Claypoole, Elizabeth (DNB00)

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CLAYPOOLE or CLAYPOLE, ELIZABETH (1629–1658), second daughter of Oliver Cromwell, was born on 2 July 1629 (Noble). Her marriage to John Claypoole [q. v.] took place in 1646. She was the favourite daughter of her father, to whom her spiritual condition seems to have caused some anxiety. On one occasion he writes to his daughter Bridget expressing his satisfaction that her sister Claypoole 'sees her own vanity and carnal mind, bewailing it, and seeks after what will satisfy' (Letter xli. 1646). But four years later he bade her mother warn her to 'take heed of a departing heart and of being cozened with worldly vanities and worldly company, which I doubt she is too subject to' (Letter clxxi.) According to several accounts she was too much exalted by her father's sovereignty, for which reason Mrs. Hutchinson terms her and all her sisters, excepting Mrs. Fleetwood, 'insolent fools.' Captain Titus writes to Hyde relating a remark of Mrs. Claypoole's at a wedding feast concerning the wives of the major-generals: 'The feast wanting much of its grace by the absence of those ladies, it was asked by one there where they were. Mrs. Claypole answered, "I'll warrant you washing their dishes at home as they use to do." This hath been extremely ill taken, and now the women do all they can with their husbands to hinder Mrs. Claypole from being a princess' (Clarendon State Papers, iii. 327; see also Hist. MSS. Comm. 5th Rep. 177). But according to the account of Harrington 'she acted the part of a princess very naturally, obliging all persons with her civility, and frequently interceding for the unhappy.' To her he applied with success for the restoration of the confiscated manuscript of 'Oceana' (Works, ed. Toland, xix.) According to Ludlow and Heath she interceded for the life of Dr. Hewit, but her own letter on the discovery of the plot in which he had been engaged throws a doubt on this story (Thurloe, vii. 171). Still she is said to have habitually interceded with her father for political offenders. 'How many of the royalist prisoners got she not freed? How many did not she save from death whom the laws had condemned?' (S. Carrington, Life and Death of his most Serene Highness Oliver, &c. 1659, p. 264). She was taken ill in June 1658, and her sickness was aggravated by the death of her youngest son, Oliver (Thurloe, vii. 177). The nature of her disease is variously stated: 'The truth is,' writes Fleetwood, 'it's believed the physicians do not understand thoroughly her case' (ib. 295, 309, 320, 340; Ludlow, 231; Bates, 233). Clarendon, Heath, Bates, and other royalist writers represent her as upbraiding her father in her last moments with the blood he had shed, &c. (Rebellion). The first hint of this report occurs in a newsletter of 16 Sept., where it is said that the Lady Claypoole 'did on her deathbed beseech his highness to take away the high court of justice' (Hist. MSS. Comm. 5th Rep. 143). She died on 6 Aug. 1658, and the 'Mercurius Politicus' in announcing her death describes her as 'a lady of an excellent spirit and judgment, and of a most noble disposition, eminent in all princely qualities conjoined with sincere resentments of true religion and piety.' She was buried on 10 Aug. in Henry VII's chapel in Westminster Abbey (Mercurius Politicus, 6 and 10 Aug.) After the Restoration her body was exhumed and cast with others into a pit at the back door of the prebendary's lodgings (12 Sept. 1661; Kennet, Register).

Of her children (three sons and one daughter) Cromwell died in May 1678 unmarried, Henry is said to have predeceased his brother, Oliver died in June 1658, and Martha in January 1664. None left issue.

[Noble's House of Cromwell; Carlyle's Letters and Speeches of Cromwell; Ludlow's Memoirs, 1751; Clarendon State Papers; Thurloe Papers.]

C. H. F.