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After the death of Oliver Cromwell in 1658, Charles’s initial chances of regaining the Crown seemed slim; Cromwell was succeeded as Lord Protector by his son, Richard. However, the new Lord Protector had little experience of either military or civil administration.

On May 25, 1859, Richard Cromwell resigns as Lord Protector of England following the restoration of the Long Parliament, beginning a second brief period of the republican government called the Commonwealth of England.

During the civil and military unrest that followed, George Monck, the Governor of Scotland, was concerned that the nation would descend into anarchy. Monck and his army marched into the City of London, and forced the Rump Parliament to re-admit members of the Long Parliament who had been excluded in December 1648, during Pride’s Purge.

The Long Parliament dissolved itself and there was a general election for the first time in almost 20 years. The outgoing Parliament defined the electoral qualifications intending to bring about the return of a Presbyterian majority.

The restrictions against royalist candidates and voters were widely ignored, and the elections resulted in a House of Commons that was fairly evenly divided on political grounds between Royalists and Parliamentarians and on religious grounds between Anglicans and Presbyterians.

The new so-called Convention Parliament assembled on April 25, 1660, and soon afterwards welcomed the Declaration of Breda, in which Charles promised lenience and tolerance.

There would be liberty of conscience and Anglican church policy would not be harsh. He would not exile past enemies nor confiscate their wealth. There would be pardons for nearly all his opponents except the regicides.

Above all, Charles promised to rule in cooperation with Parliament. The English Parliament resolved to proclaim Charles king and invite him to return, a message that reached Charles at Breda on May 8, 1660. In Ireland, a convention had been called earlier in the year, and had already declared for Charles. On 14 May, 14, Charles was proclaimed King of Ireland in Dublin.

Seascape of vessels along a low-lying coastline Charles sailed from his exile in the Netherlands to his restoration in England in May 1660. Painting by Lieve Verschuier.

Charles II set out for England from Scheveningen, and arrived in Dover on May 25, 1660 and reached London on 29 May 29, his 30th birthday. His arrival at Dover came at the invitation of the Convention Parliament, which marks the end of the Cromwell-proclaimed Commonwealth of England, Scotland and Ireland and begins the Restoration of the British monarchy.

Although Charles and Parliament granted amnesty to nearly all of Cromwell’s supporters in the Act of Indemnity and Oblivion, 50 people were specifically excluded.

In the end nine of the regicides were executed: they were hanged, drawn and quartered, whereas others were given life imprisonment or simply excluded from office for life. The bodies of Oliver Cromwell, Henry Ireton and John Bradshaw were subjected to the indignity of posthumous decapitations.

The English Parliament granted him an annual income to run the government of £1.2 million, generated largely from customs and excise duties. The grant, however, proved to be insufficient for most of Charles’s reign.

For the most part, the actual revenue was much lower, which led to attempts to economise at court by reducing the size and expenses of the royal household and raise money through unpopular innovations such as the hearth tax.

In the latter half of 1660, Charles’s joy at the Restoration was tempered by the deaths of his youngest brother, Henry, and sister, Mary, of smallpox.

At around the same time, Anne Hyde, the daughter of the Lord Chancellor, Edward Hyde, revealed that she was pregnant by Charles’s brother, James, whom she had secretly married. Edward Hyde, who had not known of either the marriage or the pregnancy, was created Earl of Clarendon and his position as Charles’s favourite minister was strengthened.

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