Defending Cromwell’s Grand State Funeral

CROMWELL, OLIVER (1599-1658). Lawrence, George (bap. 1613-1696)

Peplum Olivarii, Or, A good Prince bewailed by a good people. Represented in a sermon October 13. 1658. Upon the death of Oliver, Late Lord Protector

London: printed by E[dward] M[ottershed], for Samuel Thomson at the Bishops head in Pauls Church-yard, 1658


Quarto: 18 x 14 cm. [4], 36 pp. A2, B-E4, F2


Bound in 19th c. quarter roan and boards, worn.  4-part plain black "mourning" border on title. Later engraved medallion portraits of Cromwell and his son on f.f.e.p. and title verso, respectively. A very good copy, a few printed rules shaved at head. Bookplate of George Becher Blomfield. Very rare. 4 copies in North America (Folger, Huntington, Newberry, Yale) and 7 copies in the U.K. (BL (3), Congregational Library, Dr. Williams' Library, Bodleian, Univ. College London).

“One of the surprisingly few sermons on Cromwell’s death to be published. [It] goes to a length in justifying the grand and stately funeral rites, suggesting nervousness that their propriety might be challenged.”(Holberton) The author is the clergyman George Lawrence, who probably served as an army chaplain during the Civil War and knew Cromwell. The sermon is dedicated to Cromwell’s son, Richard Cromwell.

Lawrence draws parallels (with abundant reference to Scripture and historians) between Cromwell and the other great figures whose passing merited grand funerals and public mourning, such as Opheltes, at whose funeral “the body was consumed [by fire] with gold, silver, gems, and much artillery attending.” Among the various cultural rites described, Lawrence mentions the customs of the Native Americans of Virginia who “having covered the corpse with dust, besmut their faces with coal and oyle, and howle at the grave twenty four hours.”

Lawrence’s enjoins us to recall Cromwell’s valor, his ability both to wage war and to bring peace, his love of country, his humility, “his kindness to the nation”. Lawrence sees in Cromwell a father of a nation and dares -although obliquely- to compare him to the first king of Rome: “What an Italian discourser said, that there was never any State so swaddled in its infancy as was the Roman by its first king, may be better said of this Protector”.

“He was the Dove with the olive branch, who did not only declare peace but effect it… Witnesse his disciplining the Army; his encouraging of Trade and Merchandizing; his general care for the preservation of the whole; the timous preventing of Hostilities abroad… His neglecting of a Crown when offered with many pressive and expressive Parliamentary perswasions…“We have lost a Captain, a Shield, the Head, an Heir of Restraint, the Breath of our Nostrils, an Healer, a Shepherd, a Father and a Nursing Father, a Cornerstone, a Builder, a Watchman, an Eye, a Saviour, a Steersman and Rector, a Pilot and a Common Husband.”

ESTC R207645 locates 5 copies in the UK and 4 copies in North America. Wing L659