THE KING GONE
An Act for Abolishing the Kingly Office (1649)
Following the conclusion of the English Civil War and the execution of King Charles I, Parliament passed a law laying claim on the right to legislate on the institution of the monarch itself.
“An Act for Abolishing the Kingly Office” was an act of Parliament that was passed on March 17, 1649, shortly after the execution of Charles I on January 30, 1649, during the English Civil Wars. The Act was passed by the Rump Parliament, so named because it consisted of less than half of the original Long Parliament that had been convened in 1640. The Long Parliament had been purged by New Model Army troops under the command of Colonel Thomas Pride in December of 1648, in order to rid Parliament of those hostile to the idea of trying Charles I for high treason. Those who remained made up the Rump Parliament. The Rump Parliament was responsible for the trial and execution of Charles I, the dissolution of the House of Lords, and the abolishment of the monarchy. “An Act for Abolishing the Kingly Office” prohibited Charles’ sons and any future descendants from inheriting the crown and proclaimed a new form of government in England and Ireland: The Commonwealth. The Act declared that the kingly office had been used to “oppress and impoverish and enslave the subject,” and was therefore unlawful. Provisions in the “Act for Abolishing the Kingly Office” were reversed on May 8, 1660, when the monarchy was restored and Charles I’s eldest son, Charles II, was declared the lawful monarch of England.
- Kelsey, Sean. “The Death of Charles I.” The Historical Journal 45, no. 4 (2002): 727-54. http://www.jstor.org/stable/3133526
- Kelsey, Sean. “The Trial of Charles I.” The English Historical Review 118, no. 477 (2003): 583-616. http://www.jstor.org/stable/3489287
- HOLMES, CLIVE. “THE TRIAL AND EXECUTION OF CHARLES I.” The Historical Journal 53, no. 2 (2010): 289-316. http://www.jstor.org/stable/40865689
The “Rump” Parliament
- Worden, Blair. The Rump Parliament, 1648-1653. Cambridge England: University Press, 1974.
The English Civil Wars
- Cust, Richard, and Ann Hughes. The English Civil War. Arnold Readers in History. London: Arnold, 1997.
- Ashley, Maurice. The English Civil War. Rev. and Reillustrated ed. New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1990.
- Ashton, Robert, and Raymond Howard Parry. The English Civil War and After, 1642-1658. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1970.
- Hibbert, Christopher. Cavaliers & Roundheads: The English Civil War, 1642-1649. New York: C. Scribner’s Sons, 1993.
From Wootton’s Divine Right and Democracy: An Anthology of Political Writing in Stuart England (Middlesex, England, Penguin Books, 1986), 355-57.
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Whereas Charles Stuart, late King of England…[etc.], has by authority derived from Parliament been and is hereby declared to be justly condemned, adjudged to die, and put to death, for many treasons, murders and other heinous offences committed by him, by which judgement he stood and is hereby declared to be attainted of high treason, whereby his issue and posterity, and all others pretending title under him, are become incapable of the said crowns, or of being king or queen of the said kingdom or dominions, or either or any of them; be it therefore enacted and ordained…by this present Parliament and by authority thereof, that all the people of England and Ireland…, of what degree or condition soever, are discharged of all fealty, homage and allegiance which is or shall be pretended to be due unto any of the issue and posterity of the said late King, or any claiming under him, and that Charles Stuart, eldest son, and James called Duke of York, second son, and all other the issue and posterity of him the said late King, and all and every person and persons pretending title from, by or under him, are and be disabled to hold or enjoy the said Crown of England and Ireland…
And whereas it is and has been found by experience that the office of a king in this nation and Ireland, and to have the power thereof in any single person, is unnecessary, burdensome and dangerous to the liberty, safety and public interest of the people, and that for the most part use has been made of the regal power and prerogative to oppress and impoverish and enslave the subject, and that usually and naturally any one person in such power makes it his interest to encroach upon the just freedom and liberty of the people, and to promote the setting up of their own will and power above the laws, that so they might enslave these kingdoms to their own lust, be it therefore enacted and ordained by this present Parliament…that the office of a king in this nation shall not henceforth reside in or be exercised by any one single person, and that no one person whatsoever shall or may have or hold the office, style, dignity, power or authority of king of the said kingdoms and dominions, or any of them, or of the Prince of Wales, any laws…notwithstanding.
And whereas by the abolition of the kingly office provided for in this Act as most happy way is made for this nation (if God see it good) to return to its just and ancient right of being governed by its own Representatives or National Meetings in Council, from time to time chosen and entrusted for that purpose by the people; it is therefore resolved and declared by the Commons assembled in Parliament that they will put a period to the sitting of this present Parliament, and dissolve the same, so soon as may possibly stand with the safety of the people that has betrusted them, and with what is absolutely necessary for the preserving and upholding the government now settled in the way of a Commonwealth, and that they will carefully provide for the certain choosing, meeting and sitting of the next and future Representatives with such other circumstances of freedom in choice and equality in distribution of Members to be elected thereunto as shall most conduce to the lasting freedom and good of this Commonwealth.
And it is hereby further enacted and declared, notwithstanding anything contained in this Act, [that] no person or persons of what condition and quality soever, within the Commonwealth of England and Ireland, Dominion of Wales, the Islands of Guernsey and Jersey, and [the] town of Berwick upon Tweed, shall be discharged from the obedience and subjection which he and they owe to the government of this nation, as it is now declared, but all and every of them shall in all things render and perform the same, as of right is due unto the Supreme Authority hereby declared to reside in this and the successive Representatives of the people of this nation, and in them only.
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