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