The Rump Parliament recalled, 1659

After Oliver Cromwell's death in 1658, his successor Richard Cromwell was forced by Army officers to dissolve the Third Protectorate Parliament in April 1659. The officers, led by their commander-in-chief Charles Fleetwood, intended to keep Richard in power but dependent upon the Army. However, republican Commonwealthsmen were determined to bring the quasi-monarchical Protectorate to an end. They gained the support of junior officers and the rank-and-file of the soldiery by issuing tracts and pamphlets acclaiming the "Good Old Cause" and promising arrears of pay and religious liberty. Fleetwood and the Grandees were unable to resist the soldiers' demands for the return of the Commonwealth.

On 5 May 1659, the Council of Officers resolved to recall surviving MPs of the old Rump Parliament, which Oliver Cromwell had forcibly dissolved in 1653. Certain conditions were applied: the Protectorate Council and Upper House would be replaced with a Senate that would include army officers; MPs would grant freedom of worship and undertake to reform the law; Richard Cromwell's safety would be guaranteed. Having provided for new elections, Parliament was then expected to dissolve itself. Around fifty surviving members of the Rump duly re-assembled at Westminster on 7 May 1659. Richard Cromwell made no appeal for support. His formal abdication was read in Parliament on 25 May, bringing the Protectorate to an end.

Although welcomed by republicans and religious radicals, the reinstated Parliament did little to implement the promised reforms. It was determined above all to gain control of the Army. Several officers were appointed to the Council of State, but the Speaker was given power to grant commissions and promotions rather than Fleetwood and a committee was appointed to supervise the nomination of officers. Any officer whose loyalty was suspect could be cashiered without being heard by a court-martial.

The Military Junta

John Lambert, who had resigned in 1657 over the terms of the Humble Petition and Advice, was recalled to command of his regiment during the crisis that led to Richard Cromwell's resignation. Lambert quickly regained his former prominence. As Parliament's most capable commander, he led the troops that suppressed Booth's Uprising in August 1659. The following month, Lambert's officers stationed at Derby (possibly at Lambert's instigation) petitioned Parliament to implement the reforms promised in May, to guarantee that no officer would be dismissed without a court-martial and to restore Lambert himself to the rank of major-general.

In a deliberate trial of strength, Parliament forbade further petitioning of Parliament, and, when this failed, revoked the commissions of nine senior officers, including Lambert, Disbrowe and Berry. A seven-man commission was appointed to replace Fleetwood as commander-in-chief. In response to this challenge, Lambert and the senior officers resolved to expel the Rump, as Oliver Cromwell had done in 1653.

Two loyal regiments were ordered to guard the Parliament House but on 13 October 1659, Lambert's troops encircled Westminster, blockaded all approaches by land and water and turned back MPs trying to reach the House. In order to avoid bloodshed, the Council of State ordered the guards at Westminster to stand down. The next day, Lambert ignored the Council's order to withdraw his troops from Westminster. The Council continued to sit until 25 October, then dissolved itself. A new Committee of Safety was hastily appointed as an interim government.

Monck's Intervention

Responding to Sir Arthur Hesilrige's call for support against Lambert and the senior officers, General George Monck, the commander-in-chief in Scotland, stepped in to demand Parliament's recall as the only legally constituted government. Lambert marched north to confront Monck in November 1659, but his troops were reluctant to fight their comrades in Monck's army. Hesilrige went to Portsmouth where the garrison mutinied in support of Parliament and vice-admiral John Lawson brought the Channel fleet up to Gravesend, threatening to blockade London. Faced with almost universal opposition, the military junta collapsed and Fleetwood was obliged to recall the Rump Parliament, which resumed its sitting on 26 December 1659. MPs grateful for Monck's intervention appointed him commander-in-chief in England as well as Scotland. Lambert's supporters in the army were dismissed.

In January 1660, at the invitation of Parliament, Monck marched for London. When Sir Thomas Fairfax emerged from retirement to declare his support for him, army support for Monck became unanimous. Monck arrived in London in February 1660 against a background of apprentice riots and widespread demands across the country for the return of the MPs expelled by Pride's Purge in December 1648. It was during this tumultuous period that the purged Parliament acquired its derisive and enduring nickname of the "Rump" of the Long Parliament. After initially supporting Parliament's orders to suppress the agitation, Monck agreed to support the re-admission of the excluded MPs under certain conditions: he was to be confirmed as commander-in-chief of the Army; a national Presbyterian church was to be established with toleration of separatist groups; Parliament should dissolve itself and call new elections.

On 21 February 1660, Monck reversed Pride's Purge by securing the re-admission of the excluded MPs and the final session of the Long Parliament began. After some debate, Monck's conditions were met. The restored Long Parliament voted to dissolve itself on 16 March 1660 and to call new elections. The pro-Royalist Convention Parliament duly assembled on 25 April 1660.


Godfrey Davies, The Restoration of Charles II, 1658-60 (San Marino 1955)

Ronald Hutton, The British Republic 1649-60 (Basingtoke 2000)

Blair Worden, The Rump Parliament (Cambridge 1974)

Origins of the name "The Rump" a biased account from Curiosities of Literature by Isaac D'Israeli (1823)