Cromwell, Oliver


Cromwell, Oliver
   Chiefly remembered in folk tradition as a destroyer. A considerable number of castles and manor houses, especially in Yorkshire and Lincolnshire, are said (incorrectly) to have been destroyed or severely damaged by Cromwell's cannon-fire; an even larger number of churches, in several different counties, are said to have been desecrated by Cromwell (or Cromwell's men) stabling horses there. Presumably as a result of this violent and destructive reputation, Cromwell became a *bogey figure. Flora Thompson mentions in her Lark Rise to Candleford (1945) that in Oxfordshire in the 1880s 'the older mothers and grandmothers still threatened naughty children with the name of Cromwell. "If you ain't a good gal, old Oliver Crummell'll have 'ee!" they would say, or "Here comes old Crummell!"' (chapter 14).
   His sudden death on 3 September 1658, at the height of his power, made a deep impression on the popular mind. Shortly before, on the night of 30/31 August, there had been a great gale, and it was soon being said that the two events were connected - indeed, that the *storm had come on the very night Cromwell died. Such signs were ambiguous; they could mark the death of a great hero, or of a sinner bound for Hell. In the case of a regicide the latter was more likely, and became the accepted interpretation in folk tradition.
   To add to the drama, Cromwell's body was exhumed from Westminster Abbey after the Restoration in 1660 and decapitated, the head being displayed at Westminster Hall, and these events too are said to have been accompanied by storms. The body may have been secretly buried in Red Lion Square in Hol-born, London, or taken by his daughter to her home at Newburgh Priory and laid in a vault there; it is said that any attempt to open this vault to establish the truth will lead to disaster.
   ■ Alan Smith, Folklore 79 (1968), 17-39.

A Dictionary of English folklore. . 2014.

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