On 3rd September 1658, Oliver Cromwell died. A few months previously, Cromwell had announced that he wanted his son, Richard Cromwell, to replace him as Lord Protector of the Commonwealth. The English army was unhappy with this decision. While they respected Oliver as a skillful military commander, Richard was just a country farmer. In May 1659, the generals forced Richard to retire from government.
Parliament and the leaders of the army now began arguing amongst themselves about how England should be ruled. General George Monck, the officer in charge of the English army based in Scotland, decided to take action, and in 1660 he marched his army to London.
When Monck arrived he reinstated the House of Lords and the Parliament of 1640. Royalists were now in control of Parliament. Monk now contacted Charles II, who was living in Holland. Charles agreed that if he was made king he would pardon all members of the parliamentary army and would continue with the Commonwealth's policy of religious toleration. Charles also accepted that he would share power with Parliament and would not rule as an 'absolute' monarch as his father had tried to do in the 1630s.
This information was passed to Parliament and it was eventually agreed to abolish the Commonwealth and bring back the monarchy. Parliament raised nearly £1 million and with this money soldiers in the army were paid off and sent home. At the same time Charles was granted permission to form two permanent regiments for himself, the Royal Scots and the Coldstream Guards.
In August 1660, Charles II and Parliament agreed to pass the Act of Indemnity and Oblivion. This resulted in the granting of a free pardon to anyone who had supported the Commonwealth government. However, the king retained the right to punish those people who had participated in the trial and execution of Charles I. A special court was appointed and in October 1660 those Regicides who were still alive and living in Britain were brought to trial. Ten were found guilty and were sentenced to be hung, drawn and quartered. This included Thomas Harrison, John Jones and Hugh Peters.
General George Monck became one of the king's most important ministers. Many of the men who had fought as Cavaliers against the Roundheads also became ministers and advisers. Some of these men wanted revenge against those who had killed their king. A large number of the people responsible were now dead. However, many of those who were still alive were punished. Eleven members of the House of Commons who had signed Charles I's death warrant were hanged, drawn and quartered. Royalists even dug up the body of Oliver Cromwell and displayed it at Tyburn.
Charles II and his pro-Royalist Parliament now attempted to deal with the Puritans. A new Act of Uniformity was passed that made Puritan acts of worship illegal. Those that refused to obey this law became known as non-conformists or dissenters. Large numbers of nonconformists went to prison because they were unwilling to give up their religious beliefs.
Puritans also lost their power in politics. In future Puritans would no longer be allowed to become members of the House of Commons or local counsellors. They were also excluded from universities and from teaching in schools. Strict censorship was also imposed on books. All books dealing with history, science or philosophy had to be checked by the government and the leaders of the church before they were published.
Newspapers were also put under the control of the government. Coffee-houses, where people often discussed politics, were also closed down.
You cannot imagine how all people here are affected with joy at the hope of having a King again. His (Charles) picture is hung up in many places in the streets... there was a man yesterday who said that he had seen him lately and that he was not so handsome as that picture, at which the people were so angry that they fell upon the man and beat him soundly.
There were 20,000 soldiers... shouting with joy; the streets covered with flowers, the bells ringing, fountains running with wine.
I went out to Charing Cross, to see Major-General Harrison, hanged, drawn, and quartered... he looked as cheerful as any man could do in that condition. He was presently cut down, and his head and heart shown to the people, at which there were great shouts of joy... Harrison's head has been set up (on a pole) on the other side of Westminster Hall.
John Jones chose to marry Oliver Cromwell's sister... and had his hand in the murder of the king. This morning Thomas Scot, Gregory Clement, Adrian Scroop and John Jones were executed at Charing Cross.... Jones, the last to be executed... lifted up his hands as he was drawn upon the hurdle and at the place of execution... to gain the peoples' prayers.
The traitors executed were Scroop, Cook and Jones. I did not see their execution, but met their quarters mangled and cut and reeking as they were brought from the gallows in baskets.
I feel better now... It is better to have one king than five hundred.
Whatsoever casual good hath been wrought at any time by the assimilation of ambitious, factious, and disappointed members, to the little, but solid, and unbiased party, the more frequent ill effects, and consequences of so unequal a mixture, so long continued, are demonstrable and apparent. For while scarce any man comes thither with respect to the public service, but in design to make and raise his fortune, it is not to be expressed, the debauchery and lewdness, which, upon occasion of election to Parliaments, are now grown habitual throw the nation. So that the vice, and the expense, are risen to such a prodigious height, that few sober men can endure to stand to be chosen on such conditions. From whence also arise feuds, and perpetual animosities, over most of the counties and corporations, while gentlemen of worth, spirit and ancient estates and dependences, see themselves over-powered in their own neighbourhood by the drunkness and bribery of their competitors. But if nevertheless any worthy person chance to carry the election, some mercenary or corrupt sheriff makes a double return, and so the cause is handed to the Committee of elections, who ask no better, but are ready to adopt his adversary into the House if he be not legitimate. And if the gentleman aggrieved seek his remedy against the sheriff of Westminster Hall, and the proofs be so palpable, that the King's Bench cannot invent how to do him injustice, yet the major part of the twelve judges shall upon better consideration vacate the sheriff's fine, and reverse the judgement; but those of them that dare dissent from their brethren are in danger to be turned off the bench without any cause assigned. While men therefore care not thus how they get into the House of Commons, neither can it be expected that they should make any conscience of what they do there, but they are only intent how to reimburse themselves (if their elections were at their own charge) or how to bargain their votes for a place or a pension. They list themselves straightway s into some Court faction, and it is as well known among them, to what Lord each of them retain, as when formerly they wore coats and badges. By this long haunting so together they are grown too so familiar among themselves, that all reverence of their own Assembly is lost, that they live together not like Parliament men, but like so many good fellows met together in a public house to make merry. And which is yet worse, by being so thoroughly acquainted, they understand their number and party, so that the use of so public a counsel is frustrated, there is no place for deliberation, no persuading by reason, but they can see one another's votes through both throats and cravats before they hear them.