The term Restoration is used to describe both the actual event by which the monarchy was restored, and the period of several years afterwards in which a new political settlement was established. It is very often used to cover the whole reign of Charles II (1660–1685) and often the brief reign of his younger brother James II (1685–1688). In certain contexts it may be used to cover the whole period of the later Stuart monarchs as far as the death of Queen Anne and the accession of the Hanoverian George I in 1714; for example Restoration comedy typically encompasses works written as late as 1710.
The Commonwealth, which preceded the English Restoration, might have continued if Oliver Cromwell's son Richard, who was made Lord Protector on his father's death, had been capable of carrying on his father's policies. Richard Cromwell's main weakness was that he did not have the confidence of the army. After seven months, an army faction known as the Wallingford House party removed him on 6 May 1659 and reinstalled the Rump Parliament. Charles Fleetwood was appointed a member of the Committee of Safety and of the Council of State, and one of the seven commissioners for the army. On 9 June 1659, he was nominated lord-general (commander-in-chief) of the army. However, his leadership was undermined in Parliament, which chose to disregard the army's authority in a similar fashion to the post-First Civil War Parliament. A royalist uprising was planned for 1 August 1659, but it was foiled. However, Sir George Booth gained control of Cheshire; Charles II hoped that with Spanish support he could effect a landing, but none was forthcoming. Booth held Cheshire until the end of August when he was defeated by General Lambert. The Commons, on 12 October 1659, cashiered General John Lambert and other officers, and installed Fleetwood as chief of a military council under the authority of the Speaker. The next day Lambert ordered that the doors of the House be shut and the members kept out. On 26 October a "Committee of Safety" was appointed, of which Fleetwood and Lambert were members. Lambert was appointed major-general of all the forces in England and Scotland, Fleetwood being general. The Committee of Safety sent Lambert with a large force to meet George Monck, who was in command of the English forces in Scotland, and either negotiate with him or force him to come to terms.
It was into this atmosphere that Monck, the governor of Scotland under the Cromwells, marched south with his army from Scotland. Lambert's army began to desert him, and he returned to London almost alone. Monck marched to London unopposed. The Presbyterian members, excluded in Pride's Purge of 1648, were recalled, and on 24 December the army restored the Long Parliament. Fleetwood was deprived of his command and ordered to appear before Parliament to answer for his conduct. On 3 March 1660, Lambert was sent to the Tower of London, from which he escaped a month later. He tried to rekindle the civil war in favour of the Commonwealth by issuing a proclamation calling on all supporters of the "Good Old Cause" to rally on the battlefield of Edgehill, but he was recaptured by Colonel Richard Ingoldsby, a participant in the regicide of Charles I who hoped to win a pardon by handing Lambert over to the new regime. Lambert was incarcerated and died in custody on Guernsey in 1694; Ingoldsby was indeed pardoned.
On 4 April 1660, Charles II issued the Declaration of Breda, in which he made several promises in relation to the reclamation of the crown of England. Monck organised the Convention Parliament, which met for the first time on 25 April. On 8 May it proclaimed that King Charles II had been the lawful monarch since the execution of Charles I on 30 January 1649. "Constitutionally, it was as if the last nineteen years had never happened." Charles returned from exile, leaving the Hague on 23 May and landing at Dover on 25 May. He entered London on 29 May 1660, his 30th birthday. To celebrate His Majesty's Return to his Parliament, 29 May was made a public holiday, popularly known as Oak Apple Day. He was crowned at Westminster Abbey on 23 April 1661.
Some contemporaries described the Restoration as "a divinely ordained miracle". The sudden and unexpected deliverance from usurpation and tyranny was interpreted as a restoration of the natural and divine order. The Cavalier Parliament convened for the first time on 8 May 1661, and it would endure for over 17 years, finally being dissolved on 24 January 1679. Like its predecessor, it was overwhelmingly Royalist. It is also known as the Pensionary Parliament for the many pensions it granted to adherents of the King.