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Romans in Britain
Anglo-Saxons & Vikings
Lancaster and York
Henry VII and Henry VIII
Children of Henry VIII
Charles I and Charles II
Civil War, Commonwealth
Restoration, Revolution
     Monck and the Restoration
     Anglicans against Presbyterians
     Anglicans against Catholics
     Whigs and Tories
     James II in Ireland
     Bill of Rights and Act of Settlemen....
     Anne's years of war
     Act of Union

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Monck and the Restoration: 1660

George Monck, a close colleague of Cromwell's since the Scottish campaign of 1650, has spent much of the 1650s in command of the army in Scotland. He decides to intervene in politics in October 1659 when army commanders in London take steps to establish military rule (Richard Cromwell, the lord protector, has gone into voluntary retirement in May).

Monck crosses the border from Coldstream on 1 January 1660 with four regiments of cavalry and six of infantry (one of them later known as the Coldstream Guards). They reach London unopposed on February 3.


Monck's stated intention has been to restore the power and authority of a free parliament. To this end he reunites the Rump Parliament with the members excluded in Pride's Purge in 1648, thus reconstituting the last undeniably legitimate English parliament, the Long Parliament, summoned in 1640 and never formally dissolved (being, instead, ejected from the House of Commons by Cromwell in 1653).

When the Long Parliament is reassembled, Monck insists that the members vote their own dissolution. This is done on 16 March 1660. A new parliament is then summoned.


During his journey south through England Monck has become aware of widespread disenchantment with puritan rule and a wish for the restoration of the monarchy. He therefore enters negotiations with Charles II in Brussels. Broad terms are agreed. If Charles is restored he will provide, in partnership with parliament, a general amnesty and a just settlement of property disputes resulting from the civil war and the Commonwealth. He will ensure religious toleration. And he will pay the wages owing to the army.

Monck feels that this historic agreement should not be linked with the Spanish Netherlands. So Charles crosses the border into Holland, enabling the document of April 4 to be known as the declaration of Breda.


On its first day, April 25, the new parliament - known as the Convention Parliament - invites Charles to return. He lands at Dover on May 25, and is given a warm welcome by the London crowd four days later.

One of the first bills passed by parliament and given the royal assent is the Act of Indemnity. It pardons all offences committed since 1637. The only exception is the treason of the regicides, the fifty-eight men who signed the death warrant of Charles I. Thirteen of them are caught and executed. The body of Cromwell is exhumed from Westminster Abbey and is hanged, drawn and quartered at Tyburn. His head is stuck on a pole on top of Westminster Hall, where the king was tried. It remains there for twenty-five years.


Anglicans against Presbyterians: 1661-1673

Religious conflict, the plague of Europe since the early 16th century, continues to dominate the internal politics of England during the second half of the 17th century. The puritan triumphalism of the Commonwealth is followed by an Anglican backlash after the Restoration.

The restored king, Charles II, has promised "liberty for tender consciences" in his declaration of Breda. There is every indication that he aims to fulfil that promise. But his royalist followers, whose liberty and pockets have suffered alike during the Commonwealth, have no intention of allowing him to do so.


Royalists are the powerful majority in the parliament summoned in 1661 (it becomes known as the Cavalier Parliament). They pass a series of acts during the 1660s which reserve for Anglicans both religious freedom and the pickings of office.

The acts are collectively known as the Clarendon Code, after Charles II's lord chancellor Edward Hyde, the earl of Clarendon. The term is inappropriate in that Clarendon, like Charles, disapproves of the severity of the measures. But, in the prevailing mood, king and chancellor prove powerless to oppose them.


The Corporation Act of 1661 rules that anyone taking office in a town corporation must previously have received the sacrament in an Anglican church. The Act of Uniformity of 1662 expels from their livings all clergy with puritan leanings, by insisting on their acceptance of the Thirty-Nine Articles (which specifically refer to bishops). Some 2000 clerics surrender their livelihood rather than abandon their presbyterian principles. In doing so, they become the first of Britain's 'nonconformists'.

The Conventicle Act of 1664 limits Christian worship, unless very small numbers are present, to Anglican premises. And the Five-Mile Act of 1665 bans any dissenting cleric from coming within five miles of a church where he has previously ministered.


From 1665 the attention of parliament is distracted by two disasters which strike London in the first decade of the Restoration - the Great Plague of 1665 and the Great Fire of 1666 (see Plague and Fire). By 1672, amazingly, the city of London is largely rebuilt. Parliament returns to its theme, irritated at a measure of religious liberty introduced in that year by Charles II as a Declaration of Indulgence. The Test Act of 1673 reiterates that only Anglicans may hold public office or serve in the armed forces or even receive a university education.

By now, for reasons directly connected with the royal family, Roman Catholics are once again as much the target as Presbyterians.


Anglicans against Catholics: 1673-1688

Both Charles II and his brother the duke of York are drawn to Roman Catholicism. In the king's case it has to remain a secret leaning, but it is also closely tied up with political plans to recover greater authority over his kingdom. Only a few very close advisers know of the secret treaty of Dover, agreed in 1670 with Louis XIV, which promises French money and troops to assist Charles after he has declared himself a Catholic. The eventuality never arises. Only on his deathbed does Charles II finally revert to the older faith.

His younger brother, acting more from religious conviction, is less inclined to caution - though for several years the king forces him to preserve an Anglican front.


The duke of York is secretly received into the Roman Catholic church in about 1669. At first his brother insists on his continuing to take the Anglican sacrament. He ensures also that the duke's two daughters, Mary and Anne (both still under the age of ten), are brought up as Anglicans. But after the Declaration of Indulgence of 1672 the duke declines the Anglican sacrament. In 1673 he resigns his public offices rather than take the anti-Catholic oath of the Test Act. From 1676 he no longer takes any part in Anglican worship.

It thus becomes public knowledge that the king's brother is a Roman Catholic - a matter of grave concern, because he is also the heir presumptive to Charles II.


Charles has numerous children by his many mistresses. Indeeed his male bastards inaugurate several new dynasties of the higher aristocracy (his sons by Barbara Villiers, Louise de Kéroualle, Nell Gwyn and Catherine Pegge amount to five dukes and an earl). But the king and his queen, Catherine of Braganza, are childless.

Given the religious tensions of recent decades, the prospect of the next king being a Roman Catholic is an explosive issue. It is made more so in 1678 by reports of the 'Popish Plot', a supposed Jesuit conspiracy to kill the king and put his brother on the throne.


In the resulting hysteria thirty-five Catholics are accused of treason and are executed before it is discovered that the allegations have been fabricated by Titus Oates, a renegade priest who has initially been feted as a national hero for saving the king's life.

Even though based on fantasy, the crisis of 1678 sets the political agenda for the remainder of the reign. It gives rise to the policy of 'exclusion' - the argument that the duke of York, though undeniably the legitimate heir to the throne, should be excluded from the succession on the grounds of his religion. The debate also gives rise to two great political parties.


Whigs and Tories: from1679

Both sides, in the battle of the political factions in 1679, are eager to find abusive terms for their opponents. Useful examples are available from recent history. Those supporting the duke of York compare the other side to the Whiggamores, a Scottish Gaelic name for presbyterian rebels who marched on royalist Edinburgh during the civil war, in 1648. The implication is of an unruly mob who are wild, foreign, puritanical and possibly regicidal.

The party hostile to the duke responds with the term Tory, an Irish Gaelic word for Irish outlaws who plunder English settlers. The implication is again of someone wild, foreign and unlawful - but this time Roman Catholic as well.


The terms stick, and the issue remains profoundly divisive. But Charles II, passionately committed to securing his brother's rights, contrives to calm the situation. The duke of York succeeds to the throne peacefully, in 1685, as James II (and James VII of Scotland).

The new king shows little interest in compromise. His Tory supporters are royalist rather than pro-Catholic. He soon loses their support by his appointment of Catholics to high positions in the army and in government, and by his welcoming of the first papal nuncio to Britain since the reign of Mary. However a safeguard remains. Next in line of succession are James's two Protestant daughters by his deceased wife, Anne Hyde.


National tension becomes acute during the summer of 1688. In May the king orders the clergy to read from their pulpits a new Declaration of Indulgence, freeing Catholics and puritans from the legal restrictions of the Test Act. The archbishop of Canterbury decides that it is illegal to do so. With six other bishops he petitions the king to withdraw the order. James II consigns the seven to the Tower and charges them with seditious libel.

The next month brings two dramatic developments. On June 10 the king's second wife, Mary of Modena, gives birth to a son. There is now a new heir to the throne, male and Catholic. On June 29 a court defies the king by acquitting the seven bishops.


On the very next day, 30 June 1688, seven English grandees (mainly but not all committed Whigs) write jointly to William III of Orange, husband of James's elder daughter Mary, assuring him of support if he comes to claim the English throne for his wife and himself.

William lands with an army at Torbay in November and marches almost unopposed to London. James II escapes in December to France. In February 1689 parliament, declaring that James has abdicated, offers the crown jointly to William and Mary (as William III and Mary II). This undramatic change of regime is known in English history as the Glorious or Bloodless Revolution. It will not be bloodless in Ireland.


James II in Ireland: 1689-1690

With active encouragement from Louis XIV, James II sails from France in March 1689 with a small army of about 1200 men. They land in Kinsale and march to Dublin, where James is acknowledged king by an enthusiastic gathering of Irish Catholics - eagerly expecting now to recover the lands appropriated over the past century by English Protestants.

In April James moves north to take control of Ulster, where the Protestant settlement is strongest. But he meets very effective passive resistance. The Protestant strongholds of Londonderry and Enniskillen close their gates. Both survive long sieges during the summer of 1689.


In June 1689 an English army arrives in northern Ireland. For the rest of that year there is wary and inconclusive skirmishing, but in 1690 the stakes are increased. Both sides build up their troops and their provisions. In March a contribution for James II comes from Louis XIV, in the form of 7000 French veterans. In June William III, the new king of England, at last arrives in person.

On 11 July the rivals confront each other across the river Boyne. William has the larger army (about 35,000 men to 21,000) and he adopts bolder tactics, but his victory in itself is not conclusive since the Irish army survives to fight another day. What proves politically decisive is the immediate flight of James II back to France.


Bill of Rights and Act of Settlement: 1689-1701

After more than half a century of conflict with the Stuart dynasty, parliament now makes a clear assertion of its rights in relation to the sovereign. William and Mary, accepting the crown in February 1689, assent to a Declaration of Right. Its clauses are incorporated later in the year in an act of parliament 'declaring the Rights and Liberties of the Subject and settling the Succession of the Crown'.

The act is not primarily concerned with the individual subject. It asserts the rights of parliament (representing all subjects) in relation to the king. Commonly known as the Bill of Rights, it can be seen as a first step towards modern constitutional monarchies.


The clauses of the bill specifically reflect the abuses perpetrated by recent Stuart kings. Parliament's assent is to be required before a monarch may levy money or raise an army in time of peace; a monarch may never suspend or dispense with any law; elections to parliament are to be freely held, speech within parliament is to be free, parliaments are to be summoned frequently.

This is essentially Protestant legislation. The act states that only Protestants may carry arms for their protection. It also restricts the succession to Protestant descendants of the present royal family.


In 1689 it seems adequate to limit the line of succession to descendants of Mary, followed by those of her sister Anne and then of William (in the case of Mary dying and his marrying again). But by 1701 it appears likely that no heir will survive these three. Mary has died childless in 1694. William shows no sign of remarrying. After fifteen pregnancies, the unfortunate Anne has seen only one child live beyond infancy. He dies, at the age of eleven, in 1700.

Even though Anne herself has not yet succeeded to the throne, the young prince's death makes the question of her successor a matter of urgency.


Obsessed with the fear that the lack of heirs may enable the exiled Stuarts to slip back on to the English throne, parliament passes in 1701 an Act of Settlement. Stating that no Catholic may rule in England, it limits the succession to Anne's only Protestant cousin - Sophia, who is married to the elector of Hanover. She is a granddaughter of James I and daughter of the Winter Queen.

The act is at the same time a further assertion of parliament's power over the monarch. For good measure it slips in some new restrictions. Henceforth the sovereign may neither declare war nor leave the kingdom without the consent of parliament.


Anne's years of war: 1702-1713

William III dies within a year of the Act of Settlement, to be succeeded in 1702 by his sister-in-law Anne. By then the country is at war with France, over the issue of the Spanish succession. The conflict will last for all but the last year of the new queen's reign. England has great success on European battlefields, under the leadership of the duke of Marlborough, and the eventual peace treaty (of Utrecht in 1713) brings valuable strategic additions to British holdings in the Mediterranean and in America.

The transition from England to Britain in the previous sentence acknowledges the most significant internal event of Anne's reign - the Act of Union, in 1707, between England and Scotland.


Act of Union: 1707

Given the centuries of hostility between Scotland and England, with warfare even in the 17th century under a shared Stuart king, the union of the two kingdoms seems to come with surprising suddeness. It has been under discussion for a considerable time, for James VI and I tries to achieve it after inheriting the English throne in 1603. But the idea meets with little favour (although imposed during the Commonwealth) until the early 18th century.

The motivation in 1707 is largely economic for the Scots and political for the English.


Scotland has recently suffered a disastrous failure in setting up a colony in 1698 in Darien, on the isthmus of Panama. By the time the experiment is abandoned, in 1700, it is estimated to have cost 200,000 and some 2000 lives. Tariff-free access to all English markets, both in Britain and in the developing colonies, seems commercially a rather more attractive option.

For England, engaged in lengthy wars with the French (who are sympathetic to the exiled Stuart dynasty), it is attractive to remove the danger of any threat from the country's only land border. The union of the kingdoms creates an island realm.


The Act of Union abolishes the Scottish parliament, giving the Scots instead a proportion of the seats at Westminster (forty-five in the commons, sixteen in the lords). Scotland's legal system, radically different from English common law, is specifically safeguarded.

With Scotland and Wales both now governed from Westminster, the history of England becomes - at any rate for the next three centuries - the central thread of the history of Great Britain.


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