From The Blazing World: A New History of Revolutionary England, 1603-1689, by Jonathan Healey (Knopf Doubleday, 2023), Kindle pp. 321-323:
Parliament, a body now much less dominated by republicans, quickly set new elections in motion, selecting a new Council and installing a raft of new militia commissioners in the counties, including none other than Sir George Booth who by that time had been released from the Tower (and, it was to be hoped, had found a razor). Baptists, Fifth Monarchists and Quakers were attacked and plundered in Wales, Bristol and Gloucester. On the 27th, while Pepys was visiting Audley End in Saffron Walden, he was ushered into a cellar where the housekeeper offered him ‘a most admirable drink, a health to the King’. Everywhere the talk was of government by a single person: George Monck, perhaps, or Richard Cromwell, or Charles Stuart.
The last piece of the jigsaw was the army: Monck faced down much of the opposition in a tense meeting on 7 March; some of the key hardliners were cashiered and John Lambert was sent off to the Tower. By this time, Charles Stuart was being openly toasted across town. There was another bonfire and people cried out, ‘God Bless King Charles the Second’. Parliament, meanwhile, on the 16th, finally agreed to dissolve itself.
The stage was set.
The final drama was played out in three acts. The first, in April, came in the form of elections to the new Parliament (technically, because not summoned by royal writ it would be known as a ‘Convention’). In theory, active Royalists were excluded, but no one really cared. There was an avalanche of pamphlets: many pro-Royalist, but some arguing against the restoration of the Stuarts, like Marchamont Nedham’s News from Brussels, which alleged Charles was plotting brutal reprisals on all who’d opposed his father. Then there were the rhymes, scurrilous as ever. They attacked the Rump, bearing titles like Arsy Versy, and they attacked religious ‘fanatics’.... The elections, meanwhile, saw the highest number of prospective candidates so far in English history. Even Lambert managed to stand while still in prison (he lost). The question had become not whether there would be a restoration, but what kind of restoration it would be: at the hustings, the critical issue was whether candidates were in favour of imposing conditions on Charles. The harder line Royalists, i.e. those generally against conditions, tended to win.
By now, Monck and the king were finally in communication. Charles moved his court to the town of Breda near the Dutch coast. The English fleet stood ready off the coast of Kent, the old Cromwellian Edward Montagu in command as General at Sea, Pepys on board as his employee, spending pleasant evenings supping, drinking wine, conversing, playing music and singing songs. Rather embarrassingly, Lambert escaped from the Tower (dressed in woman’s clothes, having swapped places with Joan, the lady who made his bed), and drew some support from disgruntled soldiers and old radicals. It looked as if there could be a general uprising in the army: ‘the agitators and Lambert’s agents are all over England,’ warned one of Monck’s captains, ‘privately creeping amongst us & tempting our men from us’. It was rumoured that 7,000 Quakers and Anabaptists would join. But in the end, humiliation fell on the old army man, who declared for Richard Cromwell, staged a desultory muster on the old battle site of Edgehill and was promptly arrested by the turncoat Richard Ingoldsby. After that there was little trouble from the old republicans....
The new Parliament, complete with a House of Lords, met on 25 April. It was an overwhelmingly Royalist body in what was still, technically, a republic. And so Parliament ushered in the second act: the return of the king. On 1 May, a declaration from Charles was read in Parliament. It had been penned at Breda on 4 April. It offered a pardon for everyone who gave allegiance to the king within 40 days (although Parliament, it allowed, could make exceptions). It promised ‘liberty to tender consciences’, and that Parliament would be allowed to sort out disputes over property created during the revolution. It promised, naturally, that Monck’s army would get their arrears and be retained under the new regime.
That afternoon, Parliament voted that ‘the government is, and ought to be, by King, Lords, and Commons’. They voted, in other words, for the restoration of the Stuarts.
London rejoiced, as did the rest of the country. At last, people thought, the return of the king might bring stability, an end to upheaval. In Boston, Lincolnshire, young men took down the arms of the Republic, had the town beadle whip them, then – taking turns – ‘pissed and shitted on them’. Even in Dorchester, long a Puritan stronghold, the town clerk celebrated the deliverance from a ‘world of confusions’ and ‘unheard of governments’. On 9 May, almost as an afterthought, Richard Cromwell, who was still somehow Chancellor of Oxford University, hung up his robes and disappeared into obscurity.
On the 14th, Monck’s ships were in sight of The Hague, where, in a moment that looked both back to the past and forward to the future, they made rendezvous with Elizabeth, James I’s daughter, once queen of Bohemia, and paid due respects to the nine-year-old William, the late king’s grandson, son of Princess Mary, now Prince of Orange.