George Monck

George Monck

George Monck, the son of a baron, was born in Devon 1608. Monck became a professional soldier and on the outbreak of the Civil War he joined the forces supporting Charles I.

Monck was captured at the Battle of Nantwich in 1644. He was imprisoned in the Tower of London for two years and in 1647 agreed to become a commander in the Parliamentary army. Monck successfully fought in Ireland and Scotland before taking part in the Dutch Wars (1652-54).

On 3 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 Cromwell to retire from government.

Parliament and the leaders of the army now began arguing amongst themselves about how England should be ruled. Monck, now the officer in charge of the English army based in Scotland, decided to take action, and in 1660

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. Monck 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.

As a reward for his action, Monck was granted the title, the Duke of Albemarle and was appointed as lieutenant-general of the army. He also became one of the king's most important advisers.

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.

Although he was a Presbyterian Monck made no effort to prevent the Anglicans from regaining power. He kept out of politics and served in the army during the Second Dutch War (1665-67). George Monck died in 1670 and was buried in Westminster Abbey, London.

Primary Sources

(1) Earl of Clarendon, The History of the Rebellion (1667)

At Edgehill... the foot soldiers stood their ground with great courage; and though many of the King's soldiers were unarmed and had only cudgels, they kept their ranks, and took up the arms which their slaughtered neighbours left to them.