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The Restoration of a Limited Monarchy in England: Definition & History

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  • 0:07 The English Restoration
  • 0:44 Civial War and Interregnum
  • 2:17 Fall of the Protectorate
  • 3:13 Convention Parliament…
  • 4:06 Aftermath
  • 4:52 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Christopher Sailus

Chris has an M.A. in history and taught university and high school history.

In this lesson we explore the English Restoration of the monarchy in 1660. Over a decade after Parliament beheaded King Charles I, it restored his son, Charles II, to the English throne, albeit under a new, limited constitutional monarchy.

The English Restoration

Precarious experiments can often have wildly differing outcomes. They can fulfill your wildest dreams, confirming your hypothesis and making you look like a genius. On the other hand, they can also blow up in your face. Though the English experiment in parliamentary government in the middle of the 17th century did not end with any explosions, it certainly failed.

Its failure led directly to the English Parliament inviting Charles II (the son of Charles I, whom Parliament had tried and executed in 1649) to take the English throne and resume the Stuart Dynasty in 1660, an event which became known as the English Restoration.

Civil War and Interregnum

In order to understand how England's monarchy was restored, we must first learn a little about how it was deposed in the first place. By the early 1640s, England's King Charles I had developed a highly acrimonious relationship with his Parliament and subjects, largely revolving around differences concerning England's religious settlement and Parliament's role in governance.

In January 1642, Charles fled London to raise an army against Parliament. Parliament raised its own, and the two sides fought an intermittent civil war, which lasted until Charles' second capture in 1648. In January 1649, the Rump Parliament - nicknamed this because the Army had purged the existing Parliament of all members sympathetic to the king - put Charles I on trial for treason, found him guilty and executed him at Whitehall Palace.

Following Charles' execution, the Rump Parliament dissolved the monarchy and the House of Lords and declared itself a republic in May 1649. A nearly decade-long rebellion in Ireland was suppressed by the army under Oliver Cromwell, and Puritan reforms began to be enacted, such as in May 1650 when an act passed making adultery an offense punishable by death.

The rule of the Rump Parliament, however, proved ineffective, and in 1653, Oliver Cromwell forcibly dissolved the Rump Parliament, assuming the lifetime position of Lord Protector and becoming King of England in all but name. Life in England under Cromwell was marked by a fervent and puritanical brand of Protestantism, where recreational activities were forbidden on Sundays and even the celebration of holidays were suppressed or banned altogether.

Fall of the Protectorate

After Cromwell's death in September 1658, his son, Richard Cromwell, became Lord Protector, though his lack of support from the army or the people doomed any chance he had of succeeding his father. After only seven months as Lord Protector, Richard Cromwell was forcibly removed from office and the Rump Parliament was reinstalled. The chaos which ensued as the Rump decided what actions to take moving forward in order to govern England were exacerbated as a Royalist uprising propagated in Cheshire, calling for the return of Charles II to the English throne.

Though the uprising was quickly put down, it was clear something had to be done to stabilize England politically. At this point, the general of the English forces in Scotland, George Monck, marched the English army to London. Upon his arrival in February 1660, Monck reintroduced all of the members of Parliament purged in 1648, and the reconstituted Parliament declared itself dissolved and simultaneously called for new elections.

Convention Parliament and Restoration

The new Parliament - nicknamed the Convention Parliament by historians - returned with a majority of its members favoring a reinstitution of the monarchy, and in April 1660, the Convention Parliament passed a resolution in favor of a government by king. Sensing the political climate in England was ripe for his return, Charles II issued the Declaration of Breda from exile in the Dutch Republic in May 1648, declaring that all Englishmen who proclaimed their loyalty to Charles II as king would be pardoned of any crimes against the monarchy committed during the Interregnum.

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