Decay and a slow integration into the soil that surrounds a final resting place is the basic fate of a corpse. That process hardly enthrals an audience as much as the sexual, social and medical record of a human life, but some live their lives in such a way as to provoke those who exist after them into interfering with their remains. Those interferences often extend the story of the departed and produce morbid tales of grave-robbing and relic-trading. This is the case with the hidden head of the puritanical despot, Oliver Cromwell.In 1658, Cromwell died of natural causes. His extraordinary career as an MP, military officer, constitutional reformer and Lord Protector left an indelible mark on our history and the way we conduct politics, but following his demise at the age of fifty-nine, Cromwell’s body went on a journey, the full extent of which we still cannot account for.
The mood at the Tory party Conference in Birmingham is set to be somewhat gloomier than that in Liverpool this week.