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Cromwell's
background

Frequently asked questions

How much do we know about Cromwell’s background? Was he, for example, related to Thomas Cromwell? Did he have any brothers and sisters?

We know a fair bit about Oliver Cromwell’s immediate ancestors and close relatives. He was not directly descended from Thomas Cromwell himself but from Thomas’s sister, Katherine, who had married Oliver’s great-great-grandfather Morgan Williams, after which the family began adopting the Cromwell surname. Oliver was one of ten children. He had two brothers, who both died young, and seven sisters, most of whom survived into adulthood.

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For a full Cromwell genealogy visit the pages on the Cromwell Collection web site now by clicking here

 

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Cromwell's
body

What happened to Cromwell’s body after his death?
Where are his mortal remains now?

There has been considerable controversy about the true resting place of Cromwell’s mortal remains, with doubts surfacing at the time and a variety of stories finding their way into print in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. However, it is likely that Cromwell’s body was buried in a vault in Westminster Abbey in autumn 1658, and that it was located, exhumed and posthumously executed in January 1661. His headless trunk probably lies in an unmarked grave in the Tyburn area, while his head, which became an undignified collector’s object, was eventually bequeathed to his former Cambridge College, Sidney Sussex, and was in 1960 immured in the anti-chapel there.

Visit CCC's Online exhibition - Cromwell's Head and its Curious History

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Causes of the
civil war

What caused the civil war?
What part did Cromwell play in causing the war?

There is no broadly accepted consensus about what caused the civil war and historians continue to explore a wide variety of causes, short-, medium- and long-term. But no plausible explanation of the war accords Cromwell a significant role in causing the conflict, for down to 1642 Cromwell was a fairly minor figure who had played little part in national politics or affairs of state.

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Christmas
abolished

Why did Cromwell abolish Christmas?

Cromwell did not personally abolish Christmas, though he was one of the much broader Godly or parliamentary party which tried – with, it appears, limited success – to clamp down on the celebration of Christmas and other saints’ and holy days during the mid seventeenth century. 

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Churches and
the civil war

What role did churches play in the civil war?
Why were so many churches desecrated during the civil war
and what part did Cromwell play in this?

Many churches were caught up in the English civil war and played a role in the fighting. However, only on a handful of occasions was Cromwell directly involved in military action against opponents who had fortified and were defending churches. In the course of the war, some churches were badly damaged, either as a consequence of the fighting or because soldiers or civilians deliberately sought for ideological and religious reasons to alter the fabric and fittings of churches, removing and destroying physical elements and symbols which they associated with Roman Catholicism or with the high church policies of Charles I and William Laud. Oliver Cromwell’s direct involvement in such iconoclasm was very limited. There is no doubt that someone called Cromwell was responsible for unleashing and encouraging an extensive campaign of iconoclasm which altered the fabric and appearance of thousands of churches in England and Wales, but that was Thomas Cromwell, chief minister to Henry VIII at the time of the Henrician Reformation, not Oliver Cromwell a century or more later.

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Cromwell's
family

How much do we know about Cromwell’s own family?

Although we have only occasional glimpses of Cromwell’s personal and family life and know very little about his and his wife’s childhood or about the childhood of their own children, their adult lives are fairly well recorded and documented. There has been considerable biographical work on Oliver’s wife, Elizabeth Bourchier, and on the six children of the marriage who survived into adulthood – three other children, all sons, died young.

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For a full Cromwell genealogy visit the pages on the Cromwell Collection web site now by clicking here

 

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Genealogy

I have heard that i may be descended from Oliver Cromwell.
Is that possible, and, if so, how can i go about confirming it?

There are many people alive today who are directly descended from Oliver Cromwell, via his son Henry and his daughters Bridget and Frances. Their descent has been thoroughly researched and reconstructed down to the mid Victorian period. Thus so long as you can trace your ancestry back as far as the 1860s, you should be able to see quite easily whether or not you lock into one of the proven lines of descent from Cromwell.

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For a full Cromwell genealogy visit the pages on the Cromwell Collection web site now by clicking here

 

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Cromwell's
health &
death

What do we know about Cromwell’s health?
What caused his death in September 1658?

Although we know very little about Cromwell’s health during his early life, before the outbreak of war, thereafter his health is fairly well charted. He seems to have been in fairly good health during the 1640s, but during the 1650s a mixture of advancing years and a variety of recurrent afflictions took the toll. Despite some uncertainties and alternative theories, most historians accept that Cromwell’s death in September 1658 was caused by a visitation of a recurrent, malarial-type disease which he may well have picked up while serving in Ireland in 1649-50 and from which he suffered intermittently during his closing years.

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Titles of
honour

What titles of honour did Oliver Cromwell create? 
Does anyone still use the hereditary titles he created?

As Lord Protector, especially after his ‘reinvestiture’ under the revised written constitution of summer 1657, Cromwell held and exercised the power to bestow a range of titles of honour, some of them hereditary. At the Restoration of Charles II in spring 1660 all such titles lapsed as being without legal substance. However, through a mixture of generosity and expediency, Charles swiftly regranted many of these titles. A handful of regranted Cromwellian titles are still in use today.

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Cromwell's
wealth

What do we know about Cromwell’s wealth?
Was he a rich man and what was his social standing?

Surviving sources give us only an incomplete and at times unclear picture of Cromwell’s wealth and social standing. However, down to the 1640s Cromwell was not particularly rich and he was languishing very much at or near the bottom of the landed, gentry class. In the course of his successful military career of 1642-51, his financial standing strengthened dramatically and his status and wealth rose appreciably. By the closing years of his life Cromwell had become a very wealthy man and his own personal properties and incomes, over and above those allocated to him as head of state, were vast.

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