The curious case of Oliver Cromwell's head

by LoveUniHateExams 9 Replies latest social current

  • LoveUniHateExams

    Just been reading a bit about Oliver Cromwell on wiki, plus I watched a documentary on youtube.

    Cromwell fought against King Charles the First and the royalists in the 17th century. King Charles lost the civil war and was beheaded in 1649. After this, England was without a monarch and Cromwell became lord protector of the commonwealth. Cromwell died in 1658 and was embalmed and buried in Westminster Abbey.

    A few years later the monarchy was restored. In 1661 the new King, Charles the Second, had the bodies of Cromwell and two other Roundheads, John Bradshaw and Henry Ireton, strung up at Tyburn. The heads of the three corpses were hacked off and put on spikes on the end of 20 ft poles, to be displayed at Westminster Hall.

    Then in 1685 a violent storm caused the wooden spike that held Cromwell's head to break off from the pole and fall to the ground. An anonymous man, possible a soldier, took it and hid it in his chimney.

    The head was exhibited as a curiosity in 1799, having been in the possession of various owners, until it fell into the possession of Josiah Wilkinson in 1814. It stayed in the Wilkinson family until 1960. That same year, Horace Wilkinson handed it over to Sidney Sussex College, Cambridge, where it was finally buried in a private ceremony.

    It's quite an amazing, if gruesome, story. Studies were carried out on the head in the 1930s, I believe. The scientists came to a tentative conclusion that the head was indeed Cromwell's because it was apparently embalmed before being removed from the body. Any Tom, Dick or Harry sentenced to be beheaded would not have bee embalmed. The scientists found the embalming to be consistent with 17th century procedures. Finally, details on the mummified head match details on Cromwell's portrait and details on his death mask.

    I'm no expert on British history so any corrections welcome.

  • oppostate

    Pretty gruesome stuff that!

    It is quite a story.

    Thanks for sharing.

  • zeb

    Has anyone seen the movie called 'Cromwell' starring Richard Harris?

  • freddo

    No correction but Charles 2nd was Charles 1st's son and so he was particularly keen to have his revenge on Oliver Cromwell even if it was posthumously.

  • snugglebunny

    Richard Harris as Cromwell socks it to 'em:

  • Earnest

    I worked at Sidney Sussex College, Cambridge, for some time and the information about Cromwell's head being buried there is correct. Although no-one except the Master of the College is supposed to know where it is so that no enterprising students decide to dig it up. However, I was told on the authority of a college porter who was present at the burial that it is buried beneath ...

  • cofty

    Life under Cromwell was not much different from the Taliban.

  • snugglebunny

    Substitute "Brussels" in place of "King" in the above clip for yet another perspective.

  • Xanthippe

    In 1644 Cromwell passed an act of Parliament banning the celebration of Christmas. To the puritans dancing and enjoying festivities at Christmas was abhorrent. Remind you of anyone?

  • freddo

    Cofty ... "Life under Cromwell was not much different from the Taliban."

    Xanthippe ...

    Except ...

    Women didn't have to cover their faces.

    It was the 1650's ...

    It is a bit like the JW's actually!

Share this