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Oliver St. John



An artist active in The Hague, Pieter Nason (c.1612-c.1690) may have painted this 1651 portrait of Oliver St. John (1589?-1673) when the subject was on one of his diplomatic missions to the Netherlands. St. John attended Cambridge University and was called to the bar in 1626, after which he quickly began to establish his reputation as anti-Court and an ally of Pym. In 1640 he entered Parliament, and two years later was appointed Solicitor-General by King Charles, in a vain attempt to win him over. His support for the impeachment of Strafford and continued alliance with the radicals led to his dismissal from the post in 1643. Following Pym’s death, he succeeded as a leader in the Commons. In 1647, when Parliament quarrelled with the growing power of the army, St. John sided with the latter; he had married as his second wife Elizabeth Cromwell, cousin of Oliver Cromwell, with whom he enjoyed a close confidence. By 1648, as Chief Justice of the Common Pleas, he devoted himself to his legal duties, and refused to be a commissioner in the trial of Charles I. From 1651 to 1660, he was Chancellor of Cambridge University and engaged in diplomatic missions for the Commonwealth and Protectorate in its relations with Scotland and the Dutch. In 1660 he published an apology for his past politics, allowing him to avoid a worse penalty than he suffered, which was exclusion from public office.  He lived abroad after 1662 until his death.


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