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Meeting of the Long Parliament.
The Long Parliament is the name of the English Parliament called by Charles I, on 3 November 1640, following the Bishops' Wars. It received its name from the fact that through an Act of Parliament, it could only be dissolved with the agreement of the members, and those members did not agree to its dissolution until after the English Civil War and at the end of Interregnum in 1660. It sat from 1640 until 1649, when it was purged by the New Model Army of those who were not sympathetic to the Army's concerns. Those members who remained after the Army's purge became known as the Rump Parliament. During the Protectorate, the Rump was replaced by other Parliamentary assemblies, only to be recalled after Oliver Cromwell's death in 1658 by the Army in the hope of restoring credibility to the Army's rule. When this failed, General George Monck allowed the members barred in 1649[ wrong date] to retake their seats so that they could pass the necessary legislation to initiate the Restoration and dissolve the Long Parliament. This cleared the way for a new Parliament, known as the Convention Parliament, to be elected.


The sole reason Charles I assembled Parliament in 1640 was to ask it to pass finance bills, since the Bishops' Wars had bankrupted him. Edward Hyde recalled the subdued tone of his entrance to Parliament:

"It had a sad and melancholic aspect upon the first entrance, which presaged some unusual and unnatural events. The king himself did not ride with his accustomed equipage nor in his usual majesty to Westminstermarker, but went privately in his barge to the Parliament-stairs, and so to the church, as if it had been a return of a prorogued or adjourned Parliament."

The Parliament was initially influenced by John Pym and his supporters. In August 1641, it enacted legislation depriving Charles I of the powers that he had assumed since his accession. The reforms were designed to negate the possibility of Charles ruling absolutely again. The parliament also freed those imprisoned by the Star Chamber. The Triennial Act of 1641, also known as the Dissolution Act, was passed, requiring that no more than three years should elapse between sessions of Parliament. Parliament was also responsible for the impeachment and subsequent execution of the king's advisers, Archbishop William Laud and Thomas Wentworth, Earl of Strafford.

The Irish Rebellion which started in October 1641 brought the control of the army back into the discussions between King and Parliament. Led by John Pym, Parliament presented the King with the Grand Remonstrance which was passed in the Commons by 11 votes (159 - 148) on 22 November 1641. It listed over 150 perceived "misdeeds" of Charles' reign including the Church (under the influence of foreign papists) and royal advisers (also "have[ing] engaged themselves to further the interests of some foreign powers") the second half of the Remonstrance proposed solutions to the "misdeeds" including church reform and Parliamentary influence over the appointment of royal ministers. December 1641 Parliament asserted that it wanted control over the appointment of the commanders of the Army and Navy in the Militia Ordinance. The king rejected the Grand Remonstrance and refused to give royal assent to the Militia Bill.

The King believed that Puritans (or Dissenters) encouraged by five vociferous members of the House of Commons, John Pym, John Hampden, Denzil Holles, Sir Arthur Haselrig and William Strode along with Lord Mandeville (the future Earl of Manchester) who sat in the House of Lords, had encouraged the Scots to invade England in the recent Bishops' Wars and that they were intent on turning the London mob against him. When rumours reached the court that they were also planning to impeach the Queen for alleged involvement in Catholic plots Charles decided to arrest them for treason.

The Speaker of the House during the Long Parliament was William Lenthall. On 4 January 1642 the King entered the House of Commons to seize the five members. Having taken the speaker's chair and looked round in vain to discover the offending members commenting "I see the birds have flown", Charles turned to Lenthall standing below, and demanded of him whether any of those persons were in the House, whether he saw any of them and where they were. Lenthall fell on his knees and replied: "May it please your Majesty, I have neither eyes to see nor tongue to speak in this place but as the House is pleased to direct me, whose servant I am here."

After his failure to capture the five members, and fearing for his family's lives, Charles left London for Oxford. Most of the royalist members of Parliament left to join him there where they formed the Oxford Parliament. Without its royalist members, the Long Parliament continued to sit during the Civil War and beyond because of the Dissolution Act.

In March 1642 with the King absent from London and the war clouds gathering, Parliament decreed that its own Parliamentary Ordinances were valid laws without royal assent. The Militia Ordinance was passed on 5 March by Parliament which gave Parliament control of the local militia called Trained Bands. Control of the London Trained Bands was the most strategically critical because they could protect the radical members of Parliament from armed intervention against them by any soldiers which Charles had near the capital. In response to the Militia Ordinance, Charles revived the Commissions of Array as a means of summoning an army instead.

1649–1653 Rump Parliament

Divisions emerged between various factions, culminating in Pride's Purge on 7 December 1648, when, under the orders of Oliver Cromwell's son-in-law Henry Ireton, Colonel Pride physically barred about half of the members of Parliament from taking their seats. Many of the excluded members were Presbyterians. In the wake of the ejections, the remnant, the Rump Parliament, arranged for the trial and execution of Charles I. It was also responsible for the setting up of the Commonwealth of England in 1649.

Oliver Cromwell forcibly disbanded the Rump in 1653 when it seemed they might disband his expensive army of 50,000 men. It was followed by the Barebones Parliament and then the First, Second and Third Protectorate Parliament

1659 recall and 1660 restoration

After Richard Cromwell, who had succeeded his father Oliver as Lord Protector in 1658, was effectively deposed by an officers' coup in April, 1659, the officers re-summoned the Rump Parliament to sit. It convened on 7 May 1659, but after five months in power it again clashed with the army (led by John Lambert) and was again forcibly dissolved on 13 October 1659. Rule then passed to an unelected Committee of Safety, including Lambert; but as General George Monck, who had been Cromwell's viceroy in Scotland, began to march south, Lambert, who had ridden out to face him, lost support in London, the Navy declared for Parliament, and on 26 December 1659 the Rump was restored to power.

Monck, whom Lambert had failed to confront, continued his southward march. On 3 February 1660, Monck arrived in London. After an initial show of deference to the Rump, Monck quickly found them unwilling to cooperate with his plan for a free election of a new parliament; so on 21 February 1660 he reinstated the members 'secluded' by Pride, so that they could prepare legislation for the Convention Parliament. Having called for elections for a Parliament to meet on 25 April, the Long Parliament dissolved itself on 16 March 1660. This view was confirmed by a court ruling during the treason trial of Henry Vane the Younger.

Notable members of the Long Parliament

Time line

  • Triennial Act, passed 15 February 1641
  • Archbishop William Laud imprisoned 26 February 1641
  • Act against Dissolving the Long Parliament without its own Consent 11 May 1641
  • Thomas Wentworth, 1st Earl of Strafford executed May 12, 1641
  • Abolition of the Star Chamber 5 July 1641
  • Ship Money declared illegal 7 August 1641
  • Grand Remonstrance 22 November 1641
  • Militia Bill December, 1641
  • The King’s answer to the petition accompanying the Grand Remonstrance 23 December 1641
  • The King's attempt to seize the five members 4 January 1642
  • The King and Royal Family leave Whitehallmarker for Hampton Courtmarker. January, 1642
  • The King leaves Hampton Court for the North 2 March 1642
  • Militia Ordinance agreed by Lords and Commons 5 March 1642
  • Parliament decreed that Parliamentary Ordinances were valid without royal assent following the King's refusal to assent to the Militia Ordinance 15 March 1642
  • Adventurers Act to raise money to suppress the Irish Rebellion of 1641 19 March 1642
  • The Solemn League and Covenant 25 September 1643
  • Ordinance appointing the First Committee of both Kingdoms 16 February 1644
  • The Self-denying Ordinance 4 April 1645
  • Pride's Purge (Start of the Rump Parliament) 7 December 1648
  • Excluded members of the Long Parliament reinstated by George Monck 21 February 1660
  • Having called for elections for a Parliament to meet on 25 April, the Long Parliament dissolved itself on 16 March 1660

See also

Further reading


  1. This article uses the Julian calendar with the start of year adjusted to 1 January (For a more detailed explanation, see Old Style and New Style dates: Differences between the start of the year)
  2. Full text of the Act against Dissolving the Long Parliament without its own Consent 11 May 1641
  3. House of Commons Journal Volume 7: Dissolving Parliament 16 March 1660 (New Style)
  4. Wilcher, Robert, The writing of royalism, 1628-1660 (2001), p.40
  5. By the time of the Restoration Lenthall seems to have forgotten his previous resolve when he consented to appear as a witness against the regicide Thomas Scot, for words spoken in the House of Commons while he was the Speaker.
  6. According to contemporary royalist legal theory, the Long Parliament was regarded as having been automatically dissolved form the moment of Charles I's execution on 30 January 1649.

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