Brief History: The English Civil War & The Restoration Period

A BRIEF HISTORY OF THE ENGLISH RESTORATION

1660, the start of the English Restoration, was a difficult year for many people. 

Worcester, the last battle in the English Civil War, was fought in 1650, but the intervening years had been unsettled and worrying.  The Commonwealth, established under Oliver Cromwell, was not an overwhelming success and most of the people were happy to welcome back King Charles II

Memories are long. Many people had suffered during the intervening years. The lives of husbands, sons and brothers had been lost, and much property had changed hands. Laws can be made and edicts pronounced, but hearts and minds are more difficult to change. Once again, all over England, the people, both rich and poor, had to adjust their attitudes. Most people still didn't agree on politics or religion. Old lines had been drawn, and the return of the King didn't alter that.

Many men had traveled to more distant places. Prior to the beginning of the English Civil War in 1642, few people went more than ten miles from their place of birth. Many men lived and died in their own village. A visit to the local town on market day was an outing and a trip to London was something to be talked about for months. 

For the men of both armies, nothing was ever quite the same again. They had often crossed and re-crossed England, sometimes going as far as the wild North of Scotland, the depths of the West Country or Ireland. The soldiers met different people and heard varying opinions, which they carried back to their home villages. As with every experience, they found their lives were broader for having travelled. Gone was the innocence of total obedience to church and masters. They had found it necessary to think for themselves and to reason out events. These men were the ones who were ready for the Glorious Revolution when King James II was overthrown in 1688.

Early on in the negotiations of the return of Charles Stuart to the Throne of England, it became clear that the dispute over property was going to be a major stumbling block. Many men had died in the intervening years or been in exile. After the defeat at Naseby, Royalists were frequently fined for their loyalties to the King. The fines increased during the second Civil War forcing some to sell their property to Roundheads or Parliamentarians. Others fled abroad leaving all they owned to be defended by their wives or fall prey to the marauding armies.

THE HAL WESTWOOD SERIES

Prince Rupert of the Rhine
It quickly became plain that there was no easy solution to the dilemma of who owned what.  Eventually a decision was reached, but it pleased few. They decided to return confiscated land to the previous owner, but land that had been sold was to remain with the buyer. However, Parliamentarians like Issac Hughes, the Sheriff of Maucester, had often snapped up the ruined property at rock bottom prices and grown rich on other people’s misfortune. These men were looked upon as scurvy fellows.

Royalists, like Francis Westwood, whose property was ruined, felt aggrieved. He had been loyal to the Crown, but had lost most of his wealth. Henry Westwood’s estate had been crippled by the fines laid upon it, not only for Henry’s involvement in the First Civil War, but also for Francis’s continued ‘malignancy’.  Returning Royalists, like Ambrose Carver, were often penniless, and were forced by their reduced circumstances to take employment .

So in spite of rejoicing at the return of the King, many of his subjects viewed the future with mixed feelings.