The Restoration of Monarchy in 1660 ended eleven years (1649 – 1660) when England, Wales, Scotland and Ireland had no monarch and was to all intents a republic. But why was there a Restoration in 1660?
At the time one theory put forward was that of divine intervention – that God saw the monarchy as being the true way ahead for the country in response to the iniquities of those who followed Oliver Cromwell.
However, this aside, the historian Godfrey Davis put forward six reasons why the country turned its back on the rule of Cromwell and his supporters.
The first major reason was the unpopularity of the army and religious policies at the time. The austerity of the rule of Cromwell – enforced by the army – had run its course.
Davis also cites the divisions that have been identified within the republican leadership.
Within the army there was also a decrease in the desire for a new order to be created.
Other reasons forwarded by Davis are that the government had singularly failed to solve social issues in the country and that corruption in the government was getting out of control.
The death of Oliver Cromwell – probably the only man capable of holding the Protectorate together – was also a major stimulus for change.
By 1659, the country faced a form of political limbo. His son, Richard, succeeded Cromwell. Contemporary accounts show Robert to have been an affable and pleasant man. But he lacked two major qualities to succeed. He did not have the standing of his father and many saw his succession as being the result of being Cromwell’s son as opposed to any other qualities. Possibly more important, Robert did not have a military background at a time when the army still wielded a great deal of influence in politics. Robert became a pawn for the army and they forced him to dissolve Parliament in 1659. In May 1659, Robert Cromwell went into exile firmly believing that he was a political irrelevance. Political stability seemed to be a way off dream as various factions vied with each other to succeed Robert Cromwell.
There was a real chance that the country would descend into chaos – possibly even another civil war. George Monck, commander of the Protectorate Army in Scotland, is given a lot of credit for the fact that it did not. Monck was a career soldier and his treatment of his men had ensured that his 10,000 strong army was loyal to him. Promotion was by merit alone and his army had a reputation for being disciplined and professional. At a time when desertion was rife in other armies, it was not an issue in his. Monck himself held beliefs that might normally be associated with a career soldier. He believed that the army as a whole should be under the authority of Parliament. Though his first desire was to have a civilian government, he kept in contact with Royalist agents at the same time as maintaining contacts in the City of London. With government seemingly in chaos and other armies suffering from disunity, Monck and his loyal army seemed to offer the best hope of stability. When his army marched into England from Scotland, many greeted him, as he seemed to be all things to all people.
One of the first things that Monck arranged for when he got to London was for those MP’s who had been excluded from parliament during the Protectorate, to return to it. Whether this was simply out of a belief for fair play is difficult to know. Monck may have had other reasons, as those members who were allowed to return to Parliament were invariably supporters of the restoration of monarchy. If Monck’s mind was now turned in that direction, then it was a logical move for him to make especially as many had now concluded that a monarch was required to gain stability and to end any chance of a new civil war. A popular monarch would serve to rally the people around one person.
In Europe, Charles had Edward Hyde, later the 1st Earl of Clarendon, to advise him. Hyde advised Charles to say very little so that he could not upset anyone with his comments. Charles also moved to the Netherlands – a Protestant state. This was an astute move as there were still those who remembered with suspicions the religious loyalty of Charles I. While in the Netherlands, Charles issued the Declaration of Breda, which was seen as a statement of reconciliation and unity. It ended any fear of revenge and seemingly promised all things to all people. The Declaration was well received by Parliament and it was only a matter of time before Charles returned to London.
John Evelyn described his journey from Dover to London:
“20,000 (on) horse and foot shouting with inexpressible joy, the ways strewed with flowers, the bells ringing, the streets hung with tapestry, fountains running with wine; trumpets, music and myriads of people flocking the streets.”
Symbolically, Charles entered London on his 30th birthday.