The Self-Denying Ordinance, 1645

T he Self-Denying Ordinance was a bill passed by the House of Commons on 19 December 1644 stipulating that no member of the House of Commons or the House of Lords could hold any command in the army or navy. Since this meant that nobles were automatically debarred from military command, the House of Lords threw it out in January 1645. A second version of the bill was proposed under which all persons concerned were to resign, but without prejudice to their re-appointment. This was passed by both Houses on 3 April 1645.

The Ordinance was engineered by Sir Henry Vane and the parliamentary "War Party" to rid Parliament's armies of its aristocratic commanders, some of whom appeared reluctant to inflict a decisive military defeat on the King and were leaning towards the "Peace Party" position of resolving the conflict through a negotiated settlement.

The earls of Essex and Manchester lost their commands in the army and the Earl of Warwick lost control of the navy. The Presbyterian Sir William Waller resigned from the army, as did the Independent Sir Arthur Hesilrige.

Oliver Cromwell remained exempt from the Ordinance since his military skills were regarded as indispensable. Sir William Brereton, who was engaged in directing the long drawn out siege of Chester, also retained his military command as well as his seat in Parliament.

The Ordinance prepared the way for the formation of the New Model Army.


S.R. Gardiner, History of the Great Civil War vol. ii (London 1889)


Full text of the Self-Denying Ordinance