Elizabeth Cromwell

Is your surname Cromwell?

Research the Cromwell family

Elizabeth Cromwell's Geni Profile

Share your family tree and photos with the people you know and love

  • Build your family tree online
  • Share photos and videos
  • Smart Matching™ technology
  • Free!


Elizabeth Cromwell (Bourchier)

Birthplace: Felstead, Essex, England
Death: Died in Northborough, Cambridgeshire, England
Place of Burial: Ufford, Cambridgeshire, England, United Kingdom
Immediate Family:

Daughter of Sir Jame Bourchier, Kt. and Frances Bourchier
Wife of Oliver Cromwell, Lord Protector of the Commonwealth of England, Scotland, and Ireland
Mother of Robert Cromwell; Oliver Cromwell, Jr.; Bridget Fleetwood (Cromwell); Richard Cromwell, 2nd Lord Protector of England, Scotland and Ireland; Henry Cromwell, Lord Deputy of Ireland and 5 others

Managed by: Colleen Rose Keenan
Last Updated:

About Elizabeth Cromwell


Family and marriage[edit]

The Protectress was the daughter of Sir James Bourchier, Knt. of Felsted in Essex, who was a wealthy London leather merchant and his wife Frances Crane, daughter of Thomas Crane of Newton Tony, Wiltshire.[2] She was born on an unknown date in 1598. Elizabeth was the eldest of twelve children.[3]

Harris speaks of the Bourchiers as "an ancient family;" but Noble, who was better informed, is of a different opinion. It was only in 1610, he tells us, that Sir James obtained a grant of arms (Sable, three ounces in passant in pale or spotted)[4] and he adds that the only occasion when the arms of the Bourchiers were quartered with those of the Protector was at his funeral, when they appeared on the escutcheons.[5]

On 22 August 1620 at St.Giles, Cripplegate, London she married Oliver Cromwell.[6] The marriage produced nine children, eight of whom reached adulthood. The marriage to Elizabeth was very advantageous for Cromwell, as her father brought him into contact with the wealthy merchant community of London, and due to the extensive lands Sir James owned in Essex, this family association would later guarantee him much support from the influential families of the local puritan gentry. At the time of his marriage, however, Cromwell had not yet become an ardent puritan. Their marriage was happy, and they were devoted to one another. This can be attested by the solicitous love letters Cromwell wrote to Elizabeth while away on his military campaigns. Some of these were published in an anthology of love letters edited by Antonia Fraser in 1976.[7]

The abuse that was heaped on her husband has naturally been shared by Elizabeth. The Cavaliers styled her contemptuously Joan, and accused her of every manner of vice, among which drunkenness and adultery were the most prominent. As the charges, however, appear to have been without foundation, the libels fell probably harmless.[8]

She is known to have been introduced to Charles I, at the time that the unfortunate monarch was a prisoner at Hampton Court, and on good terms with her husband: Ashburnham took her by the hand and presented her to the King, by whom, together with the ladies of Ireton and Whalley, she was afterwards entertained.[9]

Elizabeth Cromwell, widow of the Protector, after surviving her illustrious husband fourteen years, died in the house of her son in law, Mr. Claypole, at Norborough, in Northamptonshire, on 8th of October 1672. She was the daughter of Sir James Bourchier, a wealthy London merchant, who possessed a country house and considerable landed estates at Felsted, in Essex. Granger, who would, by no means, be inclined to flatter Elizabeth, admits that she was a woman of enlarged understanding and elevated spirit. 'She was an excellent housewife,' he continues, 'as capable of descending to the kitchen with propriety, as she was of acting in her exalted station with dignity; certain it is, she acted a much more prudent part as Protectress than Henrietta did as queen.

She educated her children with ability, and governed her family with address.' A glimpse of the Protectorate household is afforded by the Dutch ambassadors, who were entertained at Whitehall in 1654. After dinner, Cromwell led his guests to another room, then the Lady-Protectress, with other ladies, came to them, and they had 'music, and voices and a psalm.' Heath, in his Flagellum, 'the little, brown, lying book' stigmatised by Carlyle, acknowledges that Cromwell was a great lover of music, and entertained those that were most skilled in it, as well as the proficients in every other science. But this admission is modified by the royalist writer taking care to remind his readers that 'Saul also loved music.'

At a period when the vilest scurrility passed for loyalty and wit, we hear no evil report of Elizabeth Cromwell. No doubt her conduct was most carefully watched by her husband's enemies, and the slightest impropriety on her part would have speedily been blazoned abroad; yet no writer of the least authority throws reproach on her fair fame. It may he concluded, then, that though probably plain in person, and penurious in disposition, she was a virtuous, good wife and mother. In Cowley's play, The Cutter of Coleman Street, there is an allusion to her frugal character and want of beauty, where the Cutter, sneeringly describing his friend Worm, says: 'He would have been my Lady-Protectress' poet; he writ once a copy in praise of her beauty; but her highness gave nothing for it, but an old half-crown piece in gold, which she had hoarded up before these troubles, and that discouraged him from any further applications to court.'

It is a curious though unexplained fact, that we find none of her relatives taking part in the great civil war, nor even any of them employed under the Protectorate administration of public affairs. Nor has any indisputably genuine portrait of Elizabeth been handed down to us, so that the only representation of her features that we have, though universally considered to be a likeness, is found as the frontispiece of one of the most rare and curious of cookery-books, published in 1664, and entitled The Court and the Kitchen of Elizabeth, commonly called Joan Cromwell, the Wife of the late Usurper, truly Described and Represented.

The accompanying illustration is a copy of this singular frontispiece. The reader will notice a monkey depicted at one side of the engraving, and probably may wonder why it was placed there. In explanation, it must be said that the old engravers sometimes indulged in a dry kind of humour, of which this is an example. There is an old vulgar proverb that cannot well be literally repeated at the present day, but its signification is, that on the ground a monkey is passable enough, but the higher it climbs, the more its extreme ugliness becomes apparent. The animal, then, emblematises an ignorant upstart; and as the work is a satire as well as a cookery-book, the monkey is an apposite emblem of one who, according to the author's opinion, ‘was a hundred times fitter for a barn than a palace.'

From the peculiar style and matter of this book, one is inclined to think that its author had been a master-cook under the royal regime, and lost both his office and perquisites by the altered state of affairs. Or he may have been a discarded servant of Elizabeth herself, for his various observations and anecdotes evince a thorough knowledge of the Protectorate household. Indeed this is the only value the book now possesses, and it must not be forgotten that the only fault or blame implied against Elizabeth by this angry satirist, is her 'sordid frugality and thrifty baseness.'

When the Protectress took possession of the palace of Whitehall, our culinary author tells us that 'She employed a surveyor to make her some little labyrinths and trap-stairs, by which she might, at all times, unseen, pass to and fro, and come unawares upon her servants, and keep them vigilant in their places and honest in the discharge thereof Several repairs were likewise made in her own apartments, and many small partitions up and down, as well above stairs as in the cellars and kitchens, her highnessship not being yet accustomed to that roomy and august dwelling, and perhaps afraid of the vastness and silentness thereof. She could never endure any whispering, or be alone by herself in any of the chambers. Much ado she had, at first, to raise her mind and deportment to this sovereign grandeur, and very difficult it was for her to lay aside those impertinent meannesses of her private fortune; like the Bride Cat, metamorphosed into a comely virgin, that could not forbear catching at mice, she could not comport with her present condition, nor forget the common converse and affairs of life. She very providently kept cows in St. James's Park, erected a dairy in Whitehall, with dairy-maids, and fell to the old trade of churning butter and making buttermilk. Next to this covey of milkmaids, she had another of spinsters and sewers, to the number of six, who sat most part of the day in "her privy chamber sewing and stitching: they were all of them ministers' daughters."

The dishes used at Cromwell's table, of which our author gives the receipts, sufficiently prove that the magnates of the Commonwealth were not insensible to the charms of good living. Scotch collops of veal was a very favourite dish, and marrow puddings were usually in demand at breakfast. The remains, after the household had dined, were alternately given to the poor of St. Margaret's, Westminster, and St. Martin's in the Fields, 'in a very orderly manner without babble or noise.'

On great feast-days, Cromwell would call in the soldiers on guard, to eat the relics of his victuals. We are also told, but surely it must be a scullery scandal, that the time honoured perquisite of kitchen-stuff was endangered, under the rule of the Protectress, she wishing to have it exchanged for candles. Nor was she less penurious with her husband's comforts; we are informed that: 'Upon Oliver's rupture with the Spaniards, the commodities of that country grew very scarce, and oranges and lemons were very rare and dear. One day, as the Protector was private at dinner, he called for an orange to a loin of veal, to which he used no other sauce, and urging the same command, was answered by his wife that oranges were oranges now, that crab [Seville] oranges would cost a groat, and, for her part, she never intended to give it.'

The reason assigned by the Protectress for 'her frugal inspection and parsimony, was the small allowance and mean pittance she had to defray the household expenses. Yet, she was continually receiving presents from the sectaries; such as Westphalia hams, neats' tongues, puncheons of French wines, runlets of sack, and all manner of preserves and comfits.'

It could not he expected that any cook of eminence would serve in such an establishment, and so this chronicler of the backstairs lets us know, that Cromwell's cook was a person of no note, named Starkey, who deservedly came to grief in a very simple manner. One day, when the lord mayor was closeted with the Protector on business of importance, this Starkey, forgetting his high office and professional dignity, took the lord mayor's swordbearer into the cellar, treacherously intending to make that important official drunk and incapable. But Starkey overrated his own prowess, while underrating that of his guest; for the well trained bacchanal of the city was little affected by the peculiar atmosphere of the cellar, while Starkey, becoming drunk and disorderly, was overheard by the Protector, and ignominiously discharged upon the spot.

The only state or expense indulged by the Protectress was 'the keeping of a coach, the driver of which served her for caterer, for butler, for serving-man, and for gentleman usher, when she was to appear in any public place.' And our author adds, that she had ' horses out of the army, and their stabling and livery in her husband's allotment out of the Mews, at the charge of the state; so that it was the most thrifty and unexpensive pleasure and divertisement, besides the finery and honour of it, that could be imagined. For it saved many a meal at home, when, upon pretence of business, her ladyship went abroad; and carrying some dainty provant for her own and her daughters' own repast, she spent whole days in short visits, and long walks in the air; so that she seemed to affect the Scythian fashion, who dwell in carts and wagons, and have no other habitations.'

The more we read of this scurrilous attack on a prudent mistress, a good wife, and mother, the more we are inclined to admire her true and simple character. It is pleasant to contemplate the Lady-Protectress leaving her palace and banquets of state, to take a long country drive, and a sort of picnic-dinner with her daughters. Nor does our author fail, in some instances, to give her credit for good management; he says that:

   ‘Her order of eating and meal-times was designed well to the decency and convenience of her service. For, fist of all, at the ringing of a bell, dined the halberdiers, or men of the guard, with the inferior officers. Then the bell rung again, and the steward's table was set for the better sort of those that waited on their highnesses. Ten of whom were appointed to a table ore mess, one of which was chosen by themselves every week for a steward, and he gave the clerk of the kitchen a bill of fare, as was agreed generally every morning. To these ten men, and what friends should casually come to visit them, the value of ten shillings, in what flesh or fish so ever they would have, with a bottle of sack, and two of claret was appointed. But, to prevent after-comers from expecting anything in the kitchen, there was a general rule that if any man thought his business would detain him beyond dinner-time, he was to give notice to the steward of his mess, who would set aside for him as much as his share came to, and leave it in the buttery.'

The utmost malignity of the royalists, then, could say no more against the Lady-Protectress, than that she was a thrifty housewife, giving her the appellation of Joan, the vulgar phrase for a female servant. And there is every reason to conclude that Elizabeth Cromwell was a wife well worthy of her illustrious partner.


  • Birth : 1598

daughter of Sir James Bourchier

  • Death : 1665

Union : CROMWELL Oliver ( 1599 - 1658 ) Marriage : 1620

Children :

  1. CROMWELL Robert ( 1621 - 1639 )
  2. CROMWELL Oliver ( 1623 - 1644 )
  3. CROMWELL Bridget ( 1624 - 1662 )
  4. CROMWELL Richard ( 1626 - 1712 )
  5. CROMWELL Henry ( 1628 - 1674 )
  6. CROMWELL Elizabeth ( 1629 - 1658 )
  7. CROMWELL James ( 1632 - 1632 )
  8. CROMWELL Mary ( 1637 - 1713 )
  9. CROMWELL Frances ( 1638 - 1720 )

"Source:" http://hipweb.cambridgeshire.gov.uk/cromwellcollection/genealogy/fiches/fiche7.htm#f152

From Darryl Lundy's Peerage page on Elizabeth Bourchier:


Elizabeth Bouchier [1]

  • F, #19548,
  • b. 1598,
  • d. 19 November 1665
  • Last Edited=8 Jan 2012

Mrs Elizabeth Cromwell [2]

Elizabeth Bouchier was born in 1598.[2] She was the daughter of Sir James Bouchier.[1]

She married Oliver Cromwell, son of Robert Cromwell and Elizabeth Steward, in 1620.

She died on 19 November 1665 at Norborough, Peterborough, Northamptonshire, England.[3]

Her married name became Cromwell.

Children of Elizabeth Bouchier and Oliver Cromwell

  • 1. Robert Cromwell [4] b. 1621, d. 1639
  • 2. Oliver Cromwell [4] b. 1622, d. 1644
  • 3. Bridget Cromwell [4] b. Aug 1624, d. Jun 1662
  • 4. Richard Cromwell+[4] b. 4 Oct 1626, d. 12 Jul 1712
  • 5. Henry Cromwell+[4] b. 20 Jan 1627/28, d. 23 Mar 1674
  • 6. Elizabeth Cromwell+[1] b. 2 Jul 1629, d. 6 Aug 1658
  • 7. Mary Cromwell [4] b. 9 Feb 1636/37, d. 14 Mar 1712/13
  • 8. Frances Cromwell+[4] b. 1638, d. 1720


  • 1. [S15] George Edward Cokayne, editor, The Complete Baronetage, 5 volumes (no date (c. 1900); reprint, Gloucester, U.K.: Alan Sutton Publishing, 1983), volume III, page 3. Hereinafter cited as The Complete Baronetage.
  • 2. [S3409] Caroline Maubois, "re: Penancoet Family," e-mail message to Darryl Roger Lundy, 2 December 2008. Hereinafter cited as "re: Penancoet Family."
  • 3. [S15] George Edward Cokayne, The Complete Baronetage, volume III, page 4.
  • 4. [S1169] Rosie Davis, "re: Burrard Family," e-mail message to Darryl Lundy, 16 September 2004 - 12 June 2005. Hereinafter cited as "re: Burrard Family."
view all 14

Elizabeth Cromwell's Timeline

Felstead, Essex, England
Age 23
Age 25
August 1, 1624
Age 26
Huntingdon, Huntingdonshire (Present Cambridgeshire), England, (Present UK)
October 4, 1626
Age 28
Huntingdon, Huntingdonshire, England, United Kingdom
January 20, 1628
Age 30
Huntingdon, Cambridgeshire, England, United Kingdom
January 20, 1628
Age 30
Huntingdon, Huntingdonshire, England
Age 31
Huntingdon, Huntingdonshire, England
Age 34
Huntingdon, Huntingdonshire, England