Who was Hampden?

In “Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard”, Thomas Gray refers to John Hampden (1594-1643). Hampden was the M.P. for Buckinghamshire during the reign of Charles-I who was the king of England from 1625 to 1649. Charles-I was a hot-headed king. He imposed new taxes on ship money without the approval of Parliament. Hamden protested against that new tax and organized the people not to pay the tax on ship money.

He was the cousin of Oliver Cromwell who fought against Charles-I and finally defeated the king. King’s people stabbed Hampden to death on Charlgrove Field. Hampden, thus, became a symbol of fearless protesters.

Gray refers to Hampden in his elegy to suggest that the unknown and humble village people were as fearless as Hampden though their area of protest was not as large and significant as that of Hampden. By this reference, Gray implies that the country suffered positive losses at the death of these rural people. This reference also glorifies the poor villagers and creates a sense of pathos.