Commonwealth of England, Scotland and Ireland
Motto: PAX QUAERITUR BELLO
("Peace is obtained through war")
Territory of Commonwealth in 1659
|Common languages||English (official)|
Scots, Irish, Welsh, Cornish, Scottish Gaelic
|Government||Unitary republic under a military dictatorship|
| Other House |
| House of Commons |
|16 December 1653|
|25 May 1657|
• R. Cromwell's resignation
|25 May 1659|
|Today part of|
The Protectorate was the period during the Commonwealth (or, to monarchists, the Interregnum) when England and Wales, Ireland, Scotland, and the English overseas possessions were governed by a Lord Protector as a republic. The Protectorate began in 1653 when, following the dissolution of the Rump Parliament and then Barebone's Parliament, Oliver Cromwell was appointed Lord Protector of the Commonwealth under the terms of the Instrument of Government. In 1659, the Protectorate Parliament was dissolved by the Committee of Safety as Richard Cromwell, who had succeeded his father as Lord Protector, was unable to keep control of the Parliament and the Army. This marked the end of the Protectorate and the start of a second period of rule by the Rump Parliament as the legislature and the Council of State as the executive.
Since 1649 and prior to the Protectorate, England, Ireland and later Scotland had been governed as a republic by the Council of State and the Rump Parliament. The Act declaring England to be a Commonwealth, which established England, together with "all the Dominions and Territoryes thereunto belonging", as a republic, had been passed on 19 May 1649, following the trial and execution of Charles I in January of that year. All of Ireland came under the same governance (after the successful Cromwellian conquest of Ireland) with the appointment of a Parliamentary military governor in Dublin. Scotland was invaded, subjugated and placed under an English military governor first appointed in 1651.
The process of placing the governance of Scotland on a more long term constitutional footing began shortly after the defeat of the Scottish Royalists and Charles II at the Battle of Worcester. On 28 October 1651 the English Rump Parliament passed a declaration for union of the English and Scottish parliaments, but the process was not completed until an Act of Union was passed on 26 June 1657 (See Tender of Union).
On 20 April 1653, after learning that Parliament was attempting to stay in session despite an agreement to dissolve, and having failed to come up with a working constitution, Cromwell, with the backing of the Grandees in the Army Council, marched soldiers into the debating chamber and forcibly ended the Rump's session.
Within a month of the Rump's dismissal, Oliver Cromwell on the advice of Thomas Harrison and with the support of other officers in the Army, sent a request to Congregational churches in every county to nominate those they considered fit to take part in the new government. On 4 July a Nominated Assembly, nicknamed the "Assembly of Saints" or Barebone's Parliament (named after one of its members), took on the role of more traditional English Parliaments. However it proved just as difficult for the Grandees to control and was in addition a subject of popular ridicule, so on 8 December 1653 MPs who supported Cromwell engineered its end by passing a dissolution motion at a time of day when the house usually had few members in attendance. Those who refused to recognise the motion were forcibly ejected by soldiers.
The collapse of the radical consensus which had spawned the Nominated Assembly led to the Grandees passing the Instrument of Government in the Council of State which paved the way for the Protectorate.
After the dissolution of Barebone's Parliament, John Lambert put forward a new constitution known as the Instrument of Government, closely modelled on the Heads of Proposals. It made Cromwell Lord Protector for life to undertake “the chief magistracy and the administration of government”. He had the power to call and dissolve parliaments but was obliged under the instrument to seek the majority vote of the Council of State. However, Cromwell's power was also buttressed by his continuing popularity among the army, which he had built up during the civil wars, and which he subsequently prudently guarded. Cromwell was sworn in as Lord Protector on 16 December 1653.
The first Protectorate parliament met on 3 September 1654, and after some initial gestures approving appointments previously made by Cromwell, began to work on a moderate programme of constitutional reform. Rather than opposing Parliament's bill, Cromwell dissolved them on 22 January 1655. After a royalist uprising led by Sir John Penruddock, Cromwell (influenced by Lambert) divided England into military districts ruled by Army Major-Generals who answered only to him. The fifteen major generals and deputy major generals—called "godly governors"—were central not only to national security, but Cromwell's moral crusade. The generals supervised militia forces and security commissions, collected taxes and ensured support for the government in the English and Welsh provinces. Commissioners for securing the peace of the commonwealth were appointed to work with them in every county. While a few of these commissioners were career politicians, most were zealous puritans who welcomed the major-generals with open arms and embraced their work with enthusiasm. However, the major-generals lasted less than a year. Many feared they threatened their reform efforts and authority. Their position was further harmed by a tax proposal by Major General John Desborough to provide financial backing for their work, which the second Protectorate parliament—instated in September 1656—voted down for fear of a permanent military state. Ultimately, however, Cromwell's failure to support his men, sacrificing them to his opponents, caused their demise. Their activities between November 1655 and September 1656 had, however, reopened the wounds of the 1640s and deepened antipathies to the regime.
During this period Oliver Cromwell also faced challenges in foreign policy. The First Anglo-Dutch War which had broken out in 1652, against the Dutch Republic, was eventually won by Admiral Robert Blake in 1654. Having negotiated peace with the Dutch, Cromwell then proceeded to engage the Spanish in warfare, through his Western Design. This involved secret preparations for an attack on the Spanish colonies in the Caribbean. This resulted in the invasion of Jamaica, which then became an English colony.The Lord Protector became aware of the contribution the Jewish community made to the economic success of Holland, now England's leading commercial rival. It was this—allied to Cromwell's toleration of private worship of non-puritans—that led to his encouraging Jews to return to England, 350 years after their banishment by Edward I, in the hope that they would help speed up the recovery of the country after the disruption of the Civil Wars.
Following the Battle of the Dunes (1658), the town of Dunkirk was awarded by France to the Protectorate. It was sold back to France in 1662.
In 1657, Oliver Cromwell was offered the crown by Parliament as part of a revised constitutional settlement, presenting him with a dilemma, since he had been instrumental in abolishing the monarchy. Cromwell agonised for six weeks over the offer. He was attracted by the prospect of stability it held out, but in a speech on 13 April 1657 he made clear that God's providence had spoken against the office of king: “I would not seek to set up that which Providence hath destroyed and laid in the dust, and I would not build Jericho again”.
Instead, Cromwell was ceremonially re-installed as Lord Protector (with greater powers than had previously been granted him under this title) at Westminster Hall, sitting upon King Edward's Chair which was specially moved from Westminster Abbey for the occasion. The event in part echoed a coronation, utilizing many of its symbols and regalia, such as a purple ermine-lined robe, a sword of justice, a sceptre and an ermine-lined coronet (but not a crown or an orb). However, a crown and orb was present on the lord protector's seal. But, most notably, the office of Lord Protector was still not to become hereditary, though Cromwell was now able to nominate his own successor. Cromwell's new rights and powers were laid out in the Humble Petition and Advice, a legislative instrument which replaced the Instrument of Government. Cromwell himself, however, was at pains to minimise his role, describing himself as a constable or watchman. However, Cromwell "had never gained the willing consent of the nation" and the Protectorate relied on armed force.
After Oliver's death in September 1658, his third son Richard Cromwell succeeded as Lord Protector. The impression of strength and durability of the Protectorate when Richard succeeded proved deceptive; a lack of unity would destroy the Protectorate.
Richard sought to expand the basis for the Protectorate beyond the army to civilians. He summoned a Parliament in 1659, but the republicans engaged in "endless obstruction and filibustering" and attacked the 'quasi-monarchal' aspects of the Protectorate, and they "condemned Oliver's rule as a period of tyranny and economic depression".
Three things undermined the Protectorate: the "anxieties of the army, the irresponsibility of the Parliament and the rashness of Richard Cromwell"; what ultimately prevented the retention of the Protectorate was the opposition of the "junior officers" and "many of the common soldiers".
Richard had proved he could neither manage the Parliament nor control the army. On 7 May a Committee of Safety was formed on the authority of the Rump Parliament, displacing the Protector's Council of State, and was in turn replaced by a new Council of State on 19 May 1659. "Richard was never formally deposed or arrested, but allowed to fade away. The Protectorate was treated as having been from the first a mere usurpation".
After Richard Cromwell was removed from power by the Grandees of the New Army, the Rump Parliament was instated and soon after was replaced by the Committee of Safety and Council of State under the authority of Charles Fleetwood. The Committee of Safety then ordered General John Lambert to meet George Monck the commander of English forces in Scotland and a royalist sympathizer in order to force Monck's submission or defeat. Monck instead marched south. As Lambert's army marched north, his ranks began to dwindle and was ultimately forced to retreat back to London.
When Monck reached London he allowed Presbyterian members, removed by Pride's Purge, to reenter Parliament on 21 February 1660. On 16 March 1660, the Long Parliament dissolved itself after preparations were made for the Convention Parliament of 1660 to succeed it. On 4 April 1660, Charles II proclaimed the Declaration of Breda which granted a pardon for all crimes committed during the Civil War and the Interregnum to those who would recognized him as the lawful king. On 8 May 1660, the Convention Parliament declared Charles II the lawful successor of Charles I and king. Following this, the Convention Parliament began the transition back to monarchy through the passage of the Restoration Settlement.
According to Derek Hirst, outside of politics and religion, the 1640s and 1650s saw a revived economy characterized by growth in manufacturing, the elaboration of financial and credit instruments, and the commercialization of communication. The gentry found time for leisure activities, such as horse racing and bowling. In the high culture important innovations included the development of a mass market for music, increased scientific research, and an expansion of publishing. All the trends were discussed in depth at the newly established coffee houses.
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The Commonwealth was the political structure during the period from 1649 to 1660 when England and Wales, later along with Ireland and Scotland, were governed as a republic after the end of the Second English Civil War and the trial and execution of Charles I. The republic's existence was declared through "An Act declaring England to be a Commonwealth", adopted by the Rump Parliament on 19 May 1649. Power in the early Commonwealth was vested primarily in the Parliament and a Council of State. During the period, fighting continued, particularly in Ireland and Scotland, between the parliamentary forces and those opposed to them, as part of what is now referred to as the Third English Civil War.
Oliver Cromwell was an English general and statesman who led the Parliament of England's armies against King Charles I during the English Civil War and ruled the British Isles as Lord Protector from 1653 until his death in 1658. He acted simultaneously as head of state and head of government of the new republican commonwealth.
Richard Cromwell was an English statesman who was the second Lord Protector of the Commonwealth of England, Scotland and Ireland and son of the first Lord Protector Oliver Cromwell.
John Lambert was an English Parliamentary general and politician. He fought during the English Civil War and then in Oliver Cromwell's Scottish campaign (1650–51), becoming thereafter active in civilian politics until his dismissal by Cromwell in 1657. During this time he wrote the Instrument of Government, one of only two codified constitutions ever adopted in Britain, and was influential in bringing about the Protectorate.
The Rump Parliament was the English Parliament after Colonel Thomas Pride purged the Long Parliament, on 6 December 1648, of those members hostile to the Grandees' intention to try King Charles I for high treason.
Barebone's Parliament, also known as the Little Parliament, the Nominated Assembly and the Parliament of Saints, came into being on 4 July 1653, and was the last attempt of the English Commonwealth to find a stable political form before the installation of Oliver Cromwell as Lord Protector. It was an assembly entirely nominated by Oliver Cromwell and the Army's Council of Officers. It acquired its name from the nominee for the City of London, Praise-God Barebone. The Speaker of the House was Francis Rous. The total number of nominees was 140, 129 from England, five from Scotland and six from Ireland.
The Wars of the Three Kingdoms, sometimes known as the British Civil Wars, formed an intertwined series of conflicts that took place in the kingdoms of England, Scotland and Ireland between 1639 and 1651. The English Civil War proper has become the best-known of these conflicts; it included the abolition of the monarchy and the execution of the kingdoms' monarch, Charles I, by the English Parliament in 1649.
Colonel John Hewson (Hughson) was a soldier in the New Model Army and signed the death warrant of King Charles I, making him a regicide.
The English Council of State, later also known as the Protector's Privy Council, was first appointed by the Rump Parliament on 14 February 1649 after the execution of King Charles I.
John Desborough (1608–1680) was an English soldier and politician who supported the parliamentary cause during the English Civil War.
The Third Protectorate Parliament sat for one session, from 27 January 1659 until 22 April 1659, with Chaloner Chute and Thomas Bampfylde as the Speakers of the House of Commons. It was a bicameral Parliament, with an Upper House having a power of veto over the Commons.
Colonel Sir Richard Ingoldsby was an English officer in the New Model Army during the English Civil War and a politician who sat in the House of Commons variously between 1647 and 1685. As a Commissioner (Judge) at the trial of King Charles I, he signed the king's death warrant but was one of the few regicides to be pardoned.
The Interregnum was the period between the execution of Charles I on 30 January 1649 and the arrival of his son Charles II in London on 29 May 1660 which marked the start of the Restoration. During the Interregnum, England was under various forms of republican government.
Events from the year 1653 in England.
The Tender of Union was a declaration of the Parliament of England during the Interregnum following the War of the Three Kingdoms stating that Scotland would cease to have an independent parliament and would join England in its emerging Commonwealth republic.
The Instrument of Government was a constitution of the Commonwealth of England, Scotland and Ireland. Drafted by Major-General John Lambert in 1653, it was the first sovereign codified and written constitution in England.
Charles Fleetwood was an English Parliamentarian soldier and politician, Lord Deputy of Ireland in 1652–1655, where he enforced the Cromwellian Settlement. Named Cromwell's Lieutenant General for the Third English Civil War, Fleetwood was thereafter one of his most loyal supporters throughout the Protectorate. After the Lord Protector's death, Fleetwood was initially supportive of his brother-in-law Richard Cromwell, but turned against him and forced him from power. Together with his colleague John Lambert he dominated government for a little over a year before being outmaneuvered by George Monck. At the Restoration he was included in the Act of Indemnity as among the twenty liable to penalties other than capital, and was finally incapacitated from holding any office of trust. His public career then closed.
Cromwell's Act of Grace, or more formally the Act of Pardon and Grace to the People of Scotland, was an Act of the Parliament of England that declared that the people of Scotland were pardoned for any crimes they might have committed during the Wars of the Three Kingdoms. It was proclaimed at the Mercat Cross in Edinburgh on 5 May 1654. General George Monck, the English military governor of Scotland, was present in Edinburgh, having arrived the day before for two proclamations also delivered at the Mercat Cross, the first declaring Oliver Cromwell to be the Protector of England, Ireland and Scotland, and that Scotland was united with the Commonwealth of England.
Scotland under the Commonwealth is the history of the Kingdom of Scotland between the declaration that the kingdom was part of the Commonwealth of England in February 1652, and the Restoration of the monarchy with Scotland regaining its position as an independent kingdom, in June 1660.
The "interregnum" in England, Scotland, and Ireland started with the execution of Charles I in January 1649 and ended in May 1660 when his son Charles II was restored to the thrones of the three realms, although he had been already acclaimed king in Scotland since 1650.