel, The Puritan Princess, recreates Oliver Cromwell’s court through the eyes of his teenage daughter Frances, exploring the dramatic politics of Britain’s most experimental and overlooked era: passion, politics and puritans. But above all, it is the story of an ordinary and very close family whose lives are transformed when they unexpectedly find themselves elevated to quasi-royalty. Living so intimately with the Cromwells through these extraordinary months of Covid-19, I began to wonder how they would fare in a lockdown...
They would see the benefits and challenges of living as a multi-generational family (and an
overwhelmingly female one at that – speaking as one of three girls myself!) The Cromwells
had nine children and for most of their lives, Oliver’s widowed mother and a succession of
single sisters and nieces lived under his roof. With such a complex household, there would be
a fair number of arguments over shared spaces but at least plenty of people to share the chores
rota and many board-game options. As for entertainment, the Cromwell clan had a wide variety of pastimes to keep them busy. Not just sermonising and reading the Bible as the ‘1066 and All That’ school of historical stereotyping would have it, but also drinking wine, smoking, needlework, making music and playing practical jokes. No Zoom calls but they could write letters to their loved ones. And their domestic and husbandry skills would obviate the need for Amazon and Ocado. Then, once the government allowed them their allotted daily exercise, the Cromwells would reap the benefits with their favourite pursuits of riding, horse- breeding and racing, hunting and hawking perfectly suited for social-distancing. As an MP, Cromwell would not be furloughed or in fear of losing his job but, famously un-bookish, would have found home-schooling his many offspring a chore.
This is a silly imaginative exercise perhaps but wasn’t this lockdown a time-warp? Who, idly
baking and gardening at home, listening to the birdsong fill the silence from road and sky
with the highlights of the day the postman or the sound of a cyclist or horse-rider passing,
didn’t wonder which century we were living in? And behind the joke lies a serious point of
historical revisionism: Cromwell was not the dour, killjoy of myth who killed a king, cancelled Christmas and got his kicks from pulling down maypoles. He was a family man with the cultural tastes of a country gentleman who, as Lord Protector, sought to heal and settle a war-torn nation. Living in the shadow of the Tudors and Stuarts in the royal palaces, Cromwell presided over an increasingly colourful and civilian court with his family at its heart. A place where music and the arts flourished, with masques revived and the first English opera performed; the court of Milton, Marvell and Dryden.
If I need any reminder of how lucky we are, Covid-19 notwithstanding, to live in the twenty-
first rather than seventeenth century, I have only to look at my new baby, born premature at 30 weeks in the same week that The Puritan Princess came out (it's been a busy few months...) The Cromwells lost three of their nine children, all sons: the eldest on the cusp of manhood while away at school, the next eldest in the Civil Wars and their youngest as a baby. While my husband and I, thanks to the miracle-working NHS, have a healthy baby even though he was born ten weeks early, weighing no more than a bag of lockdown black-market flour. My little boy wouldn’t have survived in the seventeenth century and neither, probably, would I. But I still like to visit from time to time...
I am attracted to the extraordinary - the anomalies, quirks and gaps in history. And perhaps the greatest of these is the one disruption to Britain's monarchy shown in the ruler above as 'Commonw'th 1649'.
I describe myself as a historian of the Interregnum (meaning the period 1649-1660) but really we shouldn't use this word as it literally means 'between reigns' and taints these years with an air of irrelevance and inevitability; an anomalous stop-gap in the tradition of monarchs who march along our rulers, falling between Kings Charles I and Charles II. But the people who governed Britain in these years - and those they governed - did not think they were 'inter' anything. For them, the time after the execution of King Charles I and the end of the Civil Wars was instead a beginning. 1649-1660 is the most experimental and exciting period of British history, and yet it is often improperly recorded or even excluded on the timelines you find in books, on information boards and websites: sometimes the whole 11 years is called 'Commonwealth', sometimes 'Republic'; sometimes 'Oliver Cromwell' is denoted as ruling the entire period; and sometimes the decade is missed out entirely. And when the rulers of England are listed, as on the famous ruler above, Oliver Cromwell and Richard Cromwell - both legitimate, ruling Heads of State - are left off.
It's time we plugged the gap and told the truth about these extraordinary times: that Britain was a republican 'Commonwealth' from 1649-1653; a 'Protectorate' from 1653-1659, ruled first by Oliver Cromwell as Lord Protector from 1653-1658 and then Richard Cromwell as Lord Protector from 1658-1659; and a republican 'Commonwealth' again from 1659-1660 when King Charles II was restored to the throne. On his return, the new King successfully whitewashed the 11 years since his father's death from history. And so I am launching the #BritishRulersCampaign asking you to send me photos of timelines and other chronologies you come across so that we can begin to build a picture of what is happening to the record of this period in our history - tweet me your photos and let's plug the gap!
Want to catch Cromwell on screen? He has been portrayed many times and depictions of him and of the Civil War fall into a number of traditions. There are the royalist japes where romantic cavaliers outwit thuggish roundheads like 'Cardboard Cavalier' (1949), 'The Moonraker' (1958) and 'The Lady and the Highwayman' (1989). In films like these Cromwell, whether featured personally or by implication, is characterised as a stern dictator ruling the Commonwealth with an iron fist. Cromwell also makes a brief, warty appearance in the horror classic 'Witchfinder General' (1968). Then there are more modern portrayals like 'To Kill A King' (2003) (and on the small screen 'The Devil's Whore' - 2008) which see Tim Roth and Dominic West take on Cromwell. There's a lot to enjoy in both, though Roth's Cromwell is perhaps rather too manipulative. The most famous portrayal of Cromwell, and still possibly the most balanced, is Richard Harris's turn in the 1970 film 'Cromwell'. It's a compelling performance though Cromwell's stern vigour is more evident than his charm and good humour; and it's notable the film effectively ends with Cromwell's expulsion of the Rump Parliament in 1653. We're yet to see a fully rounded, revisionist Lord Protector Cromwell depicted on screen - here's hoping!
Cromwell has appeared in fictional accounts ever since his death: in novels, poems and plays. In literature he has featured in a range of ways down the decades, from the adventures of Rosemary Sutcliffe to the books of S.G. MacLean and Antonia Senior today. Cromwell has even appeared alongside the famous three musketeers when, in Alexander Dumas' 'Twenty Years After', the musketeers travel to England to try and prevent the execution of the King; and Dumas' fellow countryman Victor Hugo wrote a play about Cromwell, hailed by some afterwards as a key text of the Romantic movement. Traditionally military stories about the Civil Wars themselves have dominated, featuring protagonists on each side of the conflict with communities torn apart. 'Destiny Our Choice' by John Attenborough is one of the few novels to feature Cromwell's family life. Alongside military and adventure stories, there have been novels about witches and witch-finders, ghost stories and mysteries, some of them featuring ordinary female protagonists and going some way to reimagining women's lives in the 17th century. But with most authors writing in this period traditionally drawn to either battlefield or witchcraft tales, there have been few imaginings of Cromwell's personal life, his family or the politics of his court.
We can be in little doubt as to what Cromwell looked like. In his lifetime he was painted by numerous portraitists including Robert Walker and Samuel Cooper. As Lord Protector his image graced coins and medals while admirers and critics alike pasted him across pamphlets in woodcuts, engravings and cartoons. We even have his death mask taken from life. In the National Portrait Gallery's archive alone, Cromwell is associated with 224 portraits. In these he appears as war hero, monarch, Biblical prophet and devil; his image appropriated in the service of arguments of all persuasions. And the fascination with depicting Cromwell continued after his death as his ghostly form haunted the Restoration even as his severed head watched it from atop the spike above Westminster Hall. Again and again since, artists have been drawn to this extraordinary Englishman: painters like Delaroche who depicted him gazing down into the coffin of his adversary King Charles I. The Victorians in particular loved to imagine the dramatic scenes of the Civil War and left us vivid canvasses depicting its famous battles as well as Cromwell dismissing the Rump Parliament, refusing the crown and sitting at the bedside of his dying daughter. They also erected the Thornycroft statue outside Parliament. Though these portrayals are wonderful, the Victorians did much to distort Cromwell's image, often depicting him as a dour, black-coated Puritan when contemporary images show him to have been more finely dressed.
As Lord Protector, Cromwell was a great patron of music at his court and much music was composed to celebrate him and his rule. Although it is true that Puritans like Cromwell disapproved of music in church (it smacked of popery and distracted from the Word of God), only the most extreme Puritans condemned music elsewhere. Cromwell kept a coterie of musicians at court under his Master of Music John Hingston and there were regular concerts of choral and orchestral music as well as new masques performed at his daughters' weddings. Cromwell installed the organ from Magdalen College Oxford in the Great Hall at Hampton Court and while his daughters had singing lessons, he enjoyed playing duets with his wife on the virginal under his tutor Mr Farmulo. Under his rule, Sir William Davenant composed the first English operas - in part to circumvent the Puritans' objection to stage-plays which they thought lewd and encouraging of drunken, Royalist assemblies. Cromwell himself was praised in musical compositions by Andrew Marvell and Edmund Waller with poems and odes set to music. Since his death, Cromwell has appeared in a number of musical compositions from Rutland Boughton's 1905 symphony and character study 'Oliver Cromwell'; to pop, rock and folk songs by the likes of Elvis Costello ('Oliver's Army'), the Pogues and Steeleye Span; and Monty Python's brilliant comic song about 'Oliver Cromwell, Lord Protector of England (and his warts)': an excellent aid in the history classroom!
Here are a few suggestions of great places to start...
For many fascinating articles see the journal Cromwelliana available www.olivercromwell.org
Copyright © 2018 Miranda Malins - All Rights Reserved.