Oliver Cromwell Executed

January 30, 2022

Oliver Cromwell has the rare distinction of being both buried with honors after dying of natural causes then dug up to be executed for treason after death and burial. 

How can someone already dead be executed? 


Cromwell was arguably English History’s only classic dictator. Among his colleagues, he was a military genius who was named England’s protector for life. The trouble with this narrative is it’s an anti-monarchy story. For a handful of years in the mid 17th century, England was ruled by someone other than a monarch in the English line of procession. King Charles I became an ordinary man!

England’s Civil War

By the beginning of the 17th century, the British Isles had consolidated into Three Kingdoms, each of which had ruling families. These kingdoms were England, Scotland, and Ireland. While most of Europe was either Catholic or Protestant, some residents began understanding Enlightenment ideals like self-rule by a parliament independent of a monarch. In the early 1640s, Cromwell emerged as the leader of the Parliamentarians (known as “Roundheads”) who wanted to overthrow King Charles I. This group fought military battles against the Royalists (known as the “Cavaliers”).

In the end, Cromwell and the Roundheads won. The new government was created to run the Three Kingdoms under a united ruler who was Cromwell. His Commonwealth of England arrested and executed King Charles I.

When the Royalists regained power and Charles II took the throne, a lot of powerful people wanted an example made out of him and didn’t let the fact that he was dead stop them. So they decided to hold a ritual execution of Cromwell, just to make sure people knew how upset they were at him. 

They dug up his body, hung it in chains, threw it in a pit, and then beheaded it. His head was then displayed on a pole at Westminster Hall for the next 24 years. After that, his head passed into the possession of a variety of private collectors until it was finally reburied at Sidney Sussex College in Cambridge.


  1. Robert Dennis

    Very interesting

  2. David Sheldon Johnson

    The Irish know how the brutal bastard the Dictator Cromwell Ruled.
    Your history of the Cromwell Dictatorship is incomplete and
    gives the impression that the people welcomed his form of governance.
    Cromwell was intolerant of beliefs other than his & his brutal war on Irish peasantry needs to explained in your short history of his execution.

  3. Marc Kohler

    The real problem here is not that Oliver Cromwell was beheaded years after hi death. The problem was that his head on a staff was untouched for 24 years. This ominous sign said something to every person in the realm. Chuarles II was making it clear that all, I repeat, all ideas in the period of 1640-1660 would suffer the same fate as Cromwell’s head—to be killed again, and again. Locke worte thet he recommended two books for the reader to read. The first was the work of Rev. Hooker who died in 1600. The other was Algernon Sidney. After mentioning Sidney, Locke wrote that he, of ourse, had never read Sidney. He was lying, but he was confirming the silence and censorship ordered by Charles II and Archbishop of Canterbury Gilbert Sheldon! The persecution of Protestants and the censorship of their ideas has disappeared from British history,

  4. King, Barbara

    I love English history….wonderful reading.

  5. Rebecca

    Wow. Very interesting. I don’t recall learning about this in school. If we did, then we must of had flew threw the lecture.


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