The Convention Parliament
(The English Convention)
The return of the Rump Parliament in December 1659 was followed by widespread demands for the reinstatement of the MPs who had been expelled from Parliament at Pride's Purge in 1648. With military backing from General Monck, the "secluded" MPs were re-admitted on 21 February 1660, thus restoring the Long Parliament, originally called by Charles I in November 1640, for its final session.
The Presbyterian Knot
The reinstated MPs were Presbyterians who had wanted to continue negotiations with King Charles I after the civil war, and who now sought a restoration of the monarchy, but with constitutional limitations on the king's powers. The Presbyterians formed a majority over the republican "Commonwealthsmen" in Parliament and over the few MPs who wanted to revive the Protectorate. A number of Presbyterian church reforms were introduced, but the Long Parliament was obliged to call new elections and duly dissolved itself on 16 March 1660.
The election campaign for the new Parliament was principally fought over the issue of the monarchy. The nation as a whole almost unanimously favoured the King's return, and this was reflected in the election results. The republicans and army officers that had dominated recent parliaments were swept from power and replaced by Royalists and Presbyterians. The new parliament was called the English "Convention" because it had not been summoned by a sovereign. Unlike the Protectorate parliaments, only English constituencies were represented in the Convention. Separate parliaments for Scotland and Ireland were reinstated.
When the Convention assembled on 25 April 1660, a small group of experienced Presbyterian politicians known as the "Presbyterian Knot" attempted to gain control of Parliament in order to promote their policy of a conditional restoration. The Presbyterian Sir Harbottle Grimston was elected Speaker of the House of Commons before the full House had assembled, and the Earl of Manchester was elected Speaker of the House of Lords, which sat for the first time since its abolition under the Commonwealth in February 1649. Manchester tried to limit attendance at the Lords to sixteen senior Presbyterian peers and to exclude the "young Lords" who had come of age during the Interregnum and who were expected to favour an unconditional restoration. However, it proved impossible to restrict attendance, and around 145 peers eventually took their seats, a large majority of whom were Royalists.
After a number of MPs made loyal speeches on 27 April, Parliament adjourned for three days to await a response from the King. This came in the form of the Declaration of Breda which was presented to Parliament on 1 May 1660. Both Houses answered with an acknowledgement that the lawful government of the nation was by King, Lords and Commons. On 8 May, Parliament declared that Charles II had been lawful King since the execution of his father in January 1649 and invited him to return. King Charles landed in England on 25 May and made a triumphal entry into London four days later.
The Convention Parliament continued to sit until the end of 1660. It was responsible for implementing the terms for the initial Restoration settlement under which Charles II established his administration. The Convention passed the Bill of Indemnity and Oblivion, which was intended to reunite the nation under the restored monarchy by pardoning the majority of those who had opposed the Crown during the civil wars and Interregnum. It also undertook the task of disbanding the army that had supported the Commonwealth and Protectorate régimes. The first steps were taken towards settling disputes over lands which had been sold off during the Interregnum, and initial legislation to provide revenue for the restored monarchy was set out.
Charles II dissolved the Convention Parliament on 29 December 1660. The work of dismantling all Acts of Parliament and institutions set up during the Commonwealth and Protectorate was continued by the less conciliatory Cavalier Parliament, elected under Charles' authority in May 1661.
Godfrey Davies, The Restoration of Charles II, 1658-60 (San Marino 1955)
Ronald Hutton, The Restoration: a political and religious history of England and Wales 1658-1667 (Oxford 1985)