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English Restoration

The English Restoration or simply Restoration was an episode in the history of Great Britain beginning in 1660 when the monarchy was restored under King Charles II after the English Civil War. Theatres reopened after having been closed during the protectorship of Oliver Cromwell, Puritanism lost its momentum, and the bawdy 'Restoration comedy' became a recognisable genre.

The name Restoration may apply both to the actual event by which the English monarchy was restored, and to the period immediately following the accession of Charles II.

The Protectorate, which had preceded the Restoration and followed the Commonwealth, might have continued a little longer if Oliver Cromwell's son, Richard Cromwell, who was made Lord Protector on his father's death, had been capable of carrying on his father's policies. Richard Cromwell's main weakness was that he did not have the confidence of the army. After seven months the Army removed him and in May 1659 it reinstalled the Rump Parliament. However, this too was dissolved shortly afterwards, since it acted as though nothing had changed since 1653 and so it could treat the Army how it liked. After the Rump was dissolved in October, there was a real prospect of a total descent into anarchy as the Army's pretence of unity finally dissolved into factions.

It was into this atmosphere that General George Monck, governor of Scotland under the Cromwells, marched south with his army from Scotland. On April 4 1660 in the Declaration of Breda Charles II made known the conditions of his acceptance of the crown of England. Monck organised the Convention Parliament, which met for the first time on April 25. On May 8 it declared that King Charles II had been the lawful monarch since the execution of Charles I in January 1649. Charles returned from exile on May 23. Later in London, on May 29 (Oak Apple Day), he was acclaimed king. He was crowned at Westminster Abbey on 23 April 1661.

The Cavalier Parliament convened for the first time on May 8, 1661, and it would endure for over 17 years until its dissolution on January 24, 1679. Like its predecessor parliament, it was overwhelmingly Royalist and is also known as the Pensionary Parliament for the many pensions it granted to adherents of the King.

Reprisals against the establishment which had developed during the interregnum were constrained under the terms of the Indemnity and Oblivion Act which became law on 29 August, 1660. Nonetheless there were prosecutions against those accused of regicide, the direct participation in the trial and execution of King Charles I. Thirty one of the fifty nine Commissioners who had signed the death warrant were living. Pardons were offered to those who came over to the monarchy. Those who did not were tried. Nine were found guilty and suffered the fate of being hanged, drawn and quartered. The leading prosecutor at the trial of King Charles I, John Cook, was executed in a similar manner. The bodies of the regicides Cromwell, Bradshaw and Ireton which had been buried in Westminster Abbey were disinterred and hanged drawn and quartered.

On October 14, 1660 Major-General Thomas Harrison a leader of the Fifth Monarchists was the first person to be found guilty of the regicide of Charles I as the seventeenth of fifty nine commisioners (Judges) to sign the death warrent in 1649. He was the first regicide to be hanged, drawn and quartered because he was considered by the new government to still represent a real threat to the re-established order. This threat was realised when on January 6, 1661, 50 Fifth Monarchists, headed by a wine-cooper named Thomas Venner, made an effort to attain possession of London in the name of "King Jesus." Most of the fifty were either killed or taken prisoner, and on January 19 and 21, Venner and ten others were hanged, drawn and quartered for high treason.

In general, however, Charles gained a reputation as an easy-going, fun-loving king, and represented a complete contrast to the restrictive rule of Cromwell. He enjoyed horse-racing and was a great patron of the arts and sciences.

The republican new nobility

The Commonwealth's written constitutions gave to the Lord Protector the King's power to grant titles of honour. Cromwell created over thirty new knights. These were all declared invalid at the Restoration of Charles II. Many were regranted by the restored King, but being non-hereditary, these titles have long since become extinct.

Of the twelve Cromwellian baronetcies, Charles II regranted half of them. Only two now continue: Sir George Howland Francis Beaumont, 12th baronet, and Sir Richard Thomas Williams-Bulkeley, 14th baronet, are the direct successors of Sir Thomas Beaumont and Sir Griffith Williams.

Edmund Dunch was created Baron Burnell of East Wittenham in April 1658, but it was not regranted. The male line failed in 1719, so no one can lay claim to the title.

The one hereditary viscountcy Cromwell created (making Charles Howard Viscount Howard of Morpeth and Baron Gilsland) continues to this day. In April 1661 Howard was created Earl of Carlisle, Viscount Howard of Morpeth, and Baron Dacre of Gillesland. The present Earl is a direct descendant of this Cromwellian creation and Restoration recreation.

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