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The Commonwealth of England was a republican government which ruled England and then Ireland and Scotland. It was led by Oliver Cromwell, who was an important military leader in the Civil War and one of the key members of Parliament to sign Charles I’s death warrant.
In 1653 Cromwell was declared Lord Protector and began to personally rule the country. Many Royal Arms were destroyed or defaced and were replaced by the newly created ‘state’ Arms. This contained the cross of St George, the Patron saint of England, in the first and fourth quarter, the cross of St Andrew, Patron saint of Scotland in the second quarter, and the harp of Ireland in the third quarter. There was a shield of pretense of Oliver Cromwell’s own rampant silver lion on a black background.
After his death in 1658, Cromwell’s son briefly assumed this title, but was forced to resign in 1659 resulting in the restoration of the monarchy in 1660 and a return from exile of Charles II.
Although the Arms no longer exist, there is a record in the parish book of the Commonwealth Arms being erected in Church of St Leonard at the Hythe, Colchester, Essex: for setting up the state arms 14s 6d followed by payment of 1s. In 1660 there is a further entry: for to get out the state arms, marking the decision to remove the Arms with Charles’ restoration.
There are very few remaining examples of the State Arms and unfortunately we do not have an example in our estate. However; one can be found in St Nicholas’s church, North Walsham.
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