The Cavalier Parliament first sat in April 1661. The Cavalier Parliament carried on the work done by the Convention Parliament – the first of Charles II’s parliaments. Both parliaments were instrumental in creating what became the Restoration Settlement – the Convention Parliament started the process up to December 1660 when it was dissolved while the Cavalier Parliament carried on with its work.
In 1661, there were still within England some sympathisers to the republican philosophy of the Protectorate. The first pieces of legislation of the Cavalier Parliament were to deal with these people. The first major piece of legislation was the Corporation Act, which gave commissioners the right to remove any town office holder suspected of being a republican sympathiser. The law was a potent weapon against non-Royalists and gave Royalists a huge boost a town level as a man who had good Royalist credentials replaced any one dismissed from his post.
In a further extension of royal authority, the Cavalier Parliament gave Charles full control over the nation’s militia in July 1661. This had been an area not covered by the Convention Parliament. Charles had three regiments of regular troops at his disposal but now the country’s militia was added to this. Parliament declared:
“The sole supreme government, command and disposition of the militia and of all forces by sea and land, and of all forts…..is, by the laws of England ever was, the undoubted right of his majesty….and that both or either houses cannot, nor ought to pretend the same."
The Cavalier Parliament did all that could be done to extend the authority of Charles. Parliament was not allowed to legislate without the king and it invalidated any act previously brought in that not received royal assent. Laws were brought in that made it illegal to encourage people to hate the king. It became a treasonable offence to restrain or imprison the king and any writing, preaching and printing that was against the king’s authority also became punishable offences.
Where did power lie after the Restoration? The king’s financial limitations were obviously in Parliament’s favour. The settlement of £1.2 million a year was dependent on good trading and revenue collected via excise duty. For the first years of the reign of Charles II, there is little doubt that he was always short of the £1.2 million offered – though a revenue based on excise collection worked well for his successors. However, Charles did have a source of power that Parliament could never have – he was king. The years of Cromwell’s government had done a lot to cast a shadow over Parliament and all it stood for. Though it is true that Charles I had been shown not to be above the law and was executed, many believed it was because he was a ‘bad’ king – the whole ethos behind the title was not damaged. Charles I was executed because of the person not because the title ‘king’ no longer had support in the nation. When Charles II returned in 1660, his authority was because he was king and many believed that the actions of his father should neither taint his reign nor the status of monarchy. It is probable that many at the time held the monarch in higher esteem than any politician – even if he was a monarch invariably short of cash.