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Civil War and Restoration (1625-1702)

  • James I dies and Charles I accedes to the throne

    James I dies and Charles I accedes to the throne
    James I was struck down by what contemporaries described as 'a tertian ague' and died in his bed at Theobalds, in Hertfordshire, at the age of 57. He was succeeded by his only surviving son, Charles, then 24-years-old, who was proclaimed as king at the gates of Theobalds a few hours later.
  • Charles I dissolves parliament and begins 11 years of personal rule

    Charles I dissolves parliament and begins 11 years of personal rule
    Already disillusioned with parliaments, Charles I was outraged when, on 2 March 1629, members of parliament first held the Speaker of the House down in his chair and then passed three resolutions condemning the king's financial and religious policies. Eight days later, Charles dissolved the assembly and embarked on a period of government without parliaments, known as the 'Personal Rule'.
  • New Scottish prayer book causes a riot in Edinburgh

    New Scottish prayer book causes a riot in Edinburgh
    Keen to secure a greater degree of religious conformity across his three kingdoms, Charles I ordered the introduction of a new prayer book in Scotland. The measure backfired badly when, at St Giles church in Edinburgh, an angry crowd protested against the book, shouting: 'The Mass is come amongst us!' - a negative reference to the reintroduction of Catholicism.
  • 'Short Parliament' opens at Westminster

    'Short Parliament' opens at Westminster
    Desperate for money to fight the Scots, Charles I was forced to summon a new parliament - his first after 11 years of personal rule. At first, there seemed a good chance that members of parliament might be prepared to set their resentments of the king's domestic policies aside and agree to grant him money. Yet such hopes proved illusory, and Charles was forced to dissolve the parliament within a month.
  • 'Long Parliament' opens at Westminster

    'Long Parliament' opens at Westminster
    With the Scottish army firmly established in Northern England and refusing to leave until its expenses had been paid, Charles I was again forced to summon a parliament. But instead of providing the king with financial assistance, many of the members of parliament - some of whom were zealous Protestants, or Puritans - used it to voice angry complaints against his policies.
  • Rebellion breaks out in Ireland

    In late 1641, Ireland rebelled. The country's Catholic inhabitants were simultaneously appalled by the prospect of a Puritan parliament achieving political dominance in England, and entranced by the possibility of seizing concessions similar to those which had been won by the Scots. Several thousand English and Scottish Protestant settlers were killed and many more were forced to flee.
  • Civil War begins as Charles I raises his standard at Nottingham

    Civil War begins as Charles I raises his standard at Nottingham
    By setting up his royal standard on the Castle Hill at Nottingham, and by summoning his loyal subjects to join him against his enemies in parliament, Charles effectively signalled the start of the English Civil War. Inauspiciously for him: 'the standard itself was blown down the same night... by a... strong and unruly wind'.
  • Scottish and Parliamentarian armies destroy Charles I's northern army

    Charles I's northern supporters were besieged in York by a joint force of Parliamentarians and Scots, but were relieved by a Royalist army under the king's nephew, Prince Rupert. Triumph quickly turned to disaster for Rupert when his army was destroyed in a pitched battle at Marston Moor on the following day. Thereafter, the north of England was effectively lost to the king. Led to the Parliament to establish the 'New Model Army'.
  • Charles I surrenders to the Scots

    As the Parliamentarian net closed around him, Charles I decided to throw in his lot with the Scots. He made his way to the camp of the Scottish army at Southwell, near Newark, and gave himself up. The Scots eventually handed him over to the Parliamentarians for £400,000. At the end of December 1647, the bulk of the Scottish army marched back across the River Tweed and the king's Scottish guards were replaced by English Parliamentarian ones.
  • Charles I executed

    Charles I executed
    In the wake of the Second Civil War, Oliver Cromwell and the other senior commanders of the New Model Army decided that England could never be settled in peace while Charles I remained alive. Accordingly, the king was charged with high treason, tried, found guilty and beheaded. Charles faced his trial and death with remarkable dignity. His last word on the scaffold was: 'Remember'. The execution of a king was greeted across Europe with
  • Charles II is crowned King of Scotland

    Desperate to recover his father's throne, Charles I's eldest son struck a bargain with the Scots whereby he agreed to take the Covenant himself in return for the promise of Scottish military assistance. Early in 1651, Charles was crowned Charles II of Scotland at Scone Castle.
  • Oliver Cromwell defeats Charles II at the Battle of Worcester

    Following his coronation as king of the Scots, Charles II raised a Scottish army and invaded England. Many English royalists came in to support him, but in a hard-fought battle at Worcester, the Parliamentarian commander Oliver Cromwell defeated the young king's army. It proved to be the last major battle of the English Civil War. Charles subsequently fled into exile abroad.
  • Oliver Cromwell makes himself Lord Protector

    After the execution of Charles I, the various factions in parliament began to squabble amongst themselves. In frustration, Oliver Cromwell dismissed the purged 'Rump' parliament and summoned a new one. This also failed to deal with the complexity of the problems England was now facing. Cromwell’s self-appointment as 'Lord Protector' gave him powers akin to a monarch. His continuing popularity with the army propped up his regime.
  • Oliver Cromwell dies and is succeeded by his son, Richard

    When Oliver Cromwell died, he was succeeded as Lord Protector by his son, Richard. The Commonwealth of England collapsed into financial chaos and arguments between the military and administration increased. Parliament was once again dissolved and Richard Cromwell was overthrown. George Monck, one of the army's most capable officers, realised that only the restoration of the king could end the political chaos, and Charles II was invited to return from exile.
  • Charles II is restored to the throne

    Charles II's official restoration to the English throne - he had already been acknowledged as king in Scotland in 1651 - occurred on 29 May. The king’s restoration was marked by massive celebrations, lesser versions of which continued to be held on Royal Oak Day for centuries to come.
  • The Great Plague of London begins

    Towards the end of the winter of 1664-1665, bubonic plague broke out in the poverty-stricken London parish of St Giles-in-the-Fields. Soon the contagion was spreading fast, and over the following months more than 100,000 people died. By the time the epidemic finished in December 1665, a quarter of the capital's inhabitants had perished.
  • Great Fire of London destroys two-thirds of the city

    The fire broke out in a baker's shop in Pudding Lane in the City of London and spread rapidly. Within four days, two-thirds of the city had been destroyed and 65,000 people were homeless. Despite this, the fire did have some positive outcomes. Within three weeks, an architect called Christopher Wren presented plans for rebuilding much of the city. Although his plans were never fully implemented, Wren was responsible for the rebuilding of more than 50 churches, including St Paul's Cathedral.
  • Royal African Company is established to regulate the African slave trade

    Charles II granted the Royal African Company a monopoly on the rapidly expanding slave trade. Rival merchants opposed the monopoly and in 1698 Parliament opened the slave trade to all. Britain would become one of the leading transatlantic slave trading nations. Ships took guns and manufactured goods from Britain to West Africa, where goods were exchanged for people. Captives were taken across the Atlantic and sold into slavery on the plantations of the Caribbean and North America. Cargoes of rum
  • 'Popish Plot' to murder Charles II is 'revealed'

    isgraced clergyman Titus Oates claimed he had learned of a Catholic and French conspiracy to kill Charles II, replace him with his Catholic brother James, Duke of York, and transform England into a Catholic-absolutist state. Oates's 'revelations' sparked panic and many innocent people were arrested and tried. The plot was little more than an invention. At the height of the furore a second Test Act was passed requiring members of both houses of parliament to make an anti-Catholic declaration.
  • Charles II dies and James II accedes to the throne

    Having suffered a stroke, Charles II converted to Catholicism on his death-bed and passed away a few hours later. He was succeeded by his brother, James, whose adherence to the Catholic faith made many of his staunchly Protestant subjects deeply suspicious. Nevertheless, James enjoyed considerable popularity when he first acceded to the throne as James II.
  • James II defeats James Scott, Duke of Monmouth, at Sedgemoor, Somerset

    Hoping to seize the throne from James II, Charles II's illegitimate son, James Scott, Duke of Monmouth, landed at Lyme Regis in Dorset. As he marched eastwards, hundreds flocked to join him. Yet Monmouth's raw West Country recruits proved no match for James II's experienced soldiers, and when they fought at Sedgemoor on the Somerset Levels, the rebels were cut to pieces. Monmouth was captured and executed at the Tower of London.
  • Birth of James II's son sparks popular outrage

    Following the death of his first wife, James II married Mary of Modena, a Catholic, in 1673. The birth of a son to the royal couple in 1688 provoked popular outrage. Many of James II's opponents, furious that their Catholic king now had a male heir, denounced the infant as an imposter, and claimed that the baby had been smuggled into the queen's bedroom in a warming-pan.
  • William and Mary are formally proclaimed king and queen

    In the wake of James II's flight to exile, many felt that William and his wife Mary (James II's daughter) should be termed 'regents', rather than monarchs in their own right, because the former king was still alive. William was not prepared to accept this, and on 6 February 1689 the House of Lords at last conceded the point. The formal declaration of William and Mary as king and queen took place a week later. This became known as the 'Glorious Revolution'.
  • 'Bill of Rights' is confirmed by an act of parliament

    William and Mary had accepted a Declaration of Rights on 13 February 1689 as an implicit condition of being offered the throne. In December, it was confirmed by an act of parliament, becoming the 'Bill of Rights'. It is a statement of rights of the subject as represented by parliament (whereas Magna Carta is broadly a statement of the rights of the individual). It remains a basic document of English constitutional law and the template for other constitutions around the world.
  • William III defeats James II at the Battle of the Boyne, Ireland

    James II had landed in Kinsale in 1689 and now controlled most of Ireland. William III sailed to Ireland himself to face his opponent. They met on the River Boyne, where William ordered his forces to cross and attack the joint Irish-French army. The Jacobite troops were routed and James retreated to France soon afterwards, earning himself the Irish nickname 'Séamus á Chaca' ('James the Sh*t'). In less than two years, William's forces had completed the re-conquest of Ireland.
  • Mary dies, leaving William III to rule alone

    William III's wife Mary died at the age of 32 leaving no children. William had loved his wife deeply, despite the somewhat tempestuous nature of their relationship, and was grief-stricken at her death.
  • English, Dutch and Austrians sign the Treaty of the Grand Alliance

    The expansionist policies of Louis XIV of France were threatening to overturn the balance of power in Europe, and his attempts to bring about a future union of the Spanish and French crowns caused the English, Dutch and Austrians to ally against him. The so-called 'War of the Spanish Succession' began the following year.
  • William III dies and Anne accedes to the throne

    William III dies and Anne accedes to the throne
    William III died two weeks after being thrown from his horse when it tripped over a molehill in Hyde Park, London. Jacobites, gloating at their old enemy's downfall, drank to 'the little gentleman in black velvet' who had inadvertently helped to bring about the king's death. William was succeeded by Anne, who was the younger sister of his wife Mary and the second daughter of James II and Anne Hyde.