Cromwell’s Corpse Executed
The image we have of Charles II tends to be rather benign, focussing on his enjoyment of a good time (and very many women). But the Restoration saw some bloody revenge including the trial and execution of 10 of the surviving regicides, four of them hanged drawn and quartered at Charing Cross on October 17 1660. Others were hunted down and murdered in exile. And on January 30 1661, the anniversary of the beheading of Charles I, the bodies of Oliver Cromwell, his son-in-law Henry Ireton, and John Bradshaw, President of the court which tried Charles I, suffered a disgusting mock execution at Tyburn.
Cromwell’s remains were removed with some difficulty from their resting place in Westminster Abbey, and on January 28 transported to an inn in Holburn along with Ireton’s, soon joined by Bradshaw’s. Coffins containing the corpses wrapped in shrouds were dragged on hurdles around London’s streets on the morning of January 30, then at Tyburn they were removed, hanged in chains, drawn and quartered, and at four in the afternoon beheaded. Even in death Cromwell was more resilient than his royal enemy: it took eight blows to sever the Lord Protector’s skull; Charles’ only one.
The three severed heads were then put on tall spikes outside Westminster Abbey, remaining there until 1685. The subsequent history of Cromwell’s skull is complicated – bought and sold several times, and once exhibited in Bond Street – but what is strongly believed to have been such was buried at Sidney Sussex College in Cambridge, his alma mater, on March 25 1960.
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