Little Bits of History

Really, Really Dead

Posted in History by patriciahysell on January 30, 2014
Oliver Cromwell

Oliver Cromwell

January 30, 1661: Oliver Cromwell is executed – two years after his death. Cromwell was born in 1599 into the middle gentry. He lived a relatively obscure life up until the 1630s when he became in independent Puritan. He became an intensely religious man as well as a military and political leader, believing that God was guiding him to victory. He joined the English Civil War on the side of the Roundheads or Parliamentarians. He was one of the signatories for King Charles I’s death warrant and became the Lord Protector of the Commonwealth of England, Scotland, and Ireland on Christmas day in 1653 after dismissing Parliament earlier in the year.

His rule was short lived but during that time he fashioned an aggressive and effective foreign policy. His allies at home were able to help him both domestically and overseas. When he died in 1658 he was buried in Westminster Abbey next to his daughter. He had become ill in the fall with what today is considered to be a relapse of malaria which brought on a kidney or urinary tract infection. His doctors did what they could but were unable to help the suffering man. He died on September 3 from what was probably septicemia (blood infection) secondary to the urinary infection. His son took over the rule of the land but was not as effective as his father. He resigned in May 1659.

Eventually Charles II was invited back from exile to become King and restore the monarchy in 1660. On this day, which is also the twelfth anniversary of Charles I’s execution, Cromwell’s body was exhumed and ritually executed in turn. Posthumous executions have been used many times over history to really get the message out that the dead person is not well liked. This was the third time in this century that the British Empire was upset enough to kill a dead person. Cromwell was hanged in chains at Tyburn, then thrown into a pit after being beheaded. His head was placed on a pole outside Westminster Hall and remained there until 1685.

There is controversy over whether or not the disinterred corpse was really Cromwell or not.  It is assumed that the body of the despised regicide practitioner would have been moved between his death and this day to protect it from desecration by Royalists. However, if it was not Cromwell, no one today knows where that body lies. Cromwell’s head was moved about several times until it was eventually buried on the grounds of Sidney Sussex College, Cambridge in 1960. The Cromwell vault was used to bury the illegitimate descendants of Charles II. Today, in Westminster Abbey there is stone where Cromwell was first buried which says, “THE BURIAL PLACE OF OLIVER CROMWELL 1658-1661”.

Not only strike while the iron is hot, but make it hot by striking.

Do not trust the cheering, for those persons would shout as much if you or I were going to be hanged.

The State, in choosing men to serve it, takes no notice of their opinions. If they be willing faithfully to serve it, that satisfies.

I would have been glad to have lived under my wood side, and to have kept a flock of sheep, rather than to have undertaken this government. – all from Oliver Cromwell

Also on this day: “Look that up in your Funk and Wagnall’s” – In 1922, Dick Martin was born.
King Richard III – In 1835, an attempt was made to assassinate President Jackson.
Assassination attempt – In 1835, the first US Presidential assassination attempt takes place.
Mr. Music – In 1858, the Halle Orchestra performed.

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