UPDATE: Congratulations to all the clever readers who called that this was an April Fools' Day story! There is no genealogical evidence that Donald Trump has ancestral ties to Oliver Cromwell, though people have in fact compared The Donald to Cromwell in the articles cited towards the end of the story.
It appears that the love for ruling over a country in a despotic manner is written in Donald Trump’s genes.
Cromwell (1599 – 1658) was an English Member of Parliament and military leader who led the fight to defeat the Royalist forces in the English Civil War, signed King Charles I’s death warrant, and, for the last five years of his life, ruled as Lord Protector of England, Wales, Scotland and Ireland.
While there are some who claim he made England great, Cromwell is also perhaps the most hated figure in Irish history, having slaughtered tens of thousands of Irish men, women and children in the Siege of Drogheda in 1649 and mercilessly persecuting Catholics with the Penal Laws.
Trump, a 12th great-grandchild of Cromwell’s, is connected to his line through his Scottish mother, Mary Anne MacLeod. The connection has been confirmed as of today, April 1.
According to genealogists John Kerr and Philippa Hughes, Cromwell’s fourth great-granddaughter through his daughter Bridget’s line, issued six children. One of her daughters, Mary, gave birth to Duncan Smith, who was the father of Trump’s maternal fourth great-grandfather, Donald Smith.
Much has been made of Donald Trump’s ancestry in recent months, especially that his German family changed their surname from Drumpf to Trump. Because of the increased interest, Kerr and Hughes have been tracing the Scottish and British branches of his tree back farther and farther, but they say they were not expecting to find a link of this magnitude.
“We were utterly shocked when we made the connection,” Kerr told IrishCentral.
“But on another level, it makes sense,” Hughes said.
Historian Arthur O. Deal noted that a number of connections could be made between Cromwell’s rule and the traits Donald Trump has demonstrated so far in his quest to lead America.
“During his reign - and I do think that is the accurate word - Cromwell built all sorts of metaphorical walls around Britain,” Deal told IrishCentral, noting that Cromwell was “positively obsessed” with the idea of rebuilding the ancient Roman fortifications Hadrian’s Wall and the Antonine Wall and had plans to seek funding from Italy.
“As seen with his campaigns against Catholics, against the Irish, Cromwell was also immensely distrustful of anyone who could be classified as ‘other,’” he said. “Cromwell was no fool, but by all accounts he was very concerned with being taken seriously, as Trump appears to be.”
Trump and Cromwell also seem to fit the same bill as tyrants preoccupied with their own appearances.
Trump is known for his orange tanned skin and carefully constructed comb over the color of an Easter chick. What about Cromwell? In 2012, a chemical test by scientists at Exeter University of some small pots that belonged to him revealed that they once contained what, for the mid-17th century, would have been very high end cosmetic lotions made from olive oil and delicately fragranced. The discovery led to a number of articles re-thinking Cromwell as “obsessed with his appearance.”
Cromwell is also believed to have had smaller than average hands.
Kerr and Hughes declined to go into further detail when asked if they thought the connection to be fitting, though Kerr did acknowledge that Cromwell and Trump “would both be big personalities.”
Another surprise is that Trump is distant cousins with Hillary Clinton.
Their common ancestor, going 18 generations back, is John of Gaunt, the 14th century Duke of Lancaster. Clinton, however, is not related to Cromwell though she is related to Tom Jones the Welsh singer and apparently Justin Bieber and Rihanna.
Interestingly, a number of columnists have previously noted similarities in the philosophies and discursive styles of Trump and Cromwell.
Writing for Huffington Post Politics about the impact of Trump’s victories on a disbelieving media, Doug Ibendalh, former General Council for the Illinois Republican Party, said “Trump reminds one a bit of Oliver Cromwell admonishing England’s Rump Parliament in 1653 with these words:
‘You have sat too long here for any good you have been doing. Depart, I say, and let us have done with you. In the name of God, go.’”
And in a column for the MetroWest Daily News, James Johnston, Jr. observed:
“Trump is something very different in American political life. “The Donald” is a very rich guy who owes nothing to anybody. Trump apologizes for nothing, and like Oliver Cromwell, who famously said to an artist, “Paint me as I am, warts and all,” Donald really does not care what mere mortals, like political pundits, think of him."
What, if anything, this discovery will mean for the Trump campaign is unclear.
Cromwell, who persecuted Catholics in England, Scotland and Ireland, and whose army murdered 30,000 in the Siege at Drogheda, is a reviled figure in Ireland. He even coined the phrase “To Hell or to Connacht.”
In the UK, there is more controversy around his legacy, with some lauding him for setting Britain on the road towards becoming a parliamentary democracy, albeit through violent means, but many others viewing him as, essentially, a dictator.
By this morning, April 1, the Trump campaign has not yet responded to a request for comment.
This is a developing story, please check back later for updates.
Can you believe this? Will Trump’s connection to Cromwell have an impact on your perception of him? Share your thoughts in the comment section, below.