Major General Henry Ireton

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Henry Ireton

Birthdate: (50)
Birthplace: Attenborough, Nottinghamshire, England, (Present UK)
Death: November 26, 1661 (50)
Limerick, Counter Limerick, Munster, Ireland (Fever following the capture of Limerick, striking "great sadness in Cromwell," his father-in-law and commander. "Posthumously executed" by King Charles II, on 22nd anniversary of the execution of King Charles I.)
Place of Burial: City of Westminster, Greater London, England, United Kingdom
Immediate Family:

Son of German Ireton and Jane Warburton
Husband of Bridget Fleetwood (Cromwell)
Father of Elizabeth Polhill (Ireton); Jane Barnard; Henry Ireton and Bridget Bendysh (Ireton)
Brother of Elinor Ireton; Mary Ireton; Katherine Ireton; Clement Ireton; John Ireton and 3 others

Managed by: Mark Ashton Warner, BA
Last Updated:

About Major General Henry Ireton

From the English Wikipedia page on Henry Ireton:

Henry Ireton (1611 – 26 November 1651) was an English general in the Parliamentary army during the English Civil War. He was the son-in-law of Oliver Cromwell.

Early life

He was the eldest son of German Ireton of Attenborough, Nottinghamshire, and was baptized in St. Mary's Church on 3 November 1611. He became a gentleman commoner of Trinity College, Oxford in 1626, graduated BA in 1629 and entered the Middle Temple the same year.

English Civil War

On the outbreak of the Civil War, he joined the parliamentary army, fighting at the Battle of Edgehill in October 1642, and at the Battle of Gainsborough in July 1643. He was made deputy-governor of the Isle of Ely by Cromwell and served under Manchester in the Yorkshire campaign and at the second Battle of Newbury, afterwards supporting Cromwell in his accusations of incompetency against the general.

On the night before the battle of Naseby, in June 1645, Ireton succeeded in surprising the Royalist army and captured many prisoners. The next day, on the suggestion of Cromwell, he was made commissary-general and appointed to the command of the left wing, Cromwell himself commanding the right. The wing under Ireton was completely broken by the impetuous charge of Rupert and Ireton was wounded and taken prisoner, but Cromwell charged and successfully routed the Royalists, freeing prisoners including Ireton.

Ireton was at the siege of Bristol in September 1645 and took part in the subsequent campaign that succeeded in overthrowing the royal cause. On 30 October 1645 Ireton entered parliament as member for Appleby. On 15 June 1646,[citation needed][1] during the siege of Oxford he and Bridget, daughter of Oliver Cromwell, were married. The marriage brought Ireton's career into parallel with Cromwell's.

Political views and debates over the future of the monarchy

While Cromwell's policy was practically limited to making the best of the present situation, and was inclined to compromise, Ireton's attitude was based on well-grounded principles of statesmanship. At the Putney Debates he opposed extremism, disliked the views of the Republicans and the Levellers, which he considered impractical and dangerous to the foundations upon which society was based, and wished to retain the constitution of King, Lords and Commons. He argued for these in the negotiations of the army with Parliament, and in the conferences with the king, being the person chiefly entrusted with the drawing up of the army proposals, including the manifesto called "The Heads of the Proposals" which proposed a constitutional monarchy. He tried to prevent the breach between the army and parliament, but when it happened, he supported the negotiations with the king till his actions made him unpopular.

Ireton finally became convinced of the hopelessness of dealing with Charles, and, after the king's flight to the Isle of Wight, treated his further proposals with coldness and urged the parliament to establish an administration without him. Ireton served under Fairfax in the second civil war in the campaigns, in Kent and Essex, and was responsible for the executions of Sir Charles Lucas and Sir George Lisle at Colchester.

After the rejection by the king of the last offers of the army, he showed special zeal in bringing about his trial. He wrote the Army's statement about the regicide - the Remonstrance of the Army - with Hugh Peters. He was active in the choice to purge rather than reelect Parliament and supported the second Leveller Agreement of the People. He sat on the King's trial and was one of the commissioners who signed the death warrant.

Irish campaign and death

Ireton's regiment was chosen by lot to accompany Cromwell in his Irish campaign. Ireton arrived in Dublin two days after Cromwell on 17 August 1649, with 77 ships full of troops and supplies. Ireton was appointed major-general and after the conquest of the south of Ireland, Lord President of Munster. He went over with John Cook with a brief to reform the law of Ireland, to anglicise it and make it a model for a new settlement of English law.

In May 1650 Cromwell was recalled to England to command a Parliamentary force preparing to invade Scotland, and Ireton assumed command of the New Model Army in Ireland with the title and powers of lord-deputy to complete the conquest of the country. This he proceeded to do with his usual energy, becoming noted as much by the severity of his methods of punishment as for his military skill. By the middle of 1650 Ireton and his commanders faced two problems. One was the capture of the remaining cities held by the Irish Confederate and Royalists forces. The other was an escalating guerrilla war in the countryside as Irish fighters called tories attacked his supply lines. Ireton appealed to the English Parliament to publish lenient surrender terms for Irish Catholics, in order to end their resistance, but when this was refused he began the laborious process of subduing the Catholic forces.

His first action was to mount a counter-guerrilla expedition into the Wicklow Mountains early in June 1650, in order to secure his lines of supply for the Siege of Waterford in Ireland's southeast. Having done this Ireton blockaded Waterford into surrender by August 1650. Not risking an assault, Ireton systematically constructed trenches to bring his siege guns within range of the walls and stationed a Parliamentary fleet off the city to prevent its re-supply. Thomas Preston surrendered Waterford after a three month siege. Ireton then advanced to Limerick by October, but had to call off the siege due to cold and bad weather.

Early in 1651 Ireton ordered that areas harbouring the "tory" guerrillas should be systematically stripped of food - this policy contributed to a widespread famine in Ireland by the end of the year. Ireton returned to Limerick in June 1651 and besieged the city for five months until it surrendered in October 1651. At the same time, Galway was under siege by Parliamentarian forces, and Ireton personally rode to inspect the command of Charles Coote, who was blockading that city. The physical strain of his command told on Ireton however and he fell ill.

Shortly afterwards, before he died of fever, just after the capture of Limerick, Ireton had some of the dignitaries of Limerick hanged for their obstinate defence of the city, including an Alderman, Terence Albert O'Brien (a Catholic Bishop) and an English Royalist officer, Colonel Fennell. He also wanted the Irish commander, Hugh Dubh O'Neill hanged, but Edmund Ludlow cancelled the order after Ireton's death.

His loss "struck a great sadness into Cromwell" and he was considered a great loss to the administration.

Posthumous execution

On January 30, 1661, following the Restoration of the English monarchy of 1660, Charles II had Ireton's corpse exhumed and mutilated in a posthumous execution, along with those of Cromwell and John Bradshaw in retribution for signing his father's death warrant. The date was symbolic, being the 12th anniversary of the execution of Charles I.


By his wife, Bridget Cromwell, Ireton left one son, Henry Ireton (c.1652–1711),[2] and three daughters, one of whom, Bridget Bendish (she married Thomas Bendish in 1670) is said to have compromised herself in the Rye House Plot of 1683, as did Henry.[3] Ireton's widow Bridget afterwards married General Charles Fleetwood. Another daughter Elizabeth married David Polhill MP and keeper of records at the Tower.


  • 1.^ The Victoria County History gives the date of Ireton's first marriage as January 1647. Lobel, Mary D. (1957). Victoria County History: A History of the County of Oxford: Volume 5: Bullingdon Hundred. pp. 168–177.
  • 2. ^ Hayton, pp. 468,469
  • 3. ^ Thomas Bendish (1643–1707) was the younger son of Sir Thomas Bendish, 2nd Baronet


  • Firth, C. H. in Dictionary of National Biography. Citing:
    • Wood's Ath. Oxon. iii 298
    • Cornelius Brown's Lives of Noted Worthies, 181
    • Clarke Papers published by the Camden Society
    • Gardiner's History of the Civil War and of the Commonwealth
    • Article by Barbara Taft in Jason Peacey 'Regicide and Republicanism'
    • J L Dean 'Henry Ireton and the Mosaic Law' Cambridge University MLitt Dissertation
  • Hayton, David et al (2002). The House of Commons, 1690-1715, Volume 1, Cambridge University Press, ISBN 0521772214, 9780521772211


This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domain: Chisholm, Hugh, ed (1911). Encyclopædia Britannica (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press.

Political offices

(Lord Lieutenant) Lord Deputy of Ireland 1650–1651

  • Preceded by Oliver Cromwell
  • Succeeded by Charles Fleetwood

Other References

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Major General Henry Ireton's Timeline

November 3, 1611
Attenborough, Nottinghamshire, England, (Present UK)
Attenborough, Nottinghamshire, England, (Present UK)
Age 36
Age 39
Age 39
January 30, 1661
Age 50
City of Westminster, Greater London, England, United Kingdom
November 26, 1661
Age 50
Limerick, Counter Limerick, Munster, Ireland