Mercurius Politicus

A blog (mostly) about early modern history

Tag: head

Bloody newes from Dover

AN363033001, © The Trustees of the British Museum

I found this gruesome woodcut from the title page of a 1647 pamphlet while looking for illustrated news pamphlets. Bloody Newes from Dover tells the story of John Champion, a tradesman from Dover, and his wife Mary. After the birth of their child, John wanted to have it christened. Mary disagreed, and when the baby was six or seven weeks old, she took a knife and cut off the child’s head:

And when her husband came in, she called him into a little Parlour, where the poore Infant lay bleeding, uttering these words.

Behold husband, they sweet Babe without a head, now go and baptize it; if you will, you must christen the head without a body: for here they lye separated.

Here is the husband’s shocked reaction:

O thou bloody and inhumane wretch, what haste thou done.

Mary was apprehended for trial at the Assizes, and went on to suffer some kind of post-traumatic shock disorder while in prison awaiting trial:

For, shee can no wayes fixe her eyes upon anything, but presently (she conceives) the poore Babe to appear before her without a head.

This kind of repenting was traditional for early modern murder pamphlets, as was the moral lesson to be drawn from the horrible incident:

Thus may we see, that where division and controversie doth arise, sad effects will suddenly follow: for no sooner can there a beach appear; but presently Sathan is ready to stop it up, by infusing his deluding spirit into their hearts, for the increasing of variance, discord and contention, and when once it had taken possession, it is a hard matter to remove it, but shall lyeth open to the deluding snare of the Divel, being ready to Be entrapped on any occasion.

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.