Parliament purged, and after…

April 19, 2010 § 4 Comments

Cromwell Dissolving Long Parliament, Andrew Gow, 1907

On December 6, 1648, the Army staged an armed coup on Parliament, removing 145 MPs unlikely to vote to indict Charles for high treason, mostly Presbyterians, leaving behind 50 MPs. What was left of the Long Parliament was nicknamed the Rump Parliament at the time, and the moniker has stuck.

The droll “rump” referred to the hindquarters of an animal: one of its contemporary meanings still describes a legislative body forcibly cleaned of undesirables.) The coup is known, alliteratively, as Pride’s Purge after Colonel Thomas Pride, the official in charge of the purification. Since Cromwell wasn’t present at the purge, why might Andrew Gow have repainted history here?

In March of 1649, the Rump got shed of even more undesirables through An Act abolishing the House of Lords, an entity both “useless and dangerous.”

Praise-God Barebone Preaching in 1641

From July 4 to December 12, 1653, the short-lived Barebone’s Parliament (officially, The Nominated Assembly, also known as Parliament of Saints) was an attempt to form a stable and godly governing body founded on the notion of liberty of conscience. Under military rule, this was closest England got to true constitutional reform.

Embraced by our visionary anorexic Anna Trapnel, this parliament was modeled after the Jewish Sanhedrin (abolished 425 C.E.), which gave legal and religious say-so to an supreme assembly and promoted a a system of democratic civil authority. Begun in “an atmosphere of optimism and euphoria,” says the British Civil Wars, Commonwealth and Protectorate website, the Barebone’s “passed twenty-six ordinances dealing with a wide range of administrative, financial and social matters. These included the requirement that all marriages be performed not by the clergy but by a Justice of the Peace; the compulsory civil registration of births, marriages and deaths within each parish; greater protection for lunatics and their estates, and provision for the relief of impoverished debtors and prisoners.”

How did the Assembly get its nickname? From a leather-seller and London representative with the delicious name of Praise-God Barebone. (Over at Mercurius Politicus, see Nick Pointz’s fascinating post–Recycled Woodcuts–about the life of this particular woodcut.)

The First Protectorate Parliament sat from September 3, 1654, to January 22, 1644; the Second Protectorate Parliament sat from September 1656 to February 1658. After Cromwell died, the Third Protectorate Parliament was convened in Dec 1658 but was dissolved three months later by Lord Protector Richard Cromwell, Oliver’s son, after an armed coup.

Then it was as if Parliament retracted its steps, one by one. The Rump was called back in May 1659, ending Richard Cromwell’s leadership. When the Rump Redux showed its inability to govern, it was dissolved in October 1659 and, under the leadership of General John Lambert a small Committee of Safety was put in its place.

George Monck, Samuel Cooper 1658

This scheme was opposed by General George Monck, military head in Scotland. A royalist turned republican, he had been in correspondence with Charles II, and believed a return to monarchy was the best route to political stability in the three kingdoms, but he kept his cards close to his vest. When it looked as if armed conflict between Lambert and Monck was inevitable, Lambert’s soldiers lost heart.

On 24 Dec 1659, the Rump was called to sit again (apologies, can’t help it). On February 21, 1660, Monck reversed Pride’s Purge by inviting the former undesirables to return, thus restoring the Long Parliament. It disbanded on March 16, 1660, after preparing the way for a new parliament–the Convention Parliament. In May, the Convention Parliament invited Charles II to take his rightful place on the throne, and Monck went to Dover to fetch him.

Monck welcomes Charles at Dover. By Benjamin West, 1789

See England: Parliament: 1640-1660 for another overview.

England: Parliament: 1640-1660England: Parliament: 1640-1660


England: Parliament: 1640-1660England: Parliament: 1640-1660


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