Cromwell In Ireland (God’s Executioner)

2 x 52 min HD Docu-drama series

Oliver Cromwell is the great bogeyman of Irish history. His name appears everywhere in the collective psyche of the island. He is a towering figure, a dark silhouette against the bloodstained backdrop of history. But why did he come to Ireland, and does he deserve this black reputation? For the first time in this major television series we get a serious insight into Cromwell the man Cromwell -God’s Executioner, is an epic but very real, gritty and bloody portrait of warfare in the 17th century.


  • Executive Producer – Dave Farrell
  • Series Producer – Stephen Rooke
  • Director – Maurice Sweeney
  • Presenter – Micheál Ó Siochrú
  • Writers – David Ryan , Maurice Sweeney, Micheál Ó Siochrú
  • Director Of Photography Richard Kendrick
RELEASE DATE: November 2008
GENRES: Docu-drama / History
SERIES FORMAT: 2 x 52 minutes


  • History Channel HD UK , RTÉ
  • BAI Sound and Vision Broadcasting Funding Scheme

CROMWELL IN IRELAND – In 1649, Cromwell landed in Ireland at the head of a conquering army of 12,000 men. An estimated 500,000 Irish people died from war, plague and famine during Cromwell’s military campaign, making it the greatest catastrophe ever to befall the country.

This two part Docu-drama brings to life that great nemesis of Irish history – Oliver Cromwell. The series recreates one of the most bleak, brutal and war-torn eras in Irish history. Large-scale dramatic reconstructions were combined with ground-breaking CGI to recreate the set piece sieges and battles that shaped Irish history for centuries to come.

Broadcast On the 350th anniversary of Cromwell’s death, the series offers fascinating and controversial new insights into a crucial time in Irish history But strikingly, writer and presenter Dr Micheál Ó Siochrú.l revealed how ‘God’s Englishman’ also helped to lay the foundations for the modern Ireland that we know today.

Many see Oliver Cromwell as a champion of modern democracy, the man who executed a tyrannical king 140 years before the French Revolution. He was a military genius, the father of the modern army, and he influenced everyone from Napoleon to Vladimir Lenin. For others he was a despot, militarily naïve and morally corrupt. The series does not excuse what Cromwell did, but we do get a better understanding of why he did it. We also explore the human cost of war – the violent impact of ethnic conflict on a ravaged population, a theme that is starkly relevant today in the light of events in places such as Darfur and elsewhere.

Cromwell: Gods Executioner has drama, excitement and action, combined with a poignant reflection on the horrors of war. It is a unique take on a man who has cast a dark shadow on the bloodstained backdrop of history.

Cromwell in Ireland was commissioned by RTÉ Television in association with The History Channel, and with support from the Broadcasting Commission of Ireland, now the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland.

Extract from God’s Executioner by Micheál Ó Siochrú

(published by Faber & Faber. Extract used courtesy of Faber & Faber.)

“As commander-in-chief of the army, the responsibilities for the excesses of the military must be laid firmly at his door, while the harsh nature of the post-war settlement also bears his personal imprint. Cromwell was no monster, but he did commit monstrous acts. A warrior of Christ, somewhat like the crusaders of medieval Europe, he acted as God’s executioner, exacting revenge and crushing all opposition, convinced throughout of the legitimacy of his cause, and striving to build a better world for the chosen few. In many ways, therefore, he remains a remarkably modern figure, relevant to our understanding of both the past and the present, somebody to be closely studied and understood, rather than revered or reviled.”

– Micheál Ó Siochrú


For many years Writer and Researcher David Ryan had harboured a desire to develop a series telling the story of Cromwell’s campaign in Ireland which went beyond some of the dreadful movies that have been made about the man.

In the summer of 2005 he and Tile Films Managing Director Stephen Rooke decided it was time to do something about it and approached RTE and received a positive response to the idea. David Ryan then began working seriously on the project. Towards the end of 2005 we approached historian Micheál Ó Siochrú, who was working on a new, full-length study of the Cromwellian conquest. Realising that the series would benefit from Micheál’s new, in-depth research and authoritative personality, we asked him to present and co write the series.

From an early stage, we recognised that the only way to do this project was to do it BIG – with large-scale dramatic reconstructions of battles and sieges, emotive performances by leading actors in key roles, and scrupulous attention to detail and historical accuracy. After an intensive period of pre-production in 2007, we were ready to embark on our major drama reconstruction shoots in Omagh, Co. Tyrone and Richmond and Middleham Castles in North Yorkshire. This was followed by a major shootwith English re-enactment group The Sealed Knot in Nantwich, where we had the opportunity to film a full-scale re-enacted battle with over 2,000 participants.

It was one of Tile Film’s most ambitious project and it took three years to bring it to the screen, and we’re enormously proud of the completed programmes. At the 2009 Irish Film and Television Awards ceremony Cromwell in Ireland won the Best Single Documentary of the Year Award.

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