2 May 1652

The marchioness of Ormonde – writing from Caen – to the Lord Protector, Oliver Cromwell


My Lord


Havinge by a very generall Fame resevede asshuranse of your Lordshipps inclinations to make use of your power for the oblidginge of such in generall as stand in Niede of protectione and assistanse from it, and havinge heard that some Expretions have fallene from you that maye give mee hope that I in my perticular maye bee thought by you not uncapabill of beinge made one of the instansess of that disposistione in you, I have adventured to make this address unto your Lordshipp for your favour, and to acquant you with my Condistione, and tharupon shall hope for your assistanse with that Clearnes and generositye wherwith I have heard you have oblidgede outhars in a State not unlike that I am in, your Lordshipp maye please to undarstand that thar desendede to mee ane Estate of inheritanse in Irland which togethar with the rest of My Lords Fortune is now by warr and pestelanse very much depopulatede and not Like to bee without much troubill profitabill for a Longe Time, yet out of this Estate it is that by your Lordshipps permistione and furtharanse I would propose to raise a Subsistanse for my Selfe and Chilldren if by your Lordshipp I shallbee incoridgede to indevour it and derectede how most advantagiouslye to applye my selfe to it, beinge outharwiss as ignorant how to goe about it as I am unabell to Compass it by tedious applications, soe as from bouth thes your Lordshipp may gathar how great ane obligatione you have in your power to plase upon mee, I desier My desier is to owe my acknowlegments in this perticular unto your Lordshipp, and to reseve your pleasure with such Passess for my selfe and Nesesarye attendants as you shall Judge Fitt, and that with what speede your Lordshipp shall think Convenient that accordinglie I maye prepare my selfe with thankfullnes to reseve the favour hearin Sought from you by


My Lord


your Lordshipps humbel Sarvant


Caen the 2nd of May                                       E:ormonde


Letter written by the marchioness of Ormonde –  from Caen – to the Lord Protector, Oliver Cromwell

© The Society of Antiquaries of London (SAL MS 138)

Letter written by the marchioness of Ormonde –  from Caen – to the Lord Protector, Oliver Cromwell

© The Society of Antiquaries of London (SAL MS 138)


Oliver Cromwell (1599-1658) was a country gentleman who became a soldier, statesman and finally Lord Protector of Great Britain in 1653 when the Parliament was dissolved.

Portrait of Oliver Cromwell (1599-1658), Studio of Peter Lely (1618-1680).

Courtesy of the Cromwell Museum, Huntingdon, UK

This letter represents an important turning point for the marchioness of Ormonde as she distanced herself from her exiled husband and his royalism in order to secure a portion of the confiscated Ormonde estate in her own right.


After the defeat of the Royalist army in Ireland, the marquis refused to accept terms from Cromwell and arrived on the Continent without any means to support himself or his family. It was in these precarious circumstances that Elizabeth began to consider petitioning Cromwell for a portion of the estate, as many other Royalist women were doing.

As she prepared to approach Lord Protector Cromwell, she gathered intelligence from her female friends in England to ensure that her petition was likely to be favourably received. A letter sent to her by a woman who signed herself ‘JH’ reported that the marchioness’s case had been discussed with ‘fair words’, with Cromwell showing his concern for her predicament. ‘JH’ also professed her hope that his government would be more civil to women than it had been hitherto. Armed with this information, Elizabeth finally wrote to Cromwell from Caen on 2 May 1652 seeking his permission to return to England and plead her case.


This lady is a person of soe much honor and meritt as I hope I need not presse any other Arguments for the shewing her any lawfull and just favour in this particular

– June 1653, Cromwell to General Thomas Fleetwood


The marchioness’s letter is deferential but not submissive. It seems to have been copied from a rough draft in her own elegant italic hand: it was evidently composed with great care. Throughout the letter the need to show humility before Cromwell is in tension with her sense of pride. This exposes the quandary in which she and other high-born Royalists found themselves as their livelihoods became the gift of their enemies. Elizabeth was an heiress, and her estate should not have been sequestered along with her husband’s. Yet she chose to overlook this right and instead opted to sue only for relief.

Elizabeth’s strategy was successful. She obtained the necessary passes to return to England and, on 1 February 1653, the Commissioners of Parliament in Ireland were instructed to set aside Dunmore House, Co. Kilkenny, with £2,000 per annum out of the lands of her own inheritance. This was for the use of her and her children on the condition that no part of the revenue would be diverted to her husband.