On this date in History: April 4, 1660. Charles II, King of England, Scotland and Ireland issues The Declaration of Breda.
The Declaration of Breda (dated April 4, 1660) was a proclamation by Charles II of England, Scotland and Ireland in which he promised a general pardon for crimes committed during the English Civil War and the Interregnum for all those who recognised Charles as the lawful king; the retention by the current owners of property purchased during the same period; religious toleration; and the payment of pay arrears to members of the army, and that the army would be recommissioned into service under the crown. The first three pledges were all subject to amendment by acts of parliament.
The declaration was named after the city of Breda in the Netherlands. It was actually written in the Spanish Netherlands, where Charles had been residing since March 1656; however, at the time of writing, England had been at war with Spain since 1655. To overcome the difficulties, both practical and in terms of public relations, of a prospective King of England addressing his subjects from enemy territory, Monck advised Charles to relocate himself to the United Netherlands, and to date his letters as if they were posted from Breda. Charles left Brussels, his last residence in the Spanish Netherlands, and passing through Antwerp arrived in Breda on April 4, and resided there until May.
The declaration was written in response to a secret message sent by General George Monck, who was then in effective control of England. Monk believed, as the country was beginning to succumb to anarchy, that the king could be the only person to restore stability to the realm. On May 1, 1660, the contents of the declaration and accompanying letters were made public. The next day Parliament passed a resolution that “government ought to be by King, Lords and Commons” and Charles was invited to England to receive his crown. On May 8, Charles was proclaimed King. On the advice of Monck, the commons rejected a resolution put forward by jurist Matthew Hale (a member for Gloucestershire) for a committee to be formed to look into the concessions offered by Charles and to negotiate conditions with the King such as those put forward to his father in the treaty of Newport.
The declaration was drawn up by Charles and his three chief advisors, Edward Hyde, the James Butler, Marquis of Ormond, and Sir Edward Nicholas, in order to state the terms by which Charles hoped to take up “the possession of that right which God and Nature hath made our due”.
The declaration promised a “free and general pardon” to any old enemies of Charles and of his father who recognised Charles II as their lawful monarch, “excepting only such persons as shall hereafter be excepted by parliament”. However it had always been Charles’s expectation, or at least that of his chancellor, Edward Hyde (later Earl of Clarendon), that all who had been immediately concerned in his father’s death should be punished, and even while at a disadvantage, while professing pardon and favour to many, he had constantly excepted the regicides.
Once Charles was restored to the throne, on his behalf Hyde steered the Indemnity and Oblivion Act through parliament. The act pardoned most who had sided with Parliament during the Civil War, but excepted the regicides, two prominent unrepentant republicans, John Lambert and Henry Vane the Younger, and around another twenty were forbidden to take any public office or sit in Parliament.
In the declaration Charles promised religious toleration in areas where it did not disturb the peace of the kingdom, and an act of parliament for the “granting of that indulgence”. However parliament chose to interpret the threat of peace to the kingdom to include the holding of public office by non-Anglicans. Between 1660 and 1665 the Cavalier Parliament passed four statutes that became known as the Clarendon Code. These severely limited the rights of Roman Catholics and nonconformists, such as the Puritans who had reached the zenith of their influence under the Commonwealth, effectively excluding them from national and local politics.
The declaration undertook to settle the back-pay of General Monck’s soldiers. The landed classes were reassured that establishing the justice of contested grants and purchases of estates that had been made “in the continued distractions of so many years and so many and great revolutions” was to be determined in Parliament. Charles II appeared to have “offered something to everyone in his terms for resuming government”.
Copies of the Declaration were delivered to both houses of the Convention Parliament by Sir John Grenville. Other copies with separate covering letters were delivered to Lord General George Monck to be communicated to the Lord President of the Council of State and to the Officers of the Army under his command, and to the Generals of the “Navy at Sea” and to the Lord Mayor of London.