When the Restoration Settlement was discussed, land was considered to be the most pressing of all problems and potentially the most troublesome of problems. During the Interregnum (1649 to 1660) much land belonging to the Crown, the Church and Royalist supporters had been taken by the government or by its supporters. With the Restoration, many simply assumed that their former land would be restored. They assumed that because they had been loyal to Charles, that he would be loyal to them. However, it was not as easy as this as the land had, in many instances, been purchased in good faith and the new property owners were clearly not willing to simply hand it back to the old owners when they believed that they had the legal title to this land.
In the Declaration of Breda, Charles had stated that he would leave this issue to Parliament.
“…because in the continued distractions of so many years, and so many great revolutions, many grants and purchases of estates have been made to and by many officers, soldiers and others, who are now possessed of the same, and who may be liable to actions at law upon several titles, we are…….willing that all such differences, and all things relating to such grants, sales and purchases, shall be determined in Parliament, which can best provide for the satisfaction of all men who are concerned.”
Whereas many believed that the whole land issue would cause problems, it did not. Legislation was only required for Crown and Church land. This legislation deprived the former possessors of Crown and Church lands their right to legal title. The law was very simple – if the former owner of land believed that his land had been taken illegally, he had the right of redress through the courts. If he could prove that his land had been taken as a result of religious/political beliefs then there was the chance that the courts would side with him. If the land was taken in lieu of fines, then he had little if any chance of redress.
Such was the euphoria regarding the return of monarchy that a great deal of confiscated Crown land was returned with few problems. There were a few more issues with Church land (primarily a dislike of the historic wealth of bishops) but the Commission of Sales – a body that decided on compensation for those who had to hand back land – overcame these.
Research by Joan Thirsk shows that a great deal of Royalist land had been returned to its owners even before the Restoration. In the south-east this equated to 70% of al land transactions. During the Protectorate, Royalists paid land agents to purchase land for them. This was seemingly very successful and may well explain why the land issue caused so few problems in the Restoration.