Charles II’s Long Parliament – so named because it met within a year of the Restoration, in 1661, and remained intermittently in session for almost eighteen years – was the cockpit for most, if not quite all, of the great political battles of the reign. Would monarchical power grow in England to match that, across the Channel, of Louis XIV? Might the Church of England one day be supplanted by a triumphalist Roman Catholicism? Could executive power be made answerable to, or even effectively checked by, the ‘representatives of the people’? These questions, and others of equal moment, were debated in the 1660s and 1670s all over England, from rustic alehouses to gentlemen’s clubs to the dining rooms of newly fashionable Piccadilly; but nowhere with greater consequence than in the two Houses of Parliament. For these were the king’s partners in sovereign authority – partners, it frequently seemed, that he was all too anxious to shed; and it was their deliberations alone that could command the coercive power, not just of public opinion, but of statute.
At first sight, nothing could be more welcome than ‘a new study’, as this book sets out to be, ‘of the whole of this Long Parliament’, especially one which offers ‘to re-evaluate the whole period’. There is certainly much to re-evaluate. If the last thirty years of parliamentary research have