The Treaty of Newport, 1648

The Long Parliament's final attempt to reach a negotiated settlement with King Charles I was held at Newport on the Isle of Wight from September to November 1648 after the defeat of the Scots and Royalists in the Second Civil War. Army radicals and Independent MPs felt that the King had gone too far in deliberately inciting a second war and that he should be brought to account. However, the Presbyterian and moderate Middle Group majority in Parliament still believed it possible to negotiate a settlement favourable to their interests. The day after news of Cromwell's victory at the battle of Preston was announced, Parliament repealed the Vote of No Addresses and made preparations for a new treaty with the King.

Fifteen commissioners from the Lords and Commons were selected to conduct the negotiations, including representatives of both the Presbyterian and Independent factions. The King was released on parole from his confinement at Carisbrooke Castle and lodged at a house in Newport. The negotiations opened on 18 September 1648 on the understanding that they were to last no longer than forty days. The King's advisers were not allowed into the room where the discussions were held but occupied another room, curtained-off so that they could hear the proceedings and counsel the King when he withdrew.

The negotiations proceeded slowly and exceeded the forty-day limit. With most Parliamentarians anxious to reach a settlement, several extensions were granted and the talks continued until 27 November 1648. The King remained adamant that Episcopacy was not to be abandoned entirely, that no Royalist leaders should be prosecuted for their actions in the recent war, and he continued in his refusal to take the Covenant or to impose it on others. However, he made several major concessions. Parliament was to be allowed to control the militia for a period of twenty years and could appoint state officials for ten years, after which these terms would be reviewed. The King also agreed that Presbyterianism would be the official state religion in England for a period of three years during which time the Westminster Assembly would consider the long-term form of Church government for agreement by King and Parliament. Although Charles agreed to have no further dealings with the Irish Confederates, he also sent secret instructions to the Marquis of Ormond telling him to disregard anything he conceded whilst in captivity.

Presbyterian and Middle Group MPs were prepared to continue negotiating with Charles in order to reach a permanent settlement. However, Army radicals had lost patience with the King and grew angry when Parliament appeared willing to allow him to come to London to complete the settlement. At a conference at St Albans during November 1648, Commissary-General Henry Ireton persuaded General Fairfax and the Council of Officers to adopt the uncompromising Army Remonstrance and to abandon negotiations with the delinquent King. On 1 December, the King was transferred to more secure quarters at Hurst Castle on the mainland and Ireton set in motion the train of events that led to the Army's purging of Parliament. The purged Parliament annulled the Treaty of Newport on 13 December 1648 and preparations for the King's trial went ahead.

Parliamentary commissioners at Newport

House of Lords House of Commons
Earl of Middlesex Earl of Salisbury Samuel Browne Nathaniel Fiennes William Pierrepoint
Earl of Northumberland Viscount Saye-and-Sele John Bulkeley John Glynn John Potts
Earl of Pembroke Viscount Wenman John Crewe Denzil Holles Sir Henry Vane


Graham Edwards, The Last Days of Charles I, (Stroud 1999)

S.R. Gardiner, History of the Great Civil War vol. iv (London 1894)

David Underdown, Pride's Purge (Oxford 1971)