A Peaceful Restoration?

When Charles II was restored as King in 1660, would it bring peace to a bitter country?

The Restoration of the Stuart monarchy in the kingdoms of England, Scotland and Ireland took place in 1660 when the future King Charles II returned from exile in Europe.

Return of the King

After the death of the Lord Protector Oliver Cromwell and the fall of his son Richard’s regime, General George Monck, the military governor of Scotland, marched the English army into Scotland and facilitated a Restoration of the monarchy in June 1660.

Charles II had been invited back to reign at the request of Parliament. Oliver Cromwell’s military rule over the country had failed in easing the post-war political and religious divides that still plagued everyday life. His son Richard’s brief rule as Lord Protector had done little to address these difficulties and his regime proved shambolic in maintaining order.

Parliament had decided that change was needed and that change was the return of the king.

The Commonwealth of England was over, and constitutionally, it was as if the last nineteen years had never happened. The preceding period became known as the Interregnum (1649 – 1660). The Indemnity and Oblivion Act, which became law on 29 August 1660, pardoned all past treason against the crown, but specifically excluded those involved in the trial and execution of Charles I.

The regicides were hunted down; some escaped but most were found and put on trial. In the ensuing trials, twelve were condemned to death. Fifth Monarchist Thomas Harrison, the first person found guilty of regicide, was hung, drawn and quartered.

Another ten regicides were subsequently hanged and royalists dug up Cromwell’s rotting corpse to give him a final hanging.

Margaret Fell Meets the King

Two weeks after the restoration of Charles II, soldiers appeared at Swarthmoor Hall and arrested founding Friend George Fox on charges of treason. Fox was imprisoned at Lancaster Castle dungeon for 20 weeks.

Margaret Fell left Swarthmoor in the summer of 1660 to visit Charles II and presented the newly written Quaker Declaration of Peace pamphlet to Charles II in person. The pamphlet includes the lines:

“We are a people that follow after those things that make for peace, love, and unity; it is our desire that others’ feet may walk in the same, and do deny and bear our testimony against all strife, and wars, and contentions that come from the lusts that war in the members, that war against the soul, which we wait for and watch for in all people, and love and desire the good of all. For no other cause but love to the souls of all people, have our sufferings been.”

Quaker Declaration of Peace pamphlet

A Return to Persecution

Fell’s visit to Charles II proves initially successful as the king issues both Fox’s release as well as the release of approximately 700 Quakers that had been imprisoned under Cromwell. However, the success is short lived as a year later in 1661 there was a final uprising of the Fifth Monarchists that sought to overthrow Charles II.

The Fifth Monarchists uprising, in which Quakers did not take part, is used as a pretext for renewed persecution of the Society of Friends. The 1662 Quaker Act begins a period of intense persecution that lasts until 1689, when the Act of Toleration legalizes Quakerism and other dissenting faiths.


Image from www.theguardian.com/

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