Oliver Cromwell’s boots

A pair of boots alleged to have belonged to Oliver Cromwell went up for auction earlier this week. They belonged to John Fane, a descendant of the  8th Earl of Westmorland. It’s a story that seems to have been around for a while. However, the connection is rather tenuous. The Earl of Westmorland who was Cromwell’s contemporary was Mildmay Fane, the 2nd Earl. He was a royalist, so it seems unlikely they came into his possession.

Reporting in the press has instead drawn attention to the fact that Wormsley Hall, now the home of the Fanes, used to belong to Colonel Adrian Scrope. Scrope was an army officer and a regicide, one of those who was imprisoned and put to death after the Restoration. But he wasn’t exactly close to Cromwell. There was a very slight kinship connection via the Hampden family, but he never served with Cromwell. After the execution of Charles I, Scrope was appointed governor of Bristol and stayed there until 1655, at which point he was made part of the council for the government of Scotland. He stayed in Scotland ntil the summer of 1658, shortly before Cromwell’s death. He didn’t get involved in any of the politicking during Richard Cromwell’s short period of rule. So it seems hard to know where he might have got hold of the boots. At the Restoration he surrendered himself to the authorities, so you might have thought a pair of Cromwell’s boots would be one of the first things he’d get rid of.

Even if they’re not Cromwell’s, it got me thinking about the various pieces of surviving Cromwell memorabilia. There is just about enough out there to reconstruct, Frankenstein’s monster-style, an entire Cromwell:

One of Cromwell’s hats survives at the Cromwell Museum in Huntingdon. This is supposed to be the hat he wore to Parliament on 20 April 1653 which he took off while dissolving the Rump.





Various death masks taken on or after 3 September 1658 survive. This one is from the British Museum.











Of course there is also Cromwell’s actual head, now interred at Sidney Sussex, Cambridge, but the chances of digging that up seem unlikely.









The Royal Armouries Museum at Leeds has a sword alleged to have belonged to Cromwell, and a buff coat that, while not his, is very like the ones he must have worn.














And now there are the boots to round off the entire ensemble.

5 Responses to “Oliver Cromwell’s boots”

  1. I find it really amusing that people keep relics of Cromwell as if he was a Catholic saint, even though he’s famous for being a puritan. I wonder what he would think of it.

    Scrope did serve under Cromwell as a cavalry officer in the New Model Army, but he was just one of many, alongside future enemies of Cromwell such as Richard Graves/Greaves, so it’s not really a strong connection.

  2. I hadn’t thought of it like that, but you’re right, as a nonconformist saint he does have a number of relics…

    If they are his boots, I suspect the most likely connection isn’t Scrope but them coming into the family’s possession at some point during the nineteenth century as Cromwell’s reputation was rehabilitated.

  3. As a local historian, I read this post with great interest, having just discovered an article in a 1936 Skegness newspaper referring to “Cromwell’s Boots”. It appears that a/the pair of Cromwell boots were given to a Mr Jabez Good by a Miss Thimbleby and displayed in Good’s museum at Burgh le Marsh, Lincolnshire. The museum closed down before 1936. Could these be the same boots which were recently sold by auction? If not, exactly how many pairs of Cromwell’s Boots are still in circulation after almost 400 years?
    The information given in the newspaper article is very sparce but I’m looking into any possible connections of Jabez Good and Miss Thimbleby with the house that Fane inherited in 1954, via censuses, BMDs etc.
    The plot thinkens!


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