The Commonwealth, 1649-53

An outline of events from the execution of Charles the First in January 1649 and the declaration of the republican Commonwealth, through the final defeat of the Royalist cause in the British Isles and its colonies, the naval war against the Dutch republic, to the ascendancy of Oliver Cromwell's Protectorate.


Jan 30 Execution of Charles I.
Mar 17 The Rump Parliament abolishes the Monarchy.
Mar 19 Abolition of the House of Lords.
Feb 14 Council of State appointed.
Mar 28 Arrest of Leveller leaders for sedition.
May 2 Royalists murder Dr Dorislaus, Commonwealth envoy in The Hague.
May 14 Suppression of the Army Levellers at Burford.
May 19 England declared a "Commonwealth and free state", with the House of Commons as supreme authority in the land.
Aug 15 Cromwell arrives in Ireland.
Sep 4 Act for the support of impoverished prisoners passed.
Sep 20 Act outlawing the publication of unlicensed books, pamphlets and newsbooks passed.
Oct 9 Publication of the first issue of Parliament's official newsbook.
Oct 26 John Lilburne acquited of charges of sedition.


Jan 2 Engagement Act passed: all adult males to declare loyalty to the Commonwealth.
Feb 22 Parliament appoints the Commission for the Propagation of the Gospel in Wales.
Mar 26 A new High Court of Justice set up with powers to condemn to death anyone acting against the interests of the Commonwealth.
Apr 19 Parliament passes an Act enforcing strict observance of the Lord's day.
May 1 Charles II signs the Treaty of Breda, securing an alliance with the Scottish Covenanters.
May 10 Parliament passes the Adultery Act: the death penalty imposed for adultery (never applied in practice).
May 27 Royalists murder Anthony Ascham, the Commonwealth ambassador in Madrid.
Jun 20 The Council of State resolves to mount a pre-emptive invasion of Scotland against Charles II and the Covenanters.
Jul 11 Militia Act passed: property holders to contribute proportionately to defence costs. Lords Lieutenant of counties replaced by Commissioners appointed by Parliament.
Jul 17 Treason Act passed: any claim that the House of Commons was not the supreme authority becomes an act of high treason.
Aug 9 Parliament passes the Blasphemy Act, aimed at suppressing radical religious sects.
Sep 3 Battle of Dunbar: Cromwell defeats the Covenanters.
Sep 27 Toleration Act passed: compulsory attendance at parish churches abolished.
Oct 3 Act prohibiting trade with the Royalist colonies Virginia, Bermuda, Barbados and Antigua. General-at-Sea Ayscue to be sent to recover Barbados.
Dec 26 Spain formally recognises the Commonwealth of England.


Jan 1 Charles II crowned at Scone; the Commonwealth recognises him only as "the King of Scots".
Mar 25 Opening of negotiations for an alliance between the Commonwealth and the United Provinces of Holland.
May 23 Sir John Grenville surrenders the Scilly Isles to General-at-Sea Robert Blake.
Jun 18 Failure of negotiations for an alliance with the United Provinces.
Aug 5 Charles II and the Scots invade England.
Sep 3 Battle of Worcester: final defeat of the Royalist cause on the British mainland.
Oct 9 Navigation Act passed, introducing measures aimed at hampering Dutch trade.
Oct 15 Charles II escapes to France.
Oct 29 Parliament's declaration for incorporation of Scotland into a single Commonwealth with England.
Nov 7 Death of Henry Ireton at Limerick.
Dec 12 Blake and Heane capture Jersey for the Commonwealth.


Jan 11 The Assembly of Barbados submits to the Commonwealth.
Jan 17 Parliament appoints commissioners to investigate reform of the legal system.
Jan 23 Parliament decrees that judges are to be paid by a fixed salary rather than by fees and perquisites.
Feb 24 Act of Pardon and Oblivion passed, aiming to win the support of former Royalists.
Mar 12 The colony of Virginia submits to the Commonwealth.
Mar 18 Act for the Union of England and Scotland presented at Westminster.
Mar 29 The colony of Maryland submits to the Commonwealth.
May 12 Surrender of Galway. Articles for surrender of last remaining Irish forces signed at Kilkenny.
May 19 First Anglo-Dutch war begins; Blake's fleet clashes with Tromp in the Channel.
Jul 9 Charles Fleetwood appointed commander-in-chief in Ireland.
Aug 2 Petition of Army officers calls for religious and financial reforms, the dissolution of the present Parliament and elections for a new representative.
Aug 12 Parliament passes the Act for the Settlement of Ireland.
Aug 19 The Marquis of Argyll accepts the authority of the Commonwealth in Scotland and undertakes to live peaceably under the new government.
Nov 30 Battle of Dungeness: Admiral Tromp defeats Blake's fleet.
Dec 2 Navy commissioners led by Sir Henry Vane begin a thorough review of naval tactics and administration.
Dec 21 France formally recognises the Commonwealth of England.


Jan 28 The Council of Officers appeals to the Army for support in ensuring political and religious reform.
Feb 18 Battle of Portland: the English fleet regains command of the Channel.
Apr 20 Cromwell dissolves the Rump Parliament.
Jul Beginning of Glencairn's Uprising against the Commonwealth in Scotland.
Jul 4 The Nominated Assembly (Barebones Parliament) assembles.
Jul 13 John Lilburne brought to trial for felony at the Old Bailey.
Jul 31 Battle of Scheveningen: last battle of the Anglo-Dutch war; death in action of Admiral Tromp.
Aug 20 John Lilburne imprisoned despite being found Not Guilty of the charges against him.
Dec 12 The Nominated Assembly surrenders its powers to Cromwell.
Dec 16 Oliver Cromwell installed as Lord Protector.