Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Oliver Cromwell on a stick

On the grounds of the Houses of Parliament in London is a statue of Oliver Cromwell, the only non-royal to run the show in England for 8 years or so before he died in 1658. Cromwell's forces won the civil war. (I think those were the roundheads.) The royals took it pretty hard that here was a commoner running the country, and so shortly after the restoration of Charles II, they dug up Oliver Cromwell from where he had been interred in Westminster Abbey and chopped off his dead head and put it up on a pike somewhere over the Parliament, where it sat for 20 years or so. Talk about vindictive. They absconded with the rest of him, and today nobody knows where his remains are, though some have made claims, of course. (Cromwell an early Elvis, perhaps?) Now Cromwell's statue and a relief of Charles II's head (which the king kept even after his death) glare at one another across a street on the grounds of the Westminster complex. History comes alive here. It helps that rotty old bricks and stones are visible. Tomorrow all this Anglophilia vanishes along with familiarity with history and language as we set off for Tarnow, my father's childhood home in Poland. Today, however, I was once again the English lit major.

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