Henry Ireton

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Ireton, Henry (1611–51). Ireton was plunged into the Civil War, since he was appointed by Parliament to command the horse at Nottingham two months before Charles I raised his standard in the same town. He fought at Edgehill and in the first battle of Newbury, where he was wounded and temporarily captured, and rapidly became one of Cromwell's most trusted lieutenants. In 1646 he married Cromwell's daughter Bridget. Whitelocke described him as an excellent man of business with a great influence over Cromwell. In 1647 he was mainly responsible for the Representation of the Army and the Heads of the Proposals, which set forth a constitutional settlement, including reform of Parliament. At this stage Ireton was a moderate and had not despaired of coming to terms with the king. He took a prominent part in the Putney army debates of November 1647, ardently defending the rights of property against radical and egalitarian proposals. The second civil war, in which he served at the siege of Colchester, persuaded him that no deal with Charles was possible and in January 1649 he signed the king's death warrant. He accompanied Cromwell to Ireland and remained in charge when Cromwell returned to England in May 1650. The following year he died of fever and was buried with an elaborate funeral in Westminster abbey. At the Restoration he was one of the regicides whose body was exhumed and hanged. A strong, determined, and capable man, Ireton might have been a possible successor to Cromwell had he not died at the age of 40.

J. A. Cannon

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Henry Ireton (ī´ərtən), 1611–51, English parliamentary general; son-in-law of Oliver Cromwell. He held various commands in the parliamentary army during the first civil war (see English civil war) and in 1646 married Cromwell's daughter Bridget. A conservative reformer and advocate of limited monarchy, he opposed the radical constitutional demands of the Levelers and drafted the peace settlement known as the Heads of the Proposals, presented to the king by the army in 1647. In 1648 he took the part of the army against Parliament, became a republican, and signed (1649) the death warrant of Charles I. Appointed (1650) lord deputy of Ireland, he sternly carried out Cromwell's policy of dispossessing the Irish and settling Englishmen there.