The Commonwealth, 1649-53

After the execution of King Charles I, a republican government in London attempts to govern the entire British Isles—until thrown out by Oliver Cromwell

Shields of the Commonwealth
Commonwealth emblem

After the purge carried out by elements of the New Model Army in 1648, the Long Parliament was left with a small number of MPs approved by the radicals. This later became known as the Rump Parliament. Members of the Rump set up the High Court of Justice, which presided over the trial and execution of King Charles in January 1649. After the King's execution, the Rump abolished the monarchy and the House of Lords. The Council of State was appointed as an executive body, which was subordinate to the legislative House of Commons. England was declared a republican "Commonwealth and Free State" in May 1649.

During the early 1650s, attempts were made to incorporate Scotland and Ireland into the Commonwealth with England so that the three nations were ruled by a central government for the first time in British history. After the subjugation of the British Isles, the Commonwealth government adopted an aggressive foreign policy based upon naval power which forced reluctant European nations to recognise the legitimacy of the Commonwealth.

The Commonwealth relied upon the Army to maintain its authority at home, but tensions developed between senior officers led by Oliver Cromwell and civilian politicians led by Sir Henry Vane over the form the government should take. In April 1653, Cromwell led a body of soldiers to forcibly expel MPs of the Rump Parliament from the House of Commons. The Rump was replaced by the short-lived Nominated Assembly, which split into opposing factions and voluntarily surrendered its powers to Cromwell in December 1653.

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or move on to the next overview in the Church and State thread: the Protectorate