Restoration of Charles II Summary

  • Last updated on November 10, 2022

The restoration of the Stuart monarchy under King Charles II marked the end of an eighteen-year Interregnum, the revival of traditional Royalist institutions in England, and the failure of the republican experiment of the Commonwealth.

Summary of Event

The death of Oliver Cromwell in September, 1658, and the succession of his son Richard Cromwell, Richard —“Tumbledown Dick”—to the position of lord protector left England without effective leadership, either political or military. Richard Cromwell had little to recommend him as a statesman, and he did not have the confidence of the military commanders since, unlike his father, he was not a soldier. Although the army was torn by internal dissensions, it was able to maintain sufficient cohesion to prevent either Richard or his Parliament from being effective. The leaders of the army soon forced Richard to dissolve Parliament and retire from the post of lord protector. [kw]Restoration of Charles II (May, 1659-May, 1660) [kw]Charles II, Restoration of (May, 1659-May, 1660) Government and politics;May, 1659-May, 1660: Restoration of Charles II[1970] England;May, 1659-May, 1660: Restoration of Charles II[1970] Charles II (king of England);Restoration of

Because it was imperative to have some kind of civilian government, the leading army officers decided, in May of 1659, to reestablish the Rump Parliament Rump Parliament , that segment of the Long Parliament that had survived Pride’s Purge in 1648. Once restored, however, the civilian members of the Rump were far from showing gratitude to the army for having reinstated them. Immediately, they began to engage in obstructionist tactics that were designed to lessen the influence of the army upon the lives of the English people. John Lambert Lambert, John and Charles Fleetwood Fleetwood, Charles endeavored in vain to reestablish full military control of the government, but the army itself was being drastically weakened by internal dissension among officers, as well as among the rank and file.

By contrast, the army in Scotland was commanded by its military governor, General George Monck, Monck, George who had been remarkably successful in creating a strong unit based on mutual respect and trust between officers and men. This spirit had produced a fierce loyalty among men of all ranks to their commander. Monck himself remained an enigma, and no one knew for certain where he stood on the matter of the restoration of the Stuart monarchy. He did not aspire to become a military dictator in the style of Oliver Cromwell, but he was determined to bring order to English affairs. Monck was convinced that strong measures were needed if some kind of constitutional government were to be restored in England before the unstable political and military situation produced another civil war.

In January, 1660, Monck returned with his army to England and swiftly marched to London, surprising both his enemies and potential rivals. He made every effort to cooperate with the Rump Parliament, but he gradually began to use his influence within the army to reseat all the surviving members of the Long Parliament, including those who had been elected but had been unseated through Pride’s Purge. Monck arranged a meeting between the Rump and the other members. As a result of this meeting, the Long Parliament was restored. After this decisive move, it was generally assumed that the next step would be the dissolution of this Parliament followed by elections for a Convention Parliament Convention Parliament (1660) that would prepare the government and the nation for the recall of Charles II, the eldest surviving son of the executed Charles I, then living in exile in the Netherlands at the court of his brother-in-law, William II of Orange.

Crowds in London welcome Charles II upon his return from exile in France.

(Francis R. Niglutsch)

From January until May of 1660, Monck remained cautious despite strong pressure from members of his own family to declare his allegiance to Charles II. After the dissolution of the Long Parliament, Monck had a conference with Sir John Grenville, Grenville, Sir John who was actively working for the restoration of the monarchy. Grenville acknowledged that he was striving to effect the restoration of Charles II, and the general made a profession of joining the king’s cause. Caution was still necessary, since no one knew with certainty what the results of the elections for the Convention Parliament would be, and thus Grenville committed Monck’s message to King Charles to memory and then destroyed the notes before crossing the English Channel.

Grenville joined the king at Breda, in the Netherlands, and together they waited for news of the coming election. When Parliament had duly assembled, it indicated its willingness to recall Charles II. Grenville was ready immediately to deliver to Parliament the king’s statement, known as the Declaration of Breda Breda, Declaration of (1660) . This pronouncement had been drafted with the able assistance of Edward Hyde, later created earl of Clarendon, Clarendon, first earl of who had been in regular attendance on Charles II throughout his exile. In the declaration, every effort was made to show that the king intended to work with Parliament, and it was declared that he would give his assent to whatever Parliament would decide in those controversial matters concerning the pay of soldiers, settlement of Royalist property claims, and religious toleration.

Once most of the outstanding matters had been agreeably settled, Parliament proclaimed Charles II king and set into motion the necessary preparations to bring him home from Breda. Charles landed at Dover and then proceeded to London, which he entered on May 29, 1660. The restoration of the Stuart monarchy had been achieved without bloodshed or social upheaval.

In large part, this venture had proved successful because of the extraordinary man who entered his capital on his thirtieth birthday that May morning. Against the advice of many of his counselors, Charles had accepted the crown of Scotland in January, 1651, only to discover that he was to be used and then betrayed by some of the leaders of the Presbyterian faction. Defeated by Oliver Cromwell at the Battle of Worcester Worcester, Battle of (1651) on September 3, 1651, Charles II spent the next six weeks as a fugitive in his own realm. Protected by ordinary citizens, he eventually escaped to France.

Significance

Once restored in 1660, Charles rewarded the men and women who had risked everything to save him, and he did not forget the rare opportunity he had to discover the true nature of the English people. No ruler of England since Alfred the Great had had such an opportunity to share the lives of ordinary citizens, and the experience transformed Charles II. Throughout the quarter of a century that he governed England, even the critics of their sovereign had to admit that Charles II had “the common touch” and that he certainly was not cursed with the haughtiness that characterized his father, Charles I, his brother, James II, and his cousin, Louis XIV.

Blessed with the political acumen of his grandfathers, James I of England and Henry IV of France, Charles II was anxious to restore order and public confidence in the Crown as soon as possible. Always the pragmatist, he chose to forgive most of those who had participated in the execution of his father and the destruction of Royalist institutions in England. This forbearance ensured him of the loyalty of many old Cromwellians and the devotion of most of his subjects for the rest of his reign. The men who effected his Restoration were richly rewarded and honored by their king as long as they lived. Among the first to enjoy the royal bounty was George Monck, who was elevated to the peerage as first duke of Albemarle.

Further Reading
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Fraser, Lady Antonia. Royal Charles: Charles II and the Restoration. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1979. Particularly valuable for the period before the restoration. Fraser may be an apologist for Charles, but her book is entertaining, thoroughly researched, and well written.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Hause, Earl Malcolm. Tumbledown Dick: The Fall of the House of Cromwell. New York: Exposition Press, 1972. This is a detailed study of the reasons for the collapse of the Cromwellian system of government. The footnotes and bibliography are combined, making them difficult to use.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Hutton, Ronald. Charles II: King of England, Scotland, and Ireland. New York: Oxford University Press, 1989. A thoroughly researched and well-written account, this work is a perfect counter to Lady Antonia Fraser’s biography because Hutton is less admiring of his subject.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Hutton, Ronald. The Restoration: A Political and Religious History of England and Wales, 1658-1667. New York: Oxford University Press, 1985. A particularly useful work. Hutton offers the serious student an analysis of the politics and people of the era.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Keeble, N. H. The Restoration: England in the 1660’s. Malden, Mass.: Blackwell, 2002. The restoration is often described as a time of stability after the turmoil of the Civil Wars. However, Keeble argues that for people living in the 1660’, the restoration initially was a time of insecurity, with no sense of finality or assurance that Great Britain had entered a new age.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Miller, John. The Restoration and the England of Charles II. 2d ed. London: Longman, 1997. Examines the legacy of the Civil Wars, focusing on how the wars affected the reign of Charles II. Discusses the end of the Interregnum and the parliamentary settlements that restored Charles to power.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Morrah, Patrick. 1660: The Year of Restoration. Boston: Beacon Press, 1960. The events of 1660, both major and minor, are chronicled in detail, creating a complete picture of the restoration of Charles II. The bibliography and detailed references are particularly valuable.
Related Articles in <i>Great Lives from History: The Seventeenth Century</i>

Charles I; Charles II (of England); First Earl of Clarendon; Oliver Cromwell; James I; James II; John Lambert; Louis XIV; George Monck. Charles II (king of England);Restoration of

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