Not Resting in Peace
On January 30th 1661 Oliver Cromwell was "executed" more than two years after his death.
Make sure you change your will by adding the following words, "Do Not Treat My Head Like Oliver Cromwell's Head".
Allow me to explain...
When Oliver died in September 1658 the English people were very sad. They cried a lot & gave him a big funeral. They buried him & his head in Westminster Abby. So far so good for Oliver & his head.
In 1660, the monarchy was back on the throne. Soon after that Oliver's body & his head were removed from the Abby.
And now, The Rest of the Story:
• January 30, 1661...Oliver's body was dragged thru the streets. Still wrapped in grave clothes, it was hanged. Six hours later the body was lowered from the gallows & was beheaded. This was a bad beheading. It required 6 or 8 blows by an ax. A few keepsakes were snipped off like finders, toes & an ear. The body was buried in a deep unmarked pit beneath the scaffold. Oliver's head was paraded thru the streets. The populace hurled insults & garbage at Oliver's head.
• Five days later Oliver's head appeared prominently displayed atop Westminster Hall, affixed to an iron-tipped pole driven thru the crown of the skull. Oliver's head remained there for many years.
• One night in 1685 the wind blew Oliver's head down. A sentry put Oliver's head beneath his cloak & took it home.
Exactly what happed to the head is not exactly cataloged but the head kept popping up at irregular times & places but its authenticity is fairly certain.
• At some point the sentry's daughter sold Oliver's head to a family in Cambridgeshire.
• From 1710 to 1738 Oliver's head was in a private London museum.
• At an uncertain date the Russell family acquired Oliver's head.
• Between 1773 & 1780 Oliver's head descended to the possession of Samuel Russell who had small museum in which Oliver's head became the prime exhibit on the second floor.
• At one point Russell tried to sell Oliver's head to Sidney Sussex College in Cambridge where Oliver's whole body had been a scholar one year when he was young. The college refused to buy it. It seems they were still mad at Oliver's head for melting their silver plate to finance his war against Charles I & for imprisoning their headmaster.
• At a date uncertain, another private museum impresario named James Cox bought Oliver's head.
• Soon after buying Oliver's head, Cox resold Oliver's head to a trio of speculators for 230 pounds.
• By 1799, Oliver's head was again on display in a Bond Street exhibit.
• In 1814, Josiah Henry Wilkinson bought Oliver's head & used to take it to parties as a conversation piece & titillated the other guests by passing it around, iron stake & all, while giving lectures on phrenology.
• For almost a century & a half Oliver's head stayed in the possession of the Wilkinson family. The family did begin to treat Oliver's head with more respect.
• Oliver's head was subjected to various antiquarian & scientific investigations:
o In 1911 Oliver's head was exhibited before the Royal Archaeological Institute.
o In the 1930's two "cranial detectives" studied Oliver's head thoroughly & conclude Oliver's head was authentic beyond all reasonable doubt.
• Oliver's head descended into the Canon Horace Wilkinson family.
• When Canon died he bequeathed Oliver's head to Sidney Sussex College in Cambridge. This justified Sidney Sussex College in Cambridge's earlier decision (around 1790) not to buy Oliver's head cuz they now got Oliver's head for free.
• In 1960 the College gave Oliver's head a descent burial. Since they could not find where Oliver's body was buried beneath London's streets, they buried it near the entrance to the College's chapel.
The exact spot is secret to prevent any future desecrations at the hands of pranksters, collectors or Irish extremists still angry at Oliver's head for its treatment of their ancestors at Drogheda & Wexford in 1649. I ask u, why would they think that might happen?
Source: After the Funeral by Edwin Murphy, copyright 1995.
Would I kid u?
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