Ward's Book of Days.

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What happened on this day in history.

MAY 29th

On this day in history in 1660, Charles II was restored to the throne.

This day is known as Restoration Day or Oak Apple Day and commemorates the day when Cromwell’s Commonwealth was abolished and the monarchy restored. The term ‘Restoration’ can mean either the day itself or the period from 1660 to Charles’ death in 1685. 

Cromwell’s regime fell apart soon after his death. The army had no confidence in his son and successor Richard Cromwell, and recalled Parliament, which dismissed Cromwell the younger, and appointed its own army leaders. General George Monck, the effective head of the armed forces, and therefore the actual ruler of the country, refused to recognise either the new leaders or the authority of Parliament. He marched with his forces from Scotland to London and met no opposition from the official army. Realising that the country was yet again on the verge of a civil war, Monck recalled Parliament, including all those members who had been expelled by Cromwell and urged them to settle on a new constitution. Parliament promptly voted that they were heartily sick of the Cromwells and their Commonwealth and rule by an army and Puritanism in general, and so they invited Charles II to come home and take the throne.  

Charles was in exile in France when he heard of the offer, which he accepted gladly. He made haste to London and arrived on his thirtieth birthday, 29th May 1660, accompanied by tumultuous rejoicing. The day was declared a public holiday in perpetuity, it lasted until 1859, and became known as Oak Apple Day, a reference to the aftermath of the Battle of Worcester when Charles escaped capture by hiding in an oak tree. Pepys recorded in his diary: “Parliament had ordered the 29th May, the King’s birthday, to be for ever kept as a day of thanksgiving for our redemption from tyranny and the King’s return to his Government, he entering London that day.”  

Charles had a long and popular reign and became known as the Merry Monarch, in complete contrast to the previous regime. Theatres were opened, dancing and public entertainment were permitted once again and feasting and drinking became a way of life. Charles died peacefully in his bed surrounded by six of his sons and several daughters. Charles’ queen, Catherine was sadly not able to produce an heir but Charles had several mistresses many of whom gave him children. Charles’ favourite son, James, Duke of Monmouth, was a popular figure, but being illegitimate could not succeed to the throne and so the crown passed to Charles’ brother.

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