The Declaration of Breda was a manifesto issued in April 1660 by the exiled Charles II, named after the town of Breda in Holland which was the king's residence during the latter part of his exile. The document was composed by Charles himself and his three principal advisors; Edward Hyde, Edward Nicholas and James Butler the Marquis of Ormond. It essentially set out the terms on which Charles II proposed to recover the throne once held by his father.
Copies of the Declaration were sent together with separate covering letters to the House of Lords, the House of Commons, the Army, the Navy and the City of London, and variously dated as either the 4th or the 14th April depending on which copy is referred to. In truth Charles had already been in contact with General George Monck (whose control of the army effectively gave him control of the country) and agreed a deal by which Monck was to become Captain General of the Army and receive the full payment of arrears of pay for his troops, and his resumption of the throne was almost a done deal. (George Monck was also to receive a dukedom and a pension as well.)
The Contents of the Declaration
The declaration begins with a general statement regarding the "distraction and confusion which is spread over the whole kingdom" and the king's desire to see "a full and entire administration of justice throughout the land", after which Charles:-
(1) offered a general pardon in respect of the various offences committed during the period of the Civil Wars and the Commonwealth and Protectorate : "we do grant a free and general pardon ...excepting only such persons as shall hereafter be excepted by Parliament" which in practice meant the Regicides i.e. those individuals that had earlier condemned his father to death.
(2) expressed a desire for liberty of conscience in religion: "we do declare a liberty to tender consciences, and that no man shall be disquieted or called in question for differences of opinion in matter of religion, which do not disturb the peace of the kingdom"
(3) promised an equitable settlement in respect of any land disputes which had arisen which would "be determined in Parliament, which can best provide for the just satisfaction of all men who are concerned"
(4) most importantly of all promised "full satisfaction of all arrears due to the officers and soldiers of the army under the command of General Monk"
The Declaration of Breda had its desired affect as on the 8th May 1660 an assembly of the Lords and Commons acting together with the Lord Mayor, Aldermen, and Commons of the City of London issued a statement proclaiming Charles II as king. Together with his brothers James Stuart, Duke of York and Henry Stuart, Duke of Gloucester, his aunt Elizabeth of Bohemia, his sister Mary Stuart, Princess Royal and her son, William; Charles made his way to England landing on the 25th May 1660, where he received an enthusiastic welcome.
The Declaration of Breda
Charles, by the grace of God, King of England, Scotland, France and Ireland, Defender of the Faith, etc To all our loving subjects, of what degree or quality soever, greeting.
If the general distraction and confusion which is spread over the whole kingdom doth not awaken all men to a desire and longing that those wounds which have so many years together been kept bleeding, may be bound up all we can say will be to no purpose; however, after this long silence, we have thought it our duty to declare how much we desire to contribute thereunto; and that as we can never give over the hope, in good time, to obtain the possession of that right which God and nature hath made our due, so we do make it our daily suit to the Divine Providence, that He will, in compassion to us and our subjects, after so long misery and sufferings, remit and put us into a quiet and peaceable possession of that our right, with as little blood and damage to our people as is possible; nor do we desire more to enjoy what is ours, than that all our subjects may enjoy what by law is theirs, by a full and entire administration of justice throughout the land, and by extending our mercy where it is wanted and deserved.
And to the end that the fear of punishment may not engage any, conscious to themselves of what is past, to a perseverance in guilt for the future, by opposing the quiet and happiness of their country, in the restoration of King, Peers and people to their just, ancient and fundamental rights, we do, by these presents, declare, that we do grant a free and general pardon, which we are ready, upon demand, to pass under our Great Seal of England, to all our subjects, of what degree or quality soever, who, within forty days after the publishing hereof, shall lay hold upon this our grace and favour, and shall, by any public act, declare their doing so, and that they return to the loyalty and obedience of good subjects; excepting only such persons as shall hereafter be excepted by Parliament, those only to be excepted. Let all our subjects, how faulty soever, rely upon the word of a King, solemnly given by this present declaration, that no crime whatsoever, committed against us or our royal father before the publication of this, shall ever rise in judgment, or be brought in question, against any of them, to the least endamagement of them, either in their lives, liberties or estates or (as far forth as lies in our power) so much as to the prejudice of their reputations, by any reproach or term of distinction from the rest of our best subjects; we desiring and ordaining that henceforth all notes of discord, separation and difference of parties be utterly abolished among all our subjects, whom we invite and conjure to a perfect union among themselves, under our protection, for the re-settlement of our just rights and theirs in a free Parliament, by which, upon the word of a King, we will be advised.
And because the passion and uncharitableness of the times have produced several opinions in religion, by which men are engaged in parties and animosities against each other (which, when they shall hereafter unite in a freedom of conversation, will be composed or better understood), we do declare a liberty to tender consciences, and that no man shall be disquieted or called in question for differences of opinion in matter of religion, which do not disturb the peace of the kingdom; and that we shall be ready to consent to such an Act of Parliament, as, upon mature deliberation, shall be offered to us, for the full granting that indulgence.
And because, in the continued distractions of so many years, and so many and great revolutions, many grants and purchases of estates have been made to and by many officers, soldiers and others, who are now possessed of the same, and who may be liable to actions at law upon several titles, we are likewise willing that all such differences, and all things relating to such grants, sales and purchases, shall be determined in Parliament, which can best provide for the just satisfaction of all men who are concerned.
And we do further declare, that we will be ready to consent to any Act or Acts of Parliament to the purposes aforesaid, and for the full satisfaction of all arrears due to the officers and soldiers of the army under the command of General Monk; and that they shall be received into our service upon as good pay and conditions as they now enjoy.
Given under our Sign Manual and Privy Signet, at our Court at Breda, this 4/14 day of April, 1660, in the twelfth year of our reign.
The text of the Declaration of Breda taken from;
both of which show the same text. Other information taken from;
- http://www.constitution.org/eng/conpur105.htm quoting as its source
"April 4, 1660. Old Parliamentary History, xxii. 238. See Masson's Life of Milton, v. 697."
quoting its source as "Journals of the House of Lords, vol. 11 (London: H.M.S.O., 1660), 7-8."
- Charles Arnold Baker The Companion to British History (Longcross Press, 1996)
- The British Civil Wars & Commonwealth website at http://www.british-civil-wars.co.uk