The Motives and Men behind the Restoration of Charles II in 1660

 “I stood in the Strand and beheld it, and blessed God. And all this was done without one drop of bloodshed, and by that very army which rebelled against him: but it was the Lord’s doing, for such a restoration was never mentioned in any history . . . nor so joyful a day and so bright as ever seen in this nation.” – John Evelyn, 29 May 1660[1]
The above quote describes Charles II’s triumphal entry into London on his thirtieth birthday after Parliament had voted to restore him to the throne. The restoration of Charles after the Interregnum came partially because the masses in England in 1660 were not ready for a republic, but mostly because of the oppressive nature of the Puritanical, military-dominated government. There were many who joined Charles II who had fought against his father, but had been horrified at the execution and most importantly at the Puritan rule that ensued after the regicide. The Army had ruled for eleven years and had enforced a tight system of strict, religious dogma on the people. This made Parliament and especially the army extremely unpopular with the masses.[2] Oliver’s son, Richard Cromwell’s failure to control the army resulted in his resignation on May 25, 1659 and a year of Parliamentary instability and military rule. General George Monck, governor of Scotland occupied London and helped create the Convention Parliament in April 1660 that restored Charles the following month. The restoration was not inevitable after the end of the protectorate, but it became the most likely option for the masses who wanted stability in government and for the army who wanted their position maintained.[3]
Cromwell had effectively ruled as a king in the absence of an official monarch. In 1653, he dissolved the Rump Parliament which had taken the place of the Long Parliament after Colonel Pride’s Purge in 1648. He then retained the same right of kings to summon Parliament at his discretion. Under Cromwell’s Protectorate, the military enforced the banning sports and Cromwell’s government even outlawed Christmas.[4] Richard’s Third Protectorate Parliament was unable to form a stable government, which led to Richard’s forced resignation by the army. The army then restored the Rump Parliament which nearly resulted in civil war within the army when Generals Charles Fleetwood and John Lambert kept the Rump out of the Parliament building and created a Committee of Safety to rule directly under them. This prompted General Monck to march southward from Scotland to restore order to the government which he feared was slipping into anarchy.[5]
Lambert’s army deserted him and Monck was able to take the capital without a fight, especially when Sir Thomas Fairfax declared his support for him.[6] Monck restored former members of the Long Parliament on the condition that they promised to dissolve themselves once elections were held. They remained true to their word and dissolved on March 16, 1660, but only after preparing legislation to restore Charles to the throne which the new Convention Parliament which was dominated by Royalists passed.[7] Charles landed at Dover on May 25 and entered London to the previously-quoted acclaim.
Charles’ restoration was made possible by the general royalist feeling among the people who had grown weary of the heavy-handed policies of the military dictatorship of the Commonwealth. When Monck rode south on his way to London, he was greeted everywhere with an outpouring of royalist sentiment by commoners who wanted their king back.[8] This no doubt had a profound influence on Monck’s decisions in the months leading up to the restoration. Although, by the spring of 1660, he had the backing of Parliament and the popular General Fairfax, he understood that ruling as Cromwell did would be unpopular and possibly dangerous. He also deserves a great deal of the credit for playing his hand well after taking over London and convincing restored, former, anti-monarchist MPs to hand the government over to Charles. These were former members of the Long Parliament who had been removed from their positions during Pride’s Purge of 1647, so to convince them to give up power and abide by elections was no small feat.[9]
His negotiations with Charles paved the way for a smooth transition. Without assurances by Charles that he would not target former Roundheads and their supporters for retribution for the side they took during the Civil War, many MPs would not have supported the restoration.[10] By issuing the Declaration of Breda on April 4, Charles promised pardons to those who fought against his father, confirmed land purchases made during the Interregnum, and liberty of conscience in religious matters. But, his promise to pay arrears to the Army were especially effective since he not only needed to win Parliament’s support for his return, but the Army’s as well.[11] The Army had practically ruled the country during the Interregnum and its grievances had caused much of the instability in government that had created the possibility of restoration in the first place.
Charles’ reception in London and the widespread popularity he received during the restoration period in 1660 showed that a strong majority of the English people wanted the Commonwealth abolished and their king restored. The harsh, Puritanical rule that the people experienced under the Army during the Interregnum had turned many against Parliament and convinced them that the dictatorship of monarchy was preferable to the dictatorship to militarized zealots. General Monck managed to achieve a bloodless restoration by moving slowly and assuring he had adequate support among the Army and Parliament before taking control of the government. He was also perceptive to the wishes of the people in facilitating the return of the king, rather than seizing power for himself. Charles also played his hand right by not showing vengeful intentions and pledging a pardon to those who killed his father. Overall, it was the will of the people that brought about the royal restoration in 1660. The political astuteness if not selflessness of Monck and the fact that Charles II was much more reasonable than his father caused the whole affair to remain relatively bloodless.





Bibliography

“Charles II,” royal.gov.uk, The Official Site of the British Monarchy.

F. M. S. McDonald, “The Timing of General George Monck's March into England, 1 January      1660,” The English Historical Review, 105 (April 1990): 363-376.


Goldie, Mark, Richard Ollard and Clare Jackson. “The Restoration (In Our Time, 15/2/01).”        Restoration Archive. YouTube. May 18, 2015, accessed April 5, 2016,   https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cP9xMnYEAW8.

Greaves, Richard L. Deliver Us from Evil: The Radical Underground in Britain. 1660-1663,        Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1986.

Roots, Ivan, “The Restoration of Charles II.” History Review 36 (March, 2000).    HistoryToday.com.

Stroud, Angus. Stuart England. London: Routledge, 1999.

 

Trueman, C. N. "Life in England under Oliver Cromwell"
            historylearningsite.co.uk. The History Learning Site, March 17, 2015

 






[1] Agnes Stroud, Stuart England, (London: Routledge, 1999), 154.
[2] Mark Goldie, Richard Ollard, Clare Jackson, “The Restoration (In Our Time, 15/2/01),” Restoration Archive, YouTube, May 18, 2015, accessed April 5, 2016, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cP9xMnYEAW8.
[3] Ivan Roots, “The Restoration of Charles II,” History Review 36 (March, 2000), reprinted in HistoryToday, http://www.historytoday.com/ivan-roots/restoration-charles-ii.
[4] Trueman, “Life in England.”
[5] F. M. S. McDonald, “The Timing of General George Monck's March into England, 1 January 1660,” The English Historical Review 105 (April 1990), 166-168.
[6] Richard L. Greaves, Deliver Us from Evil: The Radical Underground in Britain, 1660-1663, (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1986), 27-29.
[7] Ivan Roots, “The Restoration of Charles II,” History Review 36 (March, 2000), reprinted in HistoryToday, http://www.historytoday.com/ivan-roots/restoration-charles-ii.
[8] Roots, “The Restoration.”
[9] Roots, “The Restoration.”
[10] Roots, “The Restoration.”
[11] “Charles II,” royal.gov.uk, The Official Site of the British Monarchy, accessed April 11, 2016, http://www.royal.gov.uk/historyofthemonarchy/kingsandqueensoftheunitedkingdom/thestuarts/charlesii.aspx.

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