January 30

Cromwells Head


“Step this way to the next exhibit.

“As background:  England’s King Charles I was beheaded for treason on January 30, 1649. The next day, his head was sewn back onto the body for burial.

“You could say, Oliver Cromwell got almost the opposite treatment.

“After his death, having served as Lord Protector during the short-lived English Commonwealth, Cromwell received the equivalent of a king’s funeral in Westminster Abbey. The monarchy was restored in 1660, and in the following year, on the anniversary of his father’s beheading, Charles II ordered Cromwell’s posthumous execution for his role in the previous king’s death.

“Cromwell’s body was exhumed from Westminster Abbey, and decapitated.

“Although that event was largely ritual or symbolic, it followed the same procedure used by today’s corpse interaction teams.  We dig up bodies and remove the heads…preventing those troublesome reanimations that have plagued us in recent years.

“Don’t jostle.  Everyone will get their chance to look into the display case.

“Cromwell’s head has an interesting provenance.  For a while it was spiked on a tall post in a London square, as a warning.  A few years later, the wooden post was struck by lightning and fell over — and a random passerby gathered the head and sold it to a private collector.  A succession of small museums and collections hosted the head over the years, but some questioned its authenticity — and several ‘competing’ heads emerged.  Pretenders, you might say…ahem.

“If you take a photograph, please refrain from using your flash.

“The head currently on exhibit has been subjected to thorough analysis, using the most modern techniques.  Scientists and historians concur that our humble museum houses the authentic article.

“Now, before I answer any questions, I have one for you.  If your grandparents or parents, siblings or friends were buried in the past decade, what has now happened to their heads?

“Please, don’t all speak at once. Raise your hands, children.”