Royalist Conspiracies & Uprisings: Overview

Royalist attempts to overthrow the Commonwealth & Protectorate

The defeat of Charles II and his Scottish allies at the battle of Worcester in September 1651 ended any direct Royalist military threat to the Commonwealth and Protectorate. Scottish resistance to English rule continued with Glencairn's Uprising during 1653-4, but this rebellion was easily suppressed by General Monck's forces.

Meanwhile, the exiled King Charles II plotted to regain the throne. He commissioned the Sealed Knot conspiracy ring around the end of 1653. Comprising six distinguished Cavalier officers, its purpose was to coordinate underground Royalist activity in England and to prepare for a general uprising against Cromwell's government. Despite a careful and methodical approach, however, two unauthorised Royalist conspiracies were exposed by government agents early in 1654, which compromised the Sealed Knot's authority and accentuated divisions amongst its officers.

As the Sealed Knot lapsed into cautious inactivity, Charles began negotiating with a more militant group of conspirators, known as the Action Party. Plans were formulated for a nation-wide Royalist insurrection, which the Sealed Knot did its best to discourage. The Knot's obstructiveness and the efficiency of the government's intelligence network both contributed to the failure of Penruddock's Uprising, which finally took place in March 1655. The suppression of the uprising was followed by a tightening of security measures within the Protectorate under the Rule of the Major-Generals, which effectively curtailed activity by Royalist conspirators in England for two years.

On the outbreak of the Anglo-Spanish War, Charles II allied himself with Spain. He planned to overwhelm the Protectorate with a Spanish invasion of England supported by a series of simultaneous uprisings across the country. However, the Royalist plans were betrayed to the government and the Spanish invasion fleet was destroyed by the English navy.

After Oliver Cromwell's death in 1658, a new conspiracy ring was formed, known as the Great Trust and Commission. Another general uprising was planned to overthrow the revived Commonwealth, this time in co-operation with disaffected Presbyterians. Once again, the response was sporadic. Only Booth's Uprising in the north-west gained momentum, but was easily suppressed by government troops.

During the early months of 1660, it became apparent that the Restoration could be achieved by political negotiation rather than through a conspiracy or armed uprising.