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Cromwell’s Cosmetics

Recent analysis shows that Oliver Cromwell owned pots of fancy scented soaps. Now he’s been branded by the U.K. press as a “metrosexual.”

Oliver Cromwell was Lord Protector of the Realm for five years in the 17th century. He led the Republic — or what we would now call a military dictatorship — after King Charles I was deposed. From 1653 to 1658, Cromwell was the boss of England, Ireland and Scotland.

Cromwell was a Puritan, and in news accounts it’s clear the point the historians and experts want to make is about the incongruity of an austere religious fellow having such personal vanity. Especially since Oliver Cromwell was supposedly not interested in how he looked at all — the story goes that the phrase “warts and all” comes from Cromwell’s instruction to portraitist Peter Lely to paint the Lord Protector as he really looked. 

Oliver Cromwell was also a warlord, so the idea of him using fancy scented lotions puts the press in a rush to use “metrosexual” as a playground taunt: “Ha ha ha, so you killed half a million of us — you’re still a big sissy!”

The Irish Independent asks, “”So, was old Oliver actually a metrosexual who made sure he smelt well before riding the scene of his latest massacre?” You could already tell where they were headed with their headline: “Who’s a Pretty Olly Then?

The Irish Sun says “Warlord Cromwell Was a Metrosexual.”

Even the U.K. Telegraph gets cheeky with “Oliver Cromwell – the Metrosexual: How the Lord Protector Became the Skin Protector.

Pathways to Law (??) takes it a step further: “Did Oliver Cromwell Use Aftershave?

Here’s a photo of one of the glass jars that held the scented soap:

They say there are 55 of these jars, some of the empty and some of the labeled with fragrance types (jasmine, orange blossom, etc.). Because there is no apparent medicinal use, the assumption is the soaps were for cosmetic reasons. An expert says, “This is real top-of-the-range stuff – like going into Harrods and shopping from the most expensive make-up counter.”

And just like a news story about something historical, I will finally tell you that all of this does not at all mean Oliver Cromwell used make-up or fancy soaps or perfumes. They have 55 jars, some of them are empty. There’s absolutely no way of knowing who used the soap, or even if it was used at all.

From that simple fact, we naturally leap to “Who’s a pretty Olly then?”

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