30 Jan: Bring Me The Head of Oliver Cromwell

Revolutionary leader Oliver Cromwell was executed on 30th January, 1661 – despite having been dead for more than two years. His body was exhumed from its tomb in Westminster Abbey on the instruction of King Charles II, who sought retribution for those involved in the trial and execution of his father, Charles I.

Along with other Regicides, Cromwell’s corpse was disinterred and subjected to public abuse. On the anniversary of Charles I’s beheading, Cromwell’s head was mounted on a spike and stuck on the roof of Westminster Hall – where it remained for thirty years.

In this episode, Arion, Rebecca and Olly track the illustrious history of Cromwell’s head from that date forth; consider whether the crowd in attendance at the ‘execution’ really hated their former Lord Protector as much as their jeering suggests; and explain how the intervention of a future Prime Minister prevented Cromwell’s relic being put on public display as recently as the 19th Century… 

Further Reading:

• ‘Oliver Cromwell: Hero or Villain?’ (HistoryExtra, 2014) : https://www.historyextra.com/period/stuart/oliver-cromwell-hero-or-villain/

• ‘The Strange Saga of Oliver Cromwell’s Head’ (Mental Floss, 2019):

https://www.mentalfloss.com/article/585591/oliver-cromwells-head-history

• ‘Opening The Coffin Of Oliver Cromwell’ (The Fortress, 2023):