The Restoration Settlement led to Charles Stuart being proclaimed King Charles II of England, Wales, Scotland and Ireland on May 8th, 1660. The new king landed at Dover on May 26th. For eleven years, there had been no monarchy but the Restoration Settlement brought back from exile the son of the beheaded Charles I. The arrival of Charles in Dover was well received by the locals in the port – and their jubilation was shared throughout the country. Many were happy that the old order had been reinstalled as they saw the monarchy as the normal state of affairs within the country. This may well have been a reaction to the years when Oliver Cromwell controlled the country – an era of austerity which many saw as ‘unnatural’. There was a desire to forget about the dislocation of the previous twenty years. One of the first acts of the new government was to introduce an Act of Indemnity and Pardon. This act forgave and pardoned people for past actions (though it was eventually to exclude those classed as regicides) and it allowed the new monarch a fresh start. Great things were expected from Charles II.
However, the Restoration Settlement was a complicated affair spread between 1660 and 1664. The term ‘Restoration Settlement’ seems to give an air of structure to the settlement but, in fact, it was very much an ad hoc affair with little planning involved. Clearly, what had happened in Britain from 1649 to 1660 was unprecedented and there was no ‘rule book’ that could be referred to with regards to constitutional niceties. The two main bodies involved in decision making at the start of the reign was the Convention Parliament of 1660 and the Cavalier Parliament of 1661. Both recognised that the main aims for the country were stability and order and it is these that both bodies sought to achieve.
The Convention Parliament met from April to December 1660. It had to deal with the Restoration and the problems left by the Interregnum. The first problem faced by this parliament was that it was divided on what powers to give Charles II. The Presbyterians wanted such power to be limited while others, in an attempt to avoid the rise of another Oliver Cromwell, pushed for Charles to have far more power than was first anticipated. They also hoped for a royal reward as well. Within the Convention Parliament, Presbyterians voted against Royalist wishes and vice versa.
One of the most pressing immediate issues was a legal one. Would anyone be punished for crimes committed during the Civil War and the Interregnum? In the Declaration of Breda Charles had made it clear that there would be a general amnesty for all – except in those cases decided by Parliament. In August 1660, the Act of Pardon, Indemnity and Oblivion was passed. This effectively kept Charles to his word – except for regicides and 29 other individuals. Of these only thirteen were executed as regicides.
The issue involving land was also resolved with some degree of ease. 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 property 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. Whereas many believed that the whole land issue would cause problems, it did not. Legislation was only required for Crown and Church land.
The army was clearly an entity that needed careful handling after 1660. The army continued to contain a radical element, which could become a danger to Charles II. The other consideration that Parliament had to take into account was that the army was expensive to maintain. The best way round this was to reduce the number of men in the army. However, enforced unemployment would only cause problems, so the government had to find a way around this.
The problems that could have occurred involving the army never did for several reasons. First was the stature of George Monck within the army. The second salient reason was that the army, despite its history of radicalism within certain elements, was also facing a problem with desertion, which ironically helped the government with regards to reducing the number within the army. Such a problem was not true for Monck’s army and their loyalty to him was well known. Any army unit that wished to take on Monck would have done so at its peril. Monck gained the loyalty of other soldiers outside of his own by promising to honour any issues involving pay in the army. Many soldiers left the army to go into a trade. To placate these men, ex-soldiers were allowed to practice a trade without having to go through an apprenticeship. By the time of the Convention Parliament so many men had left the army, there were only two regiments left which hardly presented a threat or challenge to the new king.
The power that Charles had on his return to Britain is open to debate. It was Charles who was invited back by Parliament, and not the other way round. In many senses, on the surface, Parliament had the power. However, it was also apparent by 1660 that Parliament and a great deal of what it stood for (or was rightly or wrongly associated with) did not have the support of the people. The crowds that gathered to greet Charles on his journey from Dover to London would indicate that in the southeast at least, the new king – and probably the concept of monarchy – had great support. Therefore, it was best that both sides approached issues and concerns with an open mind. This was especially true of the legislation brought in by Parliament in the later years of the reign of Charles I to reduce his power. Should the Parliament of 1660 stick with this legislation or give Charles II a fresh start and not assume he would be like his father? Parliament set up committees to investigate the whole problem. There were those in Parliament who wanted the king to have restricted powers but Royalist MP’s and Lords blocked these aspirations. Ironically because royal power had not been resolved, Charles arrived in London with many powers that had been removed from his father. He could select his ministers and summon, prorogue and dissolve Parliament.
The one area that Parliament could have exerted its authority over the king was money. Charles had been a king in exile and though he returned in a blaze of glory, he had no obvious income to match his new status. Both king and Parliament would have been aware that money, ultimately, was the issue that drove Charles I and Parliament apart. The spilt ended on a cold January day in 1649 when Charles I was beheaded. His son would have been more than aware that money was a major issue.
However, Parliament would also have been aware of the reception that had greeted Charles during his journey to London. Many MP’s would also have had some inclination as to Parliament’s lack of popularity in 1660. Therefore, it was in their interest to solve the problem whilst still maintaining an aura of power. Their solution was simple and it solved many purposes – not least, that it kept Charles seemingly content.
The financial settlement was that Charles would receive £1.2 a year. The money would come from Crown lands, custom duties and new excise duties on certain commodities. In return Charles had to surrender the Crown’s old feudal rights, such as wardships, and his prerogative powers over taxation. Therefore, Charles could not levy taxes without Parliamentary agreement.
The settlement on paper was very generous. However, the new excise duties did not raise as much as was anticipated and Charles ‘only’ received about 2/3rds of the agreed £1.2 million. Later monarchs were to benefit from this settlement. As trade increased, so did the revenue from excise duties. But this was not relevant for Charles. In times of war, he had to ask Parliament for additional money. Though the raising of revenue had been the major cause of war between Charles I and Parliament, it was not a major issue between Charles II and Parliament.
Charles was further helped in early 1661 when a general election brought in a Parliament with a majority of Royalists in it. For this reason this Parliament is called the ‘Cavalier Parliament’. While the Cavalier Parliament was unwilling to give up any of its powers, it was also not willing to have any clash with the king and both worked with a similar philosophy – as they shared very similar ideologies, work together for each other as if one prospered, so would the other. The Cavalier Parliament first met in April 1661 and the bulk of the early legislation passed by Parliament was anti-republican legislation as there was still a real fear in the country of republican movements. One highly effective piece of legislation was the 1661 Corporation Act. In a gesture of loyalty, Parliament also declared that the king was the sole controller of the militia in the land. 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, not ought to pretend the same."
Further acts continued this approach – and their titles clearly indicate the thinking behind them. Parliament passed ‘The Act for the Safety and Preservation of His Majesty’s Person and Government’; ‘The Act to Preserve the Person and Government of the King’; ‘The Act Against Tumultuous Petitioning’ (this forbade large scale petitioning) and the 1662 Licensing Act, which stated that only books licensed by the authorities could be published