Some Farther Intelligence of the Affairs of England (1659) provides a rare insight into the Protectorate’s official version of events surrounding Oliver Cromwell’s (1599–1658) death: a crucial but brief moment in British history that is often overshadowed by the Restoration of the Stuart monarchy in 1660.
What is digitised here?
- ‘Whitehall, Sept. 3. 1658’: an account of Oliver Cromwell’s death and the naming of his successor, ‘the most Noble & Illustrious Lord the Lord Richard Eldest son of his said Highness’ (pp. 1–2).
- A description of Somerset House, and the lavishly decorated effigy of ‘his late Highnesse’ Oliver Cromwell (pp. 7–8).
- A detailed woodcut engraving of Cromwell lying in state, with a brief obituary (after p. 8).
- A list of the elected members of Parliament dating from 7 January 1658 (pp. 13–23). The poet Andrew Marvell (1621–1678) is recorded here as representative for Kingston upon Hull (p. 16), a position which he actively filled for 19 years.
- Portrait of Richard Cromwell (1626–1712), Lord Protector of England, Scotland and Ireland (p. 24).
Why were visual representations of Oliver Cromwell’s body so important?
The woodcut illustration (after p. 8) shows Oliver Cromwell’s effigy in ermine-trimmed robes, with a crown placed just above his head. These royal accessories were given to Cromwell posthumously: he had been offered them in life but had refused. Through association with the easily recognised and respected artefacts of royalty, the hereditary succession of Cromwell’s son Richard was legitimised. To this effect, Cromwell’s effigy was displayed at Somerset House and during the funeral procession through London, as well as depicted in images that were circulated to audiences further afield.
After the Restoration, positive visual representations of Oliver Cromwell kept the spectre of rebellion and republicanism alive. In a macabre demonstration of strength (and vengeance for his father’s death) King Charles II (1630–1685) ordered Cromwell’s body to be exhumed, tried, executed and exhibited before the citizens of London. The sight of Cromwell’s mutilated corpse was intended to counteract any lingering pro-Cromwellian sentiment in Britain.