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To this house, in 1646, John Claypole brought his bride, the fairest and best-beloved of Cromwell's daughters. She was then only seventeen years of age, and, as is well known, her spell of happiness was brief, only lasting twelve years, for she died at Hampton Court on August 6th, 1658, just four weeks before her father, and was buried in Westminster Abbey. It was the shock of her death, combined with the constant anxiety and cares of State, that really broke Cromwell down, and led to his premature decease. Some very touching references to this beloved child may be found in Cromwell's correspondence, exhibiting not merely his truly affectionate nature, but also the reality of his religious faith. For example : writing to “my beloved daughter, Bridget Ireton, in 1646," he says: “Your sister Claypole, I trust, is merely exercised with some perplexed thoughts. She sees her own vanity and carnal mind; bewailing it. She seeks after, as I hope also, what will satisfy. And thus to be a seeker is to be of the best sect next to a finder; and such an one shall every faithful humble seeker be at the end. Happy seeker, happy finder !!! Again, writing to her mother in 1651, he says : “Mind poor Betty of the Lord's great mercy. Oh, I desire her not only to seek the Lord in her necessity, but in deed and in truth to turn to the Lord, and to keep close to Him, and to take heed of a departing heart, and of being cozened with worldly vanities and worldly company, which I doubt she is too subject to. I earnestly and
the entrance to the courtyard, on the opposite side of which stands the hall and what remains of the house, the original plan of which was one very usual in the fourteenth century, forming the Roman capital letter H, of which the hall was the centre ; one of the wings has been rebuilt in the sixteenth century, and the other mutilated ; but its beautiful chimney remains perfect, and the turret and crocketed gable, and a rich cornice with the ball-flower ornament; and the windows of the hall, though square-headed, have Decorated flowing tracery. At the end of the ball, behind the screen, are the three doorways to the kitchen and offices. These doorways are unusually rich, with orocketed canopies over them, having finials, fine mouldings, and the ball-flower ornament”- .“ Mediaval Houses near Peterborough.”
1 When Mrs. Claypole was living with her husband at Northborough House, and had apparently just recovered from the perils of childbirth.
frequently pray for her and for him (her husband). Truly they are very dear to me—very dear.” It is from touches such as these, for which we are indebted to the painstaking researches of Thomas Carlyle, that we have learnt in these days more of the true Oliver Cromwell ; and we know now, as his contemporaries could not know in the storm and stress of stirring times, that, whatever else he was, he was no hypocrite, but a strong, strenuous, earnest, loving, God-fearing English gentleman.
A very fine portrait of Mrs. Elizabeth Claypole, of which I exhibit a photo, has recently been presented to the rector by the Marchioness of Exeter, to be preserved as an heirloom of the living. This, I believe, must be the same portrait of which Mr. Horace Walpole says: “Lord Pelham has a small three-quarters of Mrs. Claypole, on which is written M. Ritus fec. It is an emblematic piece, the allegory of which is very obscure, but highly finished.” M. Ritus stands for Matthew Wright, a Scots painter. Lord Pelham probably acquired this relic through his wife, Anne Frankland, great-granddaughter of Frances Cromwell, and from them it passed to the Exeter family
A beautiful miniature of her is also one of the treasures of the Peterborough Museum.
It was to Northborough that John Claypole retired, when his brief period of public life as Master of the Horse, Member of Cromwell's House of Lords, and Chief Clerk of the Hanaper, was over; and here, as in a haven of rest, Cromwell's widow passed the evening of her days. The bereaved lady, after undergoing many trials during the Restoration period, and spending some time abroad, indited a petition to Charles II, which the king irreverently endorsed, “ The petition of old Noll's wife,” and as a result of it she was allowed to retire to Northborough. In regard to the date of her death, I have discovered a curious discrepancy among authorities. Carlyle probably following Noble, places it in 1672 ; and Frederic Harrison, probably following Carlyle, says: “The widow of the Protector survived him many years, and died in obscurity at the age of seventy-four :" which gives the same date, as she was born in 1598.
But the extract from the Northborough Parish Register preserved by Bishop White Kennett, gives the following: “ Elizabeth, the Relict of Oliver Cromwell, sometime Protector of England, was buried November 19th, 1665.” This is undoubtedly the correct date, and is not unsupported by other evidence ; e.g., Lady Mary Fauconberg, the third daughter, who was a frequent visitor at Northborough House, writing to Henry Cromwell in 1665, says : “My poor mother is so affecting a spectacle as I scarce know how to write ; the condition she is in is very sad : the Lord help her and us to bear it.” This seems to refer to the last interview. Another piece of evidence is obtained from “the Examination of Wm. Mumford, of Hurley, near Winchester, co. Hants, yeoman, taken this 15 March, 1666, before me Edmund Warcupp, Esq., one of his Majesty's Justices of the Peace, etc.,” in which we read of “the estate of old Mrs. Cromwell, lately deceased.” And so Canon Cromwell, the latest editor of James Waylen's House of Cromwell, in which Noble's “History of the Protectoral House,” 1765, is continued to the present day, unhesitatingly accepts this date. I have already mentioned that she was buried not far from her granddaughter, Martha Claypole, in the chantry.
Before we leave this subject of the Claypoles, it will be well to notice what there is to be found respecting them in the parish registers. The oldest registers of Northborough have been lost or destroyed, but fortunately several entries from them are preserved in Bishop White Kennett's “Remaines,” which now exist in MS. in the British Museum, The following are all I could find : Baptized, 1588, James Claypoole, filius Adami Claypoole.
1606, Henricus Claypole, filius Adami Claypoole.
1575, Hella Claypoole, filius Jacobi Claypoole.
Burials, 1619, Dorothy Claypoole, uxor Adami Claypoole, Esq.
sepulta fuit, 7 die Novembris. 1661, Mary, the wife of John Claypole the elder, Esq.,
died the 10th April, buried 11th of the same
The two following extracts are from the registers now existing (?) :
1673, Richard Claypoole was buried, August 6th.
The following is from the register of James Deeping Church :
borough, bapt. Ap. 20.
Cromwell Claypole was the eldest son of John and “Betty,” born in 1647, and died unmarried. With him the direct line of Claypole ends. The manor passed to the Fitzwilliam family, and no present-day Claypole can lay claim to the blood of Cromwell.
It will be noticed that the entries cover just one hundred and eleven years, and that they are certainly incomplete, for there is no entry of the death or burial of Martha Claypole in 1664.
One question remains to be asked, though it may not be possible to find a certain answer. Where was Oliver Cromwell buried ? Or, perhaps, we should say, where is his last resting-place? We know that his widow lies at Northborough. Is he there, too? It is not improbable. It is certain that Cromwell had a love for the place, and often stayed here during his daughter's lifetime-tradition says that Christmas was his favourite time for coming. One of the rooms is to this day known as “ Cromwell's Closet.” It is the one over the porch which forms the main entrance to the manor-house. It is a small room, about 9 ft. by 7 ft., and is only accessible ordinarily by taking a circuitous route through the house. One has to mount the stairs to the left, go round to the back, pass
through several rooms, descend some more, and very steep, steps, pass through Lady Claypole's room (with a fine mantelpiece and fireplace), and enter at last this secluded chamber. · Here Cromwell would feel safe from any surprise, for it would take some time to reach him in this roundabout way, while he himself could depart by raising a trap-door, descending a ladder into the buttery, and thence emerge into the passage, and be gone.
It is a thorny subject upon which we are entering, and one which we might well leave in the obscurity which history and tradition have wrapt round the facts. But anything connected with Cromwell is interesting, and especially so to-day, when fresh light is being thrown upon the man who, dead or alive, was one of the most potent forces in the formation of modern England.
Is there any evidence on which we may reasonably believe that the remains of Oliver Cromwell lie at Northborough
The ordinary histories record that the Protector's body was embalmed, buried in Henry VII's chapel, Westminster, disinterred at the Restoration, taken to the Red Lion Inn, Holborn, hung at Tyburn, decapitated, and the head set up over the gate of Westminster Hall. The head, now in the possession of Mr. Horace Wilkinson, of Sevenoaks, is certainly the one that was exposed at Westminster as Oliver Cromwell's, but its genuineness depends on the question whether Cromwell's dead body ever went through the experiences above narrated, and this is what is denied. The truth is now, perhaps, impossible to discover, but the whole funeral ceremony, which was modelled on that of Philip II of Spain, and must have cost £150,000 of our money, was avowedly carried out with an effigy.” The whole question is discussed in an interesting article in the Gentleman's Magazine for 1881, the arguments in which I proceed to give, with some further elucidations of my own. Bates, Cromwell's private physician, says the body was buried before the solemnization of the funeral, of which private burial the writer concludes there is no doubt. It is equally certain that we have no account, either of the date or of the spot where that private interment took place,