29th May 1660. Return of a King.
With the return of Charles II his Coat of Arms was ordered to be placed over church chancel arches as a reminder of, and to restate, the authority of Anglicanism as established under Queen Elizabeth I.
Today is celebrated as Oak-Apple Day recalling the entry of Charles into London at the restoration of the monarchy in 1660. John Evelyn, the Diarist, was to write: ‘I stood in the Strand and beheld it and blessed God’. The date also celebrates the birth of the King in 1630. (1)
On becoming king in 1660 he disbanded nearly the whole of the army with the exception of the King’s Regiment of Foot Guards, (now Grenadiers), despite the fact that there were still threats to monarchy, as in January 1661 when the 5th Monarchist, Thomas Venner made an abortive attempt to seize London, only to be defeated by Monck’s Regiment.(2)
Legislation of Charles II to reinforce Anglican religious dominance included the 1661 Corporation Act which required taking an Oath of Supremacy and members of Corporations were within one year, required to receive the Sacrament.
However the King had to accept the inevitable when the Cavalier Parliament’s, Clarendon Code of 1662, signified the parting of the ways, and destroyed all hope of a united church by accepting schism, but acknowledging Anglicanism to be the larger, richer and more favoured Church.
The monarch still needed to maintains some control over religious dissidents, as under the Quaker Act (1662) when Quakers were required to swear an oath to the King, which they couldn’t in faith do. Then the Act of Uniformity (1662) insisted on the rites and ceremonies according to the Anglican Book of Common Prayer.
The Conventicle Act of 1664 prevented more than five people assembling outside the auspices of the Church of England. The 1665 Five-Mile Act sought to prevent Non-Conformists from living in Incorporated and Chartered towns.
However some amelioration came with the March 1672 Declaration of Indulgence, issued in two parts for England and Scotland, which offered some relaxation from forfeiture, civil penalties and disabilities regarding Non-Conformists and Catholics, which suspended the execution of Penal Laws and allowed with conditions, the erection of dissenter chapels.
One cause of concern was a hidden clause of the Treaty of Dover, signed to acquire French help against the Dutch, which later revealed that the, ‘King of Great Britain, being convinced of the truth of the Catholic faith, is determined to declare himself a Catholic as soon as the welfare of his realm will permit’.
So 1673 saw the First Test Act against the fear of the monarch and his brother reviving Catholicism was forced on the King, for a Test that no man could hold public office or a King’s Commission, who would not solemnly declare his disbelief in the Catholic Doctrine of Transubstantiation.
One member of the five Counsellors of the King’s ‘Cabal’, Thomas Clifford 1st Baron Clifford of Chudleigh, as a Catholic couldn’t comply with the Test Act and resigned as Lord High Treasurer and committed suicide with his cravat from his bed tester.
Charles’ brother in 1688 showed his true colours by declaring himself a Catholic, being forced to flee and abdicate: the Jacobites were his natural followers.
(1) Charles had been crowned King of Great Britain, France and Ireland at Scone after agreeing to support the Presbyterian cause on January 1st 1660, and was crowned a second time on 23rd April 1661 as King of England, Scotland and Ireland.
He was the last Monarch to make the traditional journey for his crowning, from the Tower to the Abbey the previous day.
(2) Which became Lord-General’s Regiment of Foot-Guards, later the Coldstream Guards, at a time when English Regiments were named after the colonel who raised them.
Venner was Hanged Drawn and Quartered for High Treason.
lookandlearn.history/Pic. Illustration for pictorial records. James Sangster 1880.