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  • Print publication year: 2020
  • Online publication date: October 2020

4 - Henry VIII’s Ghost in Cromwellian England

from Part I - Events and Temporalities


This chapter examines a group of closely related pamphlets published in the late 1650s around the time of Oliver Cromwell’s death that stage a dramatic dialogue in the crypt of St George’s Chapel, Windsor, between the ghosts of Henry VIII and the freshly interred Charles I. A Messenger from the dead (to give these anonymous English and Latin texts a collective title) advances the extraordinary claim that the recent civil wars, the regicide and the nation’s descent into political turmoil represent God’s delayed punishment for Henry VIII’s alleged crimes against the Catholic Church several generations earlier. I argue that this unorthodox thesis is not unique to Messenger but enjoyed a wider circulation in seventeenth-century culture. In asking who promoted and stood to benefit from such an explanation of recent events, I explore the significant differences among the various texts of the pamphlets, including their place of publication and ideological motivation.