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John Gadbury: Politics and the Decline of Astrology
A Century of Reform
Life & Work of William Lilly



Through his unique talents as a politician and military commander during the Civil War, Oliver Cromwell rose from humble origins to become Lord Protector of the Commonwealth of England. He is the only commoner in English history to have been offered the Crown - and he refused to accept it. Cromwell's name resonates down the centuries and provokes strong reactions to this day. His nativity was of obvious interest to astrologers of the time. How did Gadbuty and Partridge - from opposite ends of the political spectrum - view the nativity of 'God's Englishman'?

The only record of Cromwell's birth states that he was born in the early hours of St. Mark's Day (April 25th) 1599 at Huntingdon (lat:52N26 long:0W10). According to Partridge, a chart was in circulation during Cromwell's lifetime with Pisces rising and Mars in the 1st house - "a position very suitable to his Grandeur and Courage, and for one that was so great a Warrior". By this figure the astrologers of the day "could prove all his Sicknesses, Honours, Victories, &c." - but - "at last he died; and to the amazement of the whole Society [of astrologers] without any Direction to kill him."

Death was expected to coincide with suitably ominous indications in the horoscope. When Cromwell died on 3rd September 1658 with no apparent sanction from the stars, a new chart was considered, this time with Aries rising. This is the chart presented in Gadbury's Collection, published 1661.

Gadbury's version of Cromwell's Nativity
The Gadbury Chart

Even the royalist Gadbury had to admit that it is a remarkable nativity. The superior planets Saturn, Jupiter and Mars are all essentially dignified. The Sun and Mercury are trine the Moon; Venus is in her own sign (just); and exalted Jupiter is in a close sextile to the luminaries. By Gadbury's reckoning, cardinal signs occupy the angles. "Had this great-spirited Person been anything but English," he remarked, "He had been the most accomplish'd and to be admired Person in the World." But Mars in Aries opposition Saturn in Libra made him "a Scourge to England." This opposition, which by computer calculation is even closer to exactitude than Gadbury or Partridge made it, is an intriguing astrological signature for Oliver Cromwell. Mars and Saturn neatly describe his militant puritanism and even spell out his nickname 'Old Ironsides'. Their T-square to Jupiter, which is so closely sextile the Sun and Moon, hints at the sense of divine Providence that directed all of Cromwell's actions. As Gadbury saw it, however, this mighty opposition afflicts Aries, the sign traditionally associated with England. Specific national horoscopes are a relatively recent discovery, so Gadbury was probably unaware that his rectification duplicates the angles of the chart for the crowning of William the Conqueror in 1066, the foundation chart for the royal line which Cromwell came so close to terminating. He was certainly unaware of Pluto transiting the 1066 ascendant at the time of Cromwell's birth.

Partridge's version of Cromwell's nativity, with Capricon rising, was published in 1693 at a time when many people looked back nostalgically to the strong leadership and vigorous foreign policy of 'Oliver's days'. His rectification was based upon an exhaustive study of Cromwell's directions and solar returns rather than character analysis. 17th century natal astrology emphasised events over personality development.

Partridge's version of Cromwell's Nativity
The Partridge Chart - either Partrdige had a novel way of calculating the Part of Fortune or there is a printer's error in the original copy.

To show the contrasting attitudes of the two astrologers, here are their commentaries on the events of 1640-2, years which marked the beginning of Cromwell's rise to power.


In the year 1640, this eminent Native (in hopes he would have proved honester than he did) was by his County elected a Member of that terrible Long Parliament; and this was his first visible step to Honour and Preferment; and the Direction that occasion'd this was the Midheaven to the North Node. He had then also a good Revolution, and Jupiter, though but weak, was upon the Midheaven of his Radix.

In the year 1642, being adjudged by the Rebels a fit Villain to sink the Oath of Allegiance in opposing his Sovereign, he was made a Colonel of Horse, having some short time before discovered his rebellious Heart, by raising a Troop of Horse at his own Charges... The Moon was then directed to Antares, or the Scorpion's Heart, an eminent Martial and Jovial star.
(Collection of Nativities p.146)


Anno 1640: He was by his County chosen a Member in that Parliament that King Charles I called to sit in November, and this was the first step he made into the Publick; but I cannot own this to be so great a preferment as some do, because it is attended with labour, trouble and charge; yet I must acknowledge that this laid the groundwork of his future Rise and Grandeur. He had then the Moon directed to the opposition of Venus in zodiaco; Moon to trine Mars in mundo dd, and the Midheaven to the trine of Venus and square of Saturn, and in his Revolution for that year Jupiter was in exact sextile to his Radical Midheaven; thus you see that he had both good and bad Directions in that year...

Anno 1641: Like a True Englishman he raised a Troop of Horse at his own Charge to assist the Parliament and defend his Country against Popery, which was then coming in like a flood. He had then Part of Fortune sesquiquadrate Venus dd and to trine Mercury dd; the Sun to the square of the Moon and Part of Fortune sesquiquadrate the Sun, and with these he had also an unlucky Revolution.
Anno 1642: He had a Commission for a Regiment of Horse, which Regiment he raised in his own County, of Freeholders and Freeholders' sons, who did really go out in point of Conscience to serve their Country in that time of danger. He had now Part of Fortune directed to Regulus, and a very good Revolution to assist him."
(Opus Reformatum p.35)

Partridge disagreed with Gadbury's politics and he didn't like his astrology. In fact Opus Reformatum is a point-by-point refutation of the methods, aphorisms and conclusions which Gadbury presents in the Collection, centred upon the horoscope of the late Protector. Why, Partridge wonders, does Gadbury associate Cromwell's first steps into public life with the direction of the Midheaven to the North Node when "...this Dragon's Head and Tail are nothing but the Intersections of the Eciptick and Orbite of the Moon at opposite Points, and those two Circles are but imaginary, and therefore the two Nodes cannot be otherways"? Partridge mocks Gadbury's technical ability at every turn. His chart is wrong, he doesn't know how to calculate directions properly, he contradicts himself, and so on.

Partridge certainly gives the impression of being the more technically accomplished of the two, but we have to remember that Opus Reformatum was written 30 years after Gadbury's Collection as a deliberate hatchet-job. Though Gadbury was an elderly man by this time, he was more than capable of fighting his corner and no doubt did; perhaps one day his inevitable counterblast to Partridge's criticisms will come to light.

Despite Partridge's attempts to dissociate himself from 'honest John', there are points where the bickering astrologers make a connection, and then true astrology asserts itself. Two instances occur in the above extracts. Cromwell's political career began in 1640 when he was elected to the Long Parliament. In his solar return for that year, Gadbury finds Jupiter conjunct the Midheaven. Partridge, though working from different radix and solar return charts, finds Jupiter exactly sextile the Midheaven. A textbook Jupiter-MC contact shines through both readings to signify the beginning of Cromwell's rise to power. In 1642, his career as a top-brass military commander began when he received his commission as colonel of a cavalry regiment. Although our astrologers are working from different charts, different starting points and even different methods of directing, both manage to direct significators to eminent fixed stars - and as every 17th century astrologer knew, "the fixed stars bestow notable gifts and raise from poverty to happiness and high degree more than any of the seven planets" (Bonatus consideration. 141).

But even the stars reflect political differences, apparently, for Partridge finds Oliver rejoicing under the direction of the Part of Fortune to Regulus, the 'Lion's Heart' while Gadbury sullenly invokes the Moon directed to Antares - the 'Heart of the Scorpion'.

And so it goes. Both Gadbury and Partridge claimed to be 'rational' astrologers, though their readings can hardly be called objective. Gadbury saw vaunting ambition and cruel tyranny in Cromwell's Arian ascendant. Partridge saw a Capricornian patriot standing firm in defence of the rights of freeborn Englishmen. The paradox of Oliver Cromwell is that, to some extent, they were both right. Astrology just confirmed their prejudices.

© David Plant, 1996. Reproduced online 2004
This article was first published in The Traditional Astrologer Magazine, issue 11, Winter 1996

Natal Studies