George Monck, first Duke of Albemarle, played a very important part in the Restoration Settlement that led to the return of Charles II to Great Britain. Monck was a career professional soldier who had fought on both sides during the English Civil War. However, by 1660, Monck believed that the country could best be served by the return of monarchy.
George Monck was born on December 6th, 1608, the second son of Sir Thomas Monck. He fought in the ill-fated campaigns of the Duke of Buckingham at Cadiz (1625) and the Isle of Rhé (1627). Monck fought for Charles I against the Scots in the Bishops’ Wars (1639-40) and the Irish rebels in 1642-43.
However, his luck and success changed during the English Civil War. Leading an Irish regiment brought over to fight for the king, Monck was defeated by Sir Thomas Fairfax at Nantwich, Cheshire (January 24th, 1644) and imprisoned in the Tower of London for two years.
Monck switched his loyalty and fought for Cromwell and the Parliamentarians. He fought in Ireland (1647-49), Scotland (1650-52) and in the First Dutch War (1652-54). From 1654 to 1660, Monck was governor of Scotland where his task to was tighten the grip the English had over the Scots.
Monck believed that the military had to be ruled by the civilian population. By the standards of the time, he held moderate political views but the one that stood out was that the army should be subordinate to civilian rule.
After the death of Oliver Cromwell, many in Britain believed that the time was ripe for change. The ‘rule’ of Richard Cromwell was weak and Monck believed that the people could successfully rally around a monarch who had handed effective power over to Parliament.
In 1660, Monck’s plans were hardly crystal clear. But he was clear on one issue – that the power that Lambert and other senior soldiers had gathered around them would not benefit the country.
In this, Monck had one vital advantage. Many of the small armies in England were experiencing desertion. Monck’s army was loyal, well trained and disciplined. Promotion was by merit and with such a following Monck believed he was capable of swaying those in London who were still ambivalent of following Lambert. In January 1660, Monck’s army marched south to London. Lambert’s army marched north to oppose him but it melted away as a result of desertions. Monck reached London on February 3rd, 1660.
Keeping his options open, Monck had remained in contact with the Royalists though it is not actually known when he came put in favour of a return of the monarchy.
Monck advised Charles to move from Brussels to Breda where in April 1660, Charles issued the Declaration of Breda.
In London, Monck used the military authority that he clearly had to ensure that no extremists were in a position to demand impossible conditions upon the return of monarchy.
The new Parliament (the Long Parliament had dissolved itself in March 1660) was known as the Convention Parliament and it first met on April 25th, 1660. This new Parliament proclaimed Charles king on May 8th, 1660. When Charles landed in Dover, Monck was there to greet him. Charles lavished many honours on Monck. He became a Knight of the Garter; Captain-General; Duke of Albemarle; Master of the Horse and Lord Lieutenant of Ireland.
George Monck died on January 3rd, 1670.