English Civil War and Interregnum
ENGLISH CIVIL WAR AND INTERREGNUM
ENGLISH CIVIL WAR AND INTERREGNUM. There was nothing inevitable about the armed conflict that broke out between King Charles I (ruled 1625–1649) and Parliament in 1642. That conflict was made possible in the first instance by the long-term weakness of the English monarchy. Lacking a standing army or a paid bureaucracy, the monarch was powerless to coerce his or her subjects. Without adequate income from legal sources, including parliamentary taxation, he or she lacked also financial power. The early Stuarts had attempted to augment their incomes by levying impositions (surcharges on existing customs duties), exacting forced loans, exploiting feudal fiscal privileges, and inventing a new form of nonparliamentary taxation known as ship money. These high-handed fiscal practices, combined with increasing resort to arbitrary arrest and imprisonment and other absolutist practices, provoked resentment among large segments of the nobility, gentry, lawyers, and merchants who comprised the political nation.
Charles I found parliaments as exasperating as they found him. When in 1629 he dissolved his third Parliament, he promised himself that he would never call another. He might well have succeeded in his ambition to govern as an absolute king had it not been for the problem of multiple kingdoms. As well as being king of England, he was lord of Ireland and king of Scotland as well. During the ensuing decade he decided to bring Scottish religious practice into line with English by substituting an Anglican order of service for the Presbyterian directory of worship. In 1638 the Scots rose up and threw out the new service book. Charles's two attempts to subdue them by military force in the Bishops' Wars of 1639 and 1640 were abject failures. Revenues from the collection of ship money dried up, and his English soldiers deserted in droves. At the insistence of the nobility and with nowhere else to turn, he summoned Parliament. Once convened, the Commons refused him the taxes he desperately needed, voting instead what they termed a "brotherly assistance" to the Scots. Parliament then set about dismantling the apparatus of prerogative government by abolishing ship money and the prerogative courts of Star Chamber, High Commission and Wards, and the Council of the North. They also passed the Triennial Act requiring a new Parliament every three years (the present Parliament excepted), deprived the church courts of their punitive powers, and attainted Charles's chief minister, Thomas Wentworth, earl of Strafford (1593–1641), of treason. Charles ratified all these changes, including the beheading of Strafford, but with such ill grace that many doubted that he would keep his word.
Trust became a critical issue with the outbreak of rebellion in Ireland in the fall of 1641. As lord-lieutenant, Strafford had governed that realm with a heavy hand. When he departed for England in 1640 to advise Charles on his crisis with Scotland and Parliament, Strafford left behind a political vacuum. That combined with resentment over Charles's failure to guarantee the Catholic inhabitants security of tenure on their estates and fear of the resurgent strength of political Puritanism in England to set off an explosion in the northern province of Ulster, which rapidly spread to the rest of Ireland. Wildly exaggerated reports of appalling atrocities and a Protestant death toll of 150,000 or more (in reality deaths were somewhere between 3,000 and 12,000) inflamed English opinion. There was universal agreement that an army should be mustered at once to put down the rebellion and exact vengeance, but there was no agreement about who should be entrusted with the command of that army—a general nominated by the king or by Parliament? Charles's attempt on 5 January 1642 to arrest five of the parliamentary ringleaders, whom he suspected of plotting to impeach the queen, together with the rumor that he had actually authorized the Ulster Catholics to rise in rebellion only deepened parliamentary distrust toward him. Preparations for armed conflict had already begun when Parliament issued its ultimatum known as the Nineteen Propositions in June 1642. The demands included parliamentary control over appointments to the privy council and all other great offices of state, parliamentary control over the education and marriages of the king's children, denial of the right to vote for "popish Lords" in the House of Peers, no creation of peers without parliamentary consent, parliamentary direction of foreign policy, and parliamentary control of the army. It was nothing less than a demand for sovereignty and the reduction of Charles's status to that of constitutional monarch. His rejection of the Nineteen Propositions led directly to civil war in the fall of 1642.
THE CIVIL WAR, 1642–1646
Things had come to this pass largely because of the fear that the king could not be counted on to defend his kingdom against the military and political menace of international Catholicism. This menace was exemplified in English Protestant minds by the expulsion of the king's daughter and son-in-law from Bohemia (29 October 1620), and from the Palatinate Electorate (13 February 1623) and by the military pressure of a resurgent Counter-Reformation Catholicism on the United Provinces. Far from being the Protestant champion that the political classes expected, Charles was regarded by many as a cryptopapist. Legal and constitutional arguments about sovereignty therefore were inflamed by religious passion. Religion more than any other single factor brought thousands of men to rally to the standard of king or Parliament; to write, debate, and risk their lives; and to kill one another by the tens of thousands over the next decade.
If the civil wars were in one sense the last of Europe's wars of religion, they were also in their early phase a baronial conflict, a renewal under different emblems of the fifteenth-century Wars of the Roses. The earls of Essex, Warwick, Bedford, and Manchester, viscount Saye and Sele, and barons Wharton and Brooke all had their personal grievances against Charles and their reasons for striving to reduce his power as well as the power of the nobility who surrounded and sustained him. Until 1645 the parliamentary armies and navy were led by aristocrats, and it was at all times the king's view that the nobility, in particular "the chief rebel" Robert Devereux, earl of Essex (1591–1646), had instigated the civil war.
THE NAVY AND LONDON: FACTORS IN PARLIAMENT'S VICTORY
Parliament got off to a quick start in preparing for war with the king. First it maneuvered him into accepting Robert Rich, earl of Warwick (1587–1658), instead of his own nominee for lord high admiral. Tough and popular with the seamen, Warwick acted decisively to take control of the navy for Parliament. As Edward Hyde, earl of Clarendon (1609–1674), later lamented, "This loss of the whole navy was of unspeakable ill consequence to the king's affairs" (The History of the Rebellion and the Civil Wars in England).
In addition, Parliament browbeat Charles into accepting its nominee for lieutenant of the Tower of London, the nation's chief fortress, arsenal, mint, and treasury. The City was also the scene of impassioned political activity from 1640 onward. In December of that year Londoners spearheaded the Root and Branch Petition demanding the radical reform of the church. Frequently between 1640 and 1642 urban crowds demonstrated outside the House of Lords, attempting to prevent bishops and moderate or royalist peers from sitting, denouncing the earl of Strafford, and intimidating others into passing legislation such as the bill on church reform. At the same time Charles's careless disregard of the economic interests of the City during the previous decade led to a victory for radical Parliamentarians in the municipal elections of December 1641. They gave sanctuary to the Five Members (John Pym, William Strode, Denzil Holles, John Hampden, and Sir Arthur Hesilrige) the following month and created a Committee of Safety to shield the City from royalist attack. Through their friends in Parliament they got Philip Skippon (d. 1660), a trusty commander with continental experience, commissioned as commander of the City Trained Bands. Through these measures London was won for Parliament before civil war broke out. Over the next several months London was an enthusiastic source of recruits. Before the first battle at Edgehill in October 1642, eight thousand citizens and apprentices enlisted in the earl of Essex's army.
London was the nation's leading port and an inexhaustible source of manpower. It was also an economic powerhouse, a "shop of war" as John Milton (1608–1674) termed it in Areopagitica (1644). London tradespeople and their employees manufactured tens of thousands of swords, muskets, pikes, shirts, shoes, socks, coats, and helmets for the parliamentary war effort. Thanks to the banking facilities of the great merchants, Parliament was able to reach into some deep pockets to finance these purchases. It was also able to take out vast loans, tap into the bulk of the customs revenue, and raise large sums from the excise and income taxes known as the assessments from the metropolis. As Thomas Hobbes (1588–1679) pithily observed in his Behemoth, "But for the city the Parliament never could have made the war" (p. 202).
BATTLE OF EDGEHILL, 23 OCTOBER 1642
By the time the two armies clashed in their first major battle, the king's strength was almost up to that of Parliament (fourteen thousand to about fifteen thousand respectively). In one respect the battle can be considered a draw since the armies fought each other to a standstill. More significant was Essex's withdrawal in the direction of Warwick, leaving the road to London open to the king. The royalist army pressed toward the capital, but the citizens, inspired by the personal recruiting of the earl of Essex, turned out en masse at Turnham Green, a few miles west of the capital, to stop its advance in November 1642.
The first taste of the horrors of war prompted many in the City and in Parliament to become advocates of peace. The alarming prospect of continuing bloodshed, rising unemployment, and a shivering winter owing to the cutting off of coal supplies from Newcastle helped to bring about the peace negotiations at Oxford in early 1643. The war party under John Pym (1584–1643) and William Fiennes, viscount Saye and Sele (1582–1662), was strong enough, however, to undermine these negotiations, and the war resumed.
For most of the war's second year, 1643, the royalists' armies fared better than Parliament's. Although Essex captured Reading in April, he failed to follow up his victory by besieging Oxford. In the north William Cavendish, marquis of Newcastle (1592–1676), mopped up much of Yorkshire and North Lincolnshire. On 29 June 1643 he won a big victory at Adwalton Moor, Yorkshire, against the army of Ferdinando Lord Fairfax (1584–1648) and his son Thomas Fairfax (1612–1671). In the Southwest, Sir Ralph Hopton (1596–1652), later Lord Hopton, chalked up impressive territorial gains for the king while conducting a series of running engagements with Sir William Waller (c. 1597–1668), the emerging darling of the war party at Westminster. Finally, at Roundway Down near Devizes on 14 July 1643, Waller's army was completely routed, and the king had complete control of the West. The yielding of Bristol, the second port in the kingdom, by Lord Saye's son Nathaniel Fiennes (1608?–1669) completed the catalog of setbacks and threw the parliamentary war party into disarray. On the one hand they had become increasingly restive under Essex's lackluster leadership; on the other they were intensely embarrassed by the dismal showing of their own mascots, Waller and Fiennes. Moreover, in July the attempt to mobilize the London populace into a volunteer army under the banner of a "general rising" against the royalists was a flop. It took all the organizing genius of Pym and the war party to resist the mounting demands for peace in August and to secure support for new taxes and conscription to rehabilitate the parliamentary war effort.
THE SCOTTISH CONTRIBUTION: BATTLE OF MARSTON MOOR, 2 JULY 1644
What finally turned the tide for Parliament was Pym's supreme accomplishment: an alliance with Scotland. In return for a promise to introduce the Presbyterian form of church government into England, the Scots came to Parliament's aid with an army of 21,500 well-trained troops. The bargain was sealed in the Solemn League and Covenant in the fall of 1643, and the Scots army entered England early in 1644.
The king meanwhile gained no comparable benefit from the treaty he signed with the Irish confederates in September 1643. Several thousand Irish troops streamed across the Irish Sea in small contingents, but the only significant body was destroyed and dispersed by Sir Thomas Fairfax at Nantwich, Cheshire, in January 1644. From then on the royalists were constantly trying to shore up crumbling positions.
The decisive turning point of the first civil war was the Battle of Marston Moor, just outside York, on 2 July 1644. The Scots, having overrun the city of Newcastle, laid siege to the royalist garrison at York. The Fairfaxes were also there with their northern army, five thousand strong. They were joined by Edward Montagu, earl of Manchester (1602–1671), and Oliver Cromwell (1599–1658), who brought eight thousand men of the Eastern Association Army. These three armies made up a coalition force numbering about twenty-seven thousand soldiers. They were challenged by a royalist army of fourteen thousand under Prince Rupert (1619–1682) and four thousand under the marquis of Newcastle. The battle was an overwhelming Parliamentarian-Scottish victory. The cream of the royalist infantry, Newcastle's Whitecoats, were wiped out, York surrendered within a fortnight, and the North was lost.
THE SELF-DENYING ORDINANCE AND THE NEW MODEL ARMY
Parliament, however, did not preserve the momentum of this great victory. A peculiar lethargy settled on the aristocratic generals. Manchester, appalled by the carnage of the battlefield, brooded that "if we fight [the king] 100 times and beat him 99 he will be King still, but if he beat us but once . . . we shall be hanged . . . and our posterities be undone" (The Quarrel between the Earl of Manchester and Oliver Cromwell, vol. 12, p. 93). Parliament's advantage was almost frittered away by Essex when he allowed his army to become trapped by Charles at Lostwithiel, Cornwall (September 1644). In the capital there were bitter recriminations and much political infighting in the wake of Essex's defeat. The shame of Lostwithiel extinguished almost all the political influence that remained to the earl. Waller's disgrace was almost as great on account of his sluggishness in coming to Essex's rescue. When at Newbury the combined forces of Essex, Waller, and Manchester failed again to deliver a knockout blow to the main royalist army, the war party's patience finally wore out. The voices became louder demanding a purge of Parliament's military leadership and the unification of its armies under a new, centralized command.
The Self-Denying Ordinance was introduced in Parliament by Zouch Tate, a Presbyterian supporter of the war party and member of the Committee for the Army, in December 1644 but was not passed until the following April. Under its terms the members of both houses were required to surrender all commissions, military and civil. While its passage was stalled in the Lords, the war party in the Commons set about to pull the rug from under the old commanders by depriving their armies of funding and constructing a new army on the ruins of the old. The new army's commander in chief was Sir Thomas Fairfax, barely thirty-three years old but without the political baggage of his counterparts in the other armies.
Against the backdrop of these military preparations, the futility of the peace negotiations at Uxbridge was starkly exposed. Parliament demanded that the king should take the covenant, assent to the abolition of bishops and the Book of Common Prayer, and establish Presbyterianism in England. Parliament further demanded that the militia and the navy should be permanently under its control. Regarding Ireland, the treaty with the Irish Confederates was to be abrogated, and the war against the Irish was to be fought by Parliament alone. Parliament knew these demands were impossible for the king to accept. Not only had he promised his wife not to yield on the first two, he was at that very moment in secret talks with the insurgents to send him troops, promising in return to repeal the laws against Catholics. The Uxbridge negotiations wound up on 22 February, having achieved nothing.
Both sides continued to arm themselves for the new fighting season. Three months after the houses had approved his officer list, Fairfax also asked them to exempt Oliver Cromwell from the Self-Denying Ordinance so that he could fill the vacant post of lieutenant general of the cavalry. Cromwell rode into the camp of the New Model Army (so-called because it was "newly modeled" out of the three previous armies of Manchester, Essex, and Waller, although it was referred to in official documents as the Army of Sir Thomas Fairfax) the day before the Battle of Naseby (14 June 1645). In spite of the low opinion among royalists of the New Model Army, Rupert advised against giving battle, largely on account of the failure of George Goring (1608–1657) to obey orders to bring his five thousand cavalry from Taunton. Charles overruled Rupert in the belief that a battle could not be avoided. On Naseby Field a royalist army of barely nine thousand faced a parliamentary force of fifteen thousand. In a little more than two hours the battle's outcome was decided. The royalist cavalry was routed, and most of its infantry surrendered.
More damaging to the king than the loss of his main army was the capture of his secret correspondence. Its contents were a time bomb that was detonated less than a month later with the publication of excerpts under the title The Kings Cabinet Opened. Charles's letters, many of them to or from his wife Henrietta Maria (1609–1669), filled readers with a thrill of horror as they read of his double-dealing and his pathetic desire to please his wife. The letters also brought into the full light of day Charles's tireless efforts to secure outside aid, including that of the Irish Catholic Confederation. Equally they exposed the king's deep distrust of his own people and documented his willingness to take away all penal laws against Catholics in order to recruit more soldiers for his cause. No longer would Protestants in England give credence to his assertions that he was the stout defender of their faith.
After Naseby the New Model Army mopped up the West, destroying Goring's cavalry at Langport in July and taking Bristol from Rupert in September. In Scotland, James Graham, marquis of Montrose (1612–1650), after winning five brilliant victories for the king, was decisively defeated at Philiphaugh. Over the succeeding months dozens of towns and garrisons fell like bowling pins before Fairfax's inexorable advance until, in June 1646, Oxford, the royalist headquarters, surrendered. Before that happened Charles disguised himself and rode to Newark, where he gave himself up to the Scots. He then embarked on a long policy of divide and rule among his victorious foes, which bore fruit in a secret engagement with the Scots in December 1647. Simultaneously the charade of peace negotiations was repeated, this time at Newcastle, where the Scots housed Charles. The parliamentary commissioners presented him with a long list of councillors, field officers, and bishops who were to be denied pardon and others who were to be barred from public office for life. Worse still, Parliament would have divided the nation into sheep and goats and created a resentful and embittered royalist faction that might have perpetuated itself indefinitely. Now that the king's capacity to do harm was gone, he actually rose in public esteem, while at the same time the unprecedented weight of Parliament's taxation, the all-encompassing tyranny of its county committees, and the impact of its huge armies on the civil population across the breadth of England rendered it increasingly unpopular after six years of uninterrupted sitting.
As the barren talks at Newcastle wound to their foreordained conclusion, Parliament attempted to address the domestic problems that had made it so bitterly resented. The bishops' lands were put up for sale in the hope of paying off the Scots and replenishing the exhausted treasury. Denzil Holles (1599?–1680?) and Sir Philip Stapleton (1603–1647), the political heirs of Essex, who had died in September 1646, moved to disband the New Model Army with only a fraction of its arrears. Their goal was twofold—to relieve the tax burden and to eliminate the chief pillar of support for the war party, now called the Independents.
In the face of the New Model Army's imminent extinction, radical Independents in the metropolis, soon to be known as Levellers, tried to rally support for it. The peace party, or Presbyterians, however, remained intransigent, going so far as to declare any soldiers who petitioned for their arrears and against disbandment "enemies to the state." By their hostility the Presbyterians provoked the army to revolt, seize the king, and invade London. All the while the senior officers struggled to moderate the revolutionary temper that had seized the army, but the Levellers sought to inflame it, egging on the rank and file to question their leaders' reluctance to force radical reform on Parliament. At Putney in October and November they succeeded in forcing a debate on their Agreement of the People, a draft constitution that would have established a republic, enlarged the franchise, enshrined freedom of conscience, and banned conscription for military service. With considerable difficulty, the Leveller challenge was put down.
THE SECOND CIVIL WAR, REVOLUTION, AND REGICIDE, 1648–1649
But this was not achieved before the king had dragged the country through a second harrowing experience of fire and the sword. In November 1647, while the army was thrashing out its internal differences and carrying on its argument with Parliament, Charles escaped from custody and took refuge on the Isle of Wight, where Colonel Robert Hammond (1621–1654) placed him under a polite form of house arrest. It was there that Charles negotiated an Engagement (26 December 1647) with a segment of the Scottish nobility for military intervention to restore him to his throne in return for a three-year embrace of Presbyterianism. Once the Engagement was sealed, the signal was sent out to prepare supporting uprisings throughout England. There was enough resentment against "parliamentary tyranny" to make the ground fertile for the insemination of such conspiracies. The uprisings did occur—in Kent, Essex, East Anglia, Yorkshire, and Wales—but they were ill-coordinated and occurred several weeks and months before James, Duke of Hamilton (1606–1649), in the teeth of much clerical opposition, could bring his poorly equipped army across the border. Cromwell and Fairfax quickly doused the royalist brushfires in England and Wales, while Cromwell dealt a devastating blow to the combined English and Scottish royalist armies at Preston (17 August 1648).
To the army's dismay, Parliament, rather than dictate terms to the twice-defeated monarch, reopened peace talks with him at Newport. Many of the officers had already made up their minds that Charles Stuart was a "man of blood" who should be put on trial for his crimes against the English people. At army headquarters Henry Ireton (1611–1651) drafted the Remonstrance of the Army, calling for the king's trial, the abolition of the monarchy, and the adoption of the Leveller program. Parliament brushed aside the Remonstrance and carried on negotiations with the king. The army then occupied London, and on 6 December Colonel Thomas Pride (d. 1658) was sent with a company of soldiers to exclude those members of the Commons who had supported the drafted Newport Treaty. The purged house, soon to be known as the Rump, now set up the High Court of Justice to try the king. Charles refused either to plead or to acknowledge the court's jurisdiction; had he done so he might have saved his head. Recalcitrant to the end, he was sentenced to die as "a tyrant, traitor and murderer" (A Complete Collection of State Trials and Proceedings for High Treason, vol. 1, p. 1041). His beheading took place in the early afternoon of 30 January 1649 in front of his Whitehall Banqueting House. A deep, involuntary groan rose from the packed crowd at the moment when the executioner's axe severed his head from his body.
A republic or "commonwealth" was now instituted, and the monarchy and House of Lords were abolished. The Council of State was created in place of the royal privy council. No member of Parliament (M.P.) who would not sign an Engagement to support the new regime was allowed to sit. Gradually those who had boycotted the Commons after Pride's purge trickled back. The properties of crown and church as well as leading royalist "delinquents" were put up for sale. The crown lands went mostly to the army, the bishops' lands to London merchants, and the other properties mostly to local landowners. By the time of the Restoration, the royalists had recovered most of their lands.
With its house now in order, the republic turned its attention outward. High on its agenda was the conquest of Ireland, not least because the king's servant James Butler, marquis of Ormonde (1610–1688), had recently signed a treaty of mutual aid with the Catholic Confederation. Under the treaty Ireland would have enjoyed national autonomy, with full rights for Catholics, under English kingship. Had the treaty not been shattered by the Cromwellian conquest, it might have paved the way for an Ireland at peace with itself and with the rest of the world. The view from Westminster was different. Ireland was assumed to be a dependent kingdom and was viewed greedily as a field for colonization, while its popish religion was seen as nothing less than idolatry. Cromwell was given an army of twelve thousand troops and a handsome treasury with which to effect the conquest. When he landed near Dublin in mid-August, the commander of Dublin, Colonel Michael Jones (d. 1649), had already prepared the way for him by a great victory over Ormonde's forces at Rathmines, just outside the city.
With Dublin secure, Cromwell moved against the garrison at Drogheda on the River Boyne. When the garrison refused to surrender, Cromwell ordered it to be stormed. In the heat of battle he ordered all who were in arms in the town put to the sword. The resulting massacre totaled over three thousand soldiers, friars, and priests. He next moved south to Wexford, a base for privateering against English shipping. Owing to faulty communications, the city was stormed while negotiations for surrender were underway. The Irish death toll was about two thousand. Cromwell tried to assuage his guilty conscience for the massacres by expressing the hope that ruthlessness at the beginning would minimize bloodshed in the future. After an initial period of shock, however, the Irish kept on fighting. The country was devastated, with a death toll from hunger and disease reducing the population by about 20 percent. Ireland was not militarily subdued until the fall of 1652.
Cromwell was not there to witness Ireland's final surrender, for he had been recalled to England in May 1650. Because the Scots had hailed Charles II (ruled 1660–1685) as king of Scotland and England, the Council of State took the offensive by ordering an invasion of Scotland in order to forestall an invasion of England. Cromwell was given charge of the invasion force, numbering sixteen thousand men. Plagued by disease and desertion, his task was not easy. His sweeping victory at Dunbar (3 September 1650) was won against an army twice as large as his own. Between then and the summer of 1651 he extended his control over Scotland, which prompted Charles II to risk all on a desperate invasion of England. Cromwell caught up with him at Worcester and scattered his forces. The hapless king was lucky to escape with his life, spending a night in an oak tree before being led to the safety of a continental exile, where he spent the next nine years.
FROM COMMONWEALTH TO PROTECTORATE, 1652–1659
During all the time they had been away fighting the Commonwealth's wars, the army officers had not forgotten their expectations of religious and political reform. Victories had convinced them that they were the instruments of some tremendous divine destiny for which England had been singled out. The euphoria of the battlefield soon evaporated, however, as the army collided with the stubborn conservatism of the Rump Parliament. Interested less in reform than in waging a naval war against the Dutch, the Rump tried to balance its books by steadily whittling away the army's troop strength. As conditions worsened in London during the winter of 1652–1653 thanks to the Dutch naval blockade, the army took steps to protect itself by forcing a dissolution of Parliament and new elections. The Rump attempted to head off this threat by preparing its own Bill of Dissolution, stipulating that no army officer could be elected to the next Parliament but omitting sufficient safeguards against the election of royalists. Foreseeing the army's destruction if this bill were passed, Cromwell took a party of musketeers and dissolved the house.
The dilemma of Cromwell and his officers was that while they did not wish to impose a military dictatorship they knew that even relatively free elections would result in the return of a royalist Parliament. There followed, over the next six years, a series of constitutional experiments designed to prevent the latter eventuality while seeking a measure of parliamentary government. First was the Nominated or "Bare-bones" Parliament, which sat from July to December 1653. It consisted of 140 representatives of the three kingdoms, handpicked by the officers for their commitment to "godly reformation"—the moral reform that, it was believed, would produce a truly godly society in which the Sabbath would be observed, all forms of debauchery, such as drunkenness, adultery, cock fighting, and bear baiting, would be suppressed, education would be promoted, and the poor looked after. When this body threatened property rights by moving to abolish tithes, its dissolution was quietly engineered.
Next came the Instrument of Government (1653), England's only written constitution, devised by General John Lambert (1619–1683) and the Council of Officers. It restored the concept of balance in the constitution with a lord protector, council, and Parliament. Executive power was vested in the first two, but the protector was bound, as kings had not been, to follow his council's advice. Appointed by Parliament, the council could not be dismissed by the protector. Far from being a military dictator, Cromwell, the first lord protector, was obliged to summon Parliament at least every three years and was allowed only limited veto power over parliamentary legislation. In one important area the instrument did give him greater power than it had given previous monarchs: he was endowed with a navy and a standing army of thirty thousand men. The franchise was broadened, and constituencies were redistributed to reflect more accurately the population and wealth of the three kingdoms. Although Christianity was privileged as the public faith, there were no rigid doctrinal tests, and a large measure of de facto toleration prevailed. Cromwell's own toleration extended to the Jews, whom he readmitted to England in 1656 despite parliamentary opposition.
This experiment in limited constitutional democracy ultimately failed, but not before England's military and diplomatic power had been projected as never before. Between 1652 and 1654 war was successfully waged against the United Provinces, the world's leading commercial power. The issue with Holland was the Navigation Act requiring that all goods shipped to or from English ports be carried either in English ships or those of the country where the goods originated. A triumphant English navy next proceeded to open up the Mediterranean to English commerce by clearing out the Barbary pirates. Dunkirk was then recaptured from France. Next it was Spain's turn. That country's hegemony in the New World was challenged with the invasion of Hispaniola. Repulsed there, Cromwell had to be content with Jamaica as a consolation prize.
In 1657 a group of influential citizens urged Cromwell to accept the crown and establish an Oliverian dynasty. Mindful of his officers' entrenched republicanism, he turned aside the offer, but in 1658 he did name his firstborn son Richard Cromwell (1626–1712) as his successor. When Oliver Cromwell died in September 1658, England's prestige was higher among the powers of Europe than at any time since the Hundred Years' War (1337–1453). Yet the regime of his son was soon to unravel. Within months Richard Cromwell, who lacked military experience, faced a coalition of army officers and republicans demanding the abolition of the protectorate and the recall of the Rump Parliament. Bowing to the inevitable, Richard resigned his protectorship, and "the Good Old Parliament" returned (Humble Remonstrance of 21 April 1659, cited in Woolrych, p. 723). But when the Rump tried to curb the power of the army grandees (the higher officers of the army), they struck back, dissolving the Rump a second time.
Confused and divided among themselves, the grandees did not know what to do next until the commander in Scotland, General George Monck (1608–1670), announced that enough was enough. The military should be subordinate to civilian authority, he proclaimed, and to enforce this principle he marched his army into England. All along the way to London he was besieged with petitions for a full and free Parliament, which everyone knew meant the restoration of the king. He kept his own counsel, first restoring the Rump, then bringing back the unpurged Long Parliament, and then encouraging it to dissolve itself in favor of fresh elections for a Convention Parliament. Carefully guiding events, he extracted from the exiled king at Breda in Holland a four-point declaration promising a general amnesty, payment of army arrears, religious toleration, and the confirmation of confiscated land sales. No one was to know that the king, driven by the Cavalier Parliament, would soon renege on all these promises except for the payment of the army. Charles II was proclaimed king on 8 May 1660 amid general jubilation.
How does one explain the bloodless Restoration of monarchy after eighteen years of civil war, revolution, and interregnum? Like other revolutionary regimes the Commonwealth collapsed from within. Revenue never kept up with expenditure, and by the end of the 1650s the state was bankrupt. For all its military exploits in Scotland, Ireland, and abroad, it had failed to win the respect of the people of the landed classes, who increasingly yearned for the rule of law under the old constitution of king, Lords, and Commons. Distrust of standing armies combined with fear of religious radicalism and social anarchy, which appeared to be united in the phenomena of Quakerism, Anabaptism, and Fifth Monarchism. (Adherents of Fifth Monarchism believed that the Second Coming of Christ was imminent because the overthrow of the fifth monarchy, of which Charles I was thought to be the last representative, had been prophesied in Scripture as the precursor of the return of the Messiah.) Republican rigidity in Parliament, when set beside the internal division and intellectual exhaustion of the army grandees, furnished a recipe for the revolution's self-destruction. By the spring of 1660 only the monarchy could fill the political vacuum left by the Good Old Cause.
There was, however, a revolutionary legacy that was not extinguished at the Restoration. The constitutional changes of 1641 were preserved, the monarch's feudal and prerogative rights were not brought back, while the "divinity that doth hedge a king" had largely drained away (Hamlet). The legacy of radical thought, religious liberty, and parliamentary direction of the state was to reemerge in the Glorious Revolution of 1688–1689.
See also Charles I (England) ; Charles II (England) ; Cromwell, Oliver ; English Civil War Radicalism ; Glorious Revolution (Britain) ; Ireland ; Parliament ; Scotland ; Stuart Dynasty (England and Scotland) ; William and Mary .
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