A NEW exhibition about Tumbledown Dick, Oliver Cromwell s son Richard, opens at the Cromwell Museum in Huntingdon next Tuesday, May 12, and runs through the summer. Richard Cromwell succeeded his father as Lord Protector in 1658, and his appointment met w

A NEW exhibition about Tumbledown Dick, Oliver Cromwell's son Richard, opens at the Cromwell Museum in Huntingdon next Tuesday, May 12, and runs through the summer.

Richard Cromwell succeeded his father as Lord Protector in 1658, and his appointment met with popular acclaim, but within months he was forced to abdicate on May 25, 1659 - 350 years ago. The whole of his long life was dominated by the brief period when he was head of state.

Although he was soon mocked as Tumbledown Dick, that is an unfair assessment of the man, according to John Goldsmith, curator of the Cambridgeshire County Council museum.

"He was in many ways ill-suited to the rôle he took on, a rôle he neither sought nor enjoyed," he said. "The exhibition attempts to give a balanced view of Richard illustrated with portraits and some of his letters and documents that relate to his Protectorate."

Unlike his father, Richard had neither great political experience nor military experience. The competing claims of civilian politicians and the army proved to be irreconcilable. It is an open and unanswered question whether any other candidate could have held the republic together, Mr Goldsmith explained.

Richard Cromwell went into a self-imposed exile in 1660 and did not return to England for over 20 years, living anonymously under assumed names. His fear for his safety was probably justified. He lived until 1712, a gentle and dignified man, who never seemed to hold any bitterness for the way events had taken their course, the curator added.