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Act of Parliament
Long titleAn Act of Free and Generall Pardon, Indemnity, and Oblivion.
Citation12 Cha. 2. c. 11
Royal assent29 August 1660
Commencement25 April 1660
Other legislation
Repealed byStatute Law Revision Act 1948
Status: Repealed
Text of statute as originally enacted

The Indemnity and Oblivion Act 1660 was an Act of the Parliament of England (12 Cha. 2. c. 11), the long title of which is "An Act of Free and Generall Pardon, Indempnity, and Oblivion".[1] This act was a general pardon for everyone who had committed crimes during the English Civil War and subsequent Commonwealth period, with the exception of certain crimes such as murder (without a licence granted by King or Parliament), piracy, buggery, rape and witchcraft, and people named in the act such as those involved in the regicide of Charles I. It also said that no action was to be taken against those involved at any later time, and that the Interregnum was to be legally forgotten.[2]


The Indemnity and Oblivion Act fulfilled the suggestion given in the Declaration of Breda that reprisals against the establishment which had developed during the English Interregnum would be restricted to those who had officiated in the regicide of King Charles I.

The passage of the Indemnity and Oblivion Act through the Convention Parliament was secured by Lord Clarendon, the first minister of King Charles II, and it became law on 29 August 1660 during the first year of the English Restoration.

The lands of the Crown and the established Church were automatically restored, but lands of Royalists and other dissenters confiscated and sold during the Civil War and interregnum were left for private negotiation or litigation, meaning that the government would not help the Loyalists in regaining their property. Disappointed Royalists commented that the Act meant "indemnity for [Charles'] enemies and oblivion for his friends".[3] Historians, on the other hand, have generally praised the King and Clarendon for the generosity and clemency of the Act, in an age not normally noted for mercy.[4] Twenty years later, during the Popish Plot, Charles tried unsuccessfully to stand against the relentless demand for the execution of Catholic priests, and reminded the public sharply of how many of them had previously benefited from his reluctance to shed blood.[5]

The act is often viewed from the perspective of those who were not pardoned and thus condemned to death. However, the debate in Parliament continued almost every day for over two months and names were added and taken off the list of those who were not to be pardoned. Initially, there were only seven on the list:[6][7] Thomas Harrison, William Say, John Jones Maesygarnedd, Thomas Scot, John Lisle, Cornelius Holland, and John Barkstead. On 7 June, the Commons, mindful of the Declaration of Breda, stated they as the Commons could add to the list others who would not be covered by the general pardon. They immediately added John Cooke, Andrew Broughton, Edward Dendy, and the "Two Persons who were upon the Scaffold in a Disguise" (i.e. the executioners).[8] On 8 June, the Commons voted "That the Number of Twenty, and no more, (other than those that are already excepted, or sat as Judges upon the late King's Majesty) shall be excepted out of the Act of general Pardon and Oblivion, for and in respect only of such Pains, Penalties, and Forfeitures, (not extending to Life) as shall be thought fit to be inflicted on them by another Act, intended to be hereafter passed for that purpose".[9]

One of the people to benefit directly from the Act was John Milton, who was released from prison.[10]

Overview of sections


  • Preamble: The causes and ends of this pardon and indemnity.
  • Preamble: The general pardon.
  • II. Abettors of such Treasons and other Crimes pardoned,
  • III. All Appeals, Personal Actions, and Suits, &c. by reason of any Trespass, &c. pardoned.
  • VI. The like by reason of any Commission by the late or present King, or by Colour of any Ordinance of one or both Houses of Parliament, or the late Protector, &c.
  • V. All appeals, personal actions and suits, pardoned.
  • VI. Wardships and mean profits unreceived.
  • VII. All things not excepted shall be pardoned by the general words of this act, as well as if particularly named.
  • VIII. This pardon &c. to be expounded in all courts most beneficial for the subject.
  • IX. The penalty of any officer, &c. that shall go about to disquiet or trouble any person pardoned by this act.
  • X. Exceptions out of this pardon. All murders not comprised in the first clause of this pardon excepted. Piracy excepted. Buggery. Rape and the wilful taking away any maid excepted. Double marriages excepted Witchcraft excepted 1 Jas. 1. c. 2. Accounts of certain treasures and receivers. 13 Cha. 2. St. 1. c. 3.
  • XI. Proviso for the heirs, &c. of lands of accountants excepted.
  • XII. Fees and salaries, &c. not to be accounted for.
  • XIII. Military payments not to be accounted for.
  • XIV. No person to be called to an account after 14 June 1662.
  • XV. Discharges and quietus est given in the exchequer. Accounts of the revenues of churches in Wales. Bribery, subornation, forging, debentures, &c. witnesses.
  • XVI. Imbezilling and purloining the King's goods.
  • XVII. Issues, fines, amerciaments received by sheriffs
  • XVIII. Jesuits, seminaries and Romish priests excepted. 27 Eliz. 1. c. 2.
  • XIX. Writs of capias utiagatum may be directed against any person. The party outlawed may sue out a scire facias against the plaintiff.
  • XX. Persons outlawed upon capias ad satisfaciendum, &c.
  • XXI. Information and proceedings concerning highways &c. excepted. 25 Cha. 2. c. 5. s. 19.
  • XXII. Obligation and recognizance not forfeited.
  • XXIII. All acts of hostility, injuries &c. between the King and his parliament to be put in perpetual oblivion.
  • XXIV. The penalty upon any person that shall within three years use any words of reproach or disgrace, tending to revive the memory of the late differences.
  • XXV. Persons plotting or designing the Irish rebellion excepted. 16 Cha. 1. c. 33.
  • XXVI. Every person pardoned may plead the general issue.
  • XXVII. Thefts and felonies since 4 March 1659. excepted.
  • XXVIII. This act not to extend to goods to be restored upon the act for repeal of two act for sequestrations.
  • XXIX. Goods, &c. sequestered and actually paid into any publick treasury.
  • XXX. Persons who have received privately for his Majesty supply, to account.
  • XXXI. Monies received upon decimation not pardoned
  • XXXII. Persons that have had directions or instructions for his Majesty, and have betrayed their trust, or his councils excepted.
  • XXXIII. Duties of excise, and from farmers thereof, excepted.
  • XXXIV. Persons excepted by name.
  • XXXV. Persons that appeared and rendered themselves.
  • XXXVIII. The lands and goods of the persons rendering themselves not excepted.
  • XXXIX. Persons excepted for there penalties not extending to life. 13 Cha. 2. St. 1. c. 15.
  • XL. Sir Arthur Hasilrig.
  • XLI. Persons made incapable of any office.
  • XLII. Sir Henry Vane, John Lambert excepted.
  • XLIII. Penalty of certain persons, if they shall after the first of Sept. 1660. accept any office.
  • XLIV. Persons that gave sentence upon any illegal high courts of justice.
  • XLV. Persons intrusted by ordinance 1649. about tithes, shall be accountable.
  • XLVI. Bonds taken in his Majesty's name before May 1642 for securities of any his Majesty's receivers, not pardoned. &c.
  • XLVII. Payments upon proportions of 150000l customs.
  • XLVIII. Arrears of excise upon beer and ale.
  • XLIX. Monies due for free quarter.
  • L. Purchasers bona fide of lands, other than the King's &c to enjoy their purchases.
  • LI. Fabrick lands, church goods and utensils

Timeline for the English legislation

  • 9 May 1660: Pardon and Oblivion, First reading.[12]
  • 12 May 1660: Pardon and Oblivion, Second reading.[13]
  • 17 May 1660: Bill of Pardon and Oblivion, to go to committee.[14]
  • 11 July 1660 Pardon and Oblivion, That the Title of this Bill be, "An Act of free and general Pardon, Indemnity, and Oblivion" Passed and was sent to the House of Lords.[15]
  • 20 July 1660: Proceedings of Regicide, Ordered, That the Instrument for proclaiming the High Court of Justice for judging of the late King's Majesty, together with the Journal of their Proceedings, be sent to the Lords, to be by them made use of.[16]
  • 7 August 1660: Lords reminded of Bills, including "The Act of General Pardon, Indemnity, and Oblivion".[17]
  • 11 August 1660: Pardon and Oblivion, back from House of Lords with Provisoes, Alterations, and Additions. Passed to committee.[18]
  • 13 August 1660: passed amendments and the Bill was sent to the House of Lords.[19]
  • 16 August 1660: Lords desired a conference concerning the Act of Indemnity.[20]
  • 28 August 1660: Pardon and Oblivion, the House agreed to the final amendments to which a joint house conference had agreed and ordered that the Bill of "General Pardon, Indemnity, and Oblivion" be sent to the Lords, as it was now amended. The reply came back from the House of Lords that his Majesty would "be pleased to come To-morrow Morning, to pass the Bill, as is desired".[21]
  • 29 August 1660: Bills passed. One of which was "An Act of Free and General Pardon, Indemnity, and Oblivion".[22]

The Act was repealed by the Statute Law Revision Act 1948.

Irish Act

An Irish act by the same name "An Act of Free and General Pardon, Indemnity, and Oblivion [for Ireland]" was sent to the Duke of Ormonde on 16 August 1664 by Sir Paul Davys, the Irish Secretary of State.[23]

In popular culture

The Act forms the basis for Robert Harris's 2022 novel Act of Oblivion .[24]

See also



  1. ^ Charles II, 1660: An Act of Free and Generall Pardon Indemnity and Oblivion., Statutes of the Realm: volume 5: 1628–80 (1819), pp. 226–34. British History Online, Date. Retrieved 27 February 2007.
  2. ^ a b An act of free and general pardon, indemnity and oblivion
  3. ^ Cannon, John (21 May 2009). Indemnity and Oblivion, Act of. ISBN 978-0-19-955037-1. Retrieved 16 March 2022.
  4. ^ Kenyon, J.P. The Stuart Constitution 2nd Edition Cambridge University Press 1986 p.336
  5. ^ Kenyon, J.P. The Popish Plot Phoenix Press Reissue 2000 pp. 174–5
  6. ^ House of Commons Journal Volume 8, 5 June 1660, Proceedings against Regicides That the Seven Persons who, by former Order, are to be excepted out of the Act of general Pardon for Life and Estate, be named here in this House. Resolved, That Thomas Harrison be one of the Seven Persons.
  7. ^ House of Commons Journal Volume 8, 5 June 1660.
  8. ^ House of Commons Journal Volume 8, 7 June 1660
  9. ^ House of Commons Journal Volume 8, 8 June 1660 House of Commons Journal Volume 8, 8 June 1660 The twenty who punishment did not extend to life were added to the list.
  10. ^ Milton Agonistes By Tony Tanner for the New York Times 6 April 1997.
  11. ^ "An Act of Free and Generall Pardon Indempnity and Oblivion". Retrieved 11 December 2013.
  12. ^ 9 May 1660, Pardon and Oblivion, British History On-line House of Commons Journal Volume 8 (
  13. ^ 12 May 1660, Pardon and Oblivion, British History On-line House of Commons Journal Volume 8 (
  14. ^ 17 May 1660, Bill of Pardon and Oblivion, British History On-line House of Commons Journal Volume 8 (
  15. ^ 11 July 1660 Pardon and Oblivion, British History On-line House of Commons Journal Volume 8 (
  16. ^ 20 July 1660 Proceedings of Regicides, British History On-line House of Commons Journal Volume 8 (
  17. ^ 7 August 1660 Lords reminded of Bills, British History On-line House of Commons Journal Volume 8 (
  18. ^ 11 Aug 1660 Pardon and Oblivion, British History On-line House of Commons Journal Volume 8 (
  19. ^ 13 August 1660, British History On-line House of Commons Journal Volume 8 (
  20. ^ August 16th, 1660, British History On-line House of Commons Journal Volume 8 (
  21. ^ 28 August 1660 Pardon and Oblivion, British History On-line House of Commons Journal Volume 8 (
  22. ^ 29 August 1660 Bills passed, British History On-line House of Lords Journal Volume 11 (
  23. ^ Carte Calendar Volume 40, June–December 1664 Bodleian Library, University of Oxford Includes a number of correspondence on the "Act of Free and General Pardon, Indemnity, and Oblivion [for Ireland]".
  24. ^ Harris, Thomas (1 September 2022). Act of Oblivion. Hutchinson Heinemann. ISBN 978-1529151756.
  25. ^ C.H. Firth, R.S. Rait (eds), Acts and Ordinances of the Interregnum, 1642–1660, 1911 pp. 565–577
  26. ^ C.H. Firth, R.S. Rait (eds), Acts and Ordinances of the Interregnum, 1642–1660, 1911 pp. 1299–1304

External links

5 Annotations

Third Reading

San Diego Sarah  •  Link

The BCW Project sees the Act of Indemnity and Oblivion as part of the Restoration Settlement of 1660-1665:

The Convention Parliament, elected in the spring of 1660 after the final dissolution of the Long Parliament, was almost unanimously Royalist in sympathy.

After Charles II issued the Declaration of Breda in May, the Convention declared that the lawful government of the nation was by King, Lords and Commons and that Charles had been rightful king since the execution of his father in January 1649.
At the invitation of Parliament, Charles landed in England on 25 May, 1660 to reclaim the throne.
The Restoration was greeted with mostly wild rejoicing throughout the nation.

During the remainder of 1660, the Convention Parliament implemented the initial Restoration settlement. It intended to restore the constitution that existed in 1641, after the Long Parliament's reforms to limit the King's arbitrary use of his powers had been passed.
Thus, all Acts of Parliament given the royal assent by Charles I before the outbreak of the first Civil War were confirmed, including the abolition of the prerogative courts (which were never restored), and the Triennial Act (which ensured that a parliament would be called at least once every 3 years).

All legislation passed during the Commonwealth and Protectorate was removed from the statute books. However, the Convention replicated and extended the Navigation Act of 1651 in a new act to regulate trade and shipping.

The generally conciliatory Act of Indemnity and Oblivion was given the royal assent in August 1660. Most of those who had supported the Commonwealth and Protectorate régimes were granted a free pardon, but a number of individuals were excepted.
About 60 people were named for capital punishment as various drafts of the bill passed between the Lords and Commons during the summer of 1660.
When the bill received the royal assent on 29 August, 33 surviving regicides who had participated directly in the trial and execution of Charles I were brought to trial as traitors. Their estates were confiscated and they were sentenced to death.
In some cases, the death sentences were commuted to life imprisonment.
A further 20 republicans and Cromwellians were forbidden from holding public office.

Apart from the regicides, 4 men were brought to trial for their activities during the Interregnum:
the preacher Hugh Peter was executed in 1660 for his close association with the regicide;
Archibald Campbell, Marquis of Argyll, leader of the Scottish Covenanters, was the only Scot executed, in 1661;
Major-Gen. John Lambert, who led the last military resistance to the Restoration, was imprisoned for life,
and the prominent Commonwealth statesman Sir Henry Vane was executed in 1662.
The republican Sir Arthur Heselrige died in prison before being brought to trial.

San Diego Sarah  •  Link


The principles of the Restoration land settlement were set out by the Convention Parliament.
Crown and Church lands that had been confiscated and sold off during the Commonwealth and Protectorate years were to be restored to their original owners, but the purchasers of these lands required compensation for their losses, to which Charles II had agreed in principle in the Declaration of Breda.
In many cases, this was solved by leasing out the lands at low rents to the purchasers.
Many Royalists had been obliged to sell land privately to pay Parliament's fines and taxes, and these sales remained valid.
While influential Royalists were often able to regain their former property by legal action or royal favour, many lesser Royalists suffered financially.

The Convention oversaw the disbandment of the New Model Army.
In order to raise the money required to pay off the soldiers, the Commons voted to impose a poll tax, by which each individual paid a sum appropriate to his rank in society.
In practice, there were difficulties in administering the tax.
The sum raised was not sufficient and the poll tax had to be supplemented by an additional assessment tax on property owners.
However, the task was accomplished and the New Model Army was peacefully disbanded by January 1661.
Charles II maintained a small standing army of around 3,500 men and also ensured that all permanent garrisons throughout the kingdom were commanded by officers of proven loyalty to the Crown.

The religious settlement was barely addressed by the Convention.

The restoration of the monarchy also entailed the restoration of episcopacy and the Anglican church, but Charles' Breda declaration had promised religious toleration for moderate non-Anglican Protestants.
A parliamentary committee on religion sat regularly between June and September 1660 which confirmed parish clergy who were not sectarians and had not displaced Anglicans from their livings.
In October, a conference between Anglican and Presbyterian divines reached an interim religious settlement, but the Convention voted against passing it into law by a margin of 36 votes.

The final part of the Convention's work was to make financial arrangements for the restored monarchy.
The principal sources of royal revenue were customs duties and rents from lands, but these were greatly depleted.
Although revenues from the confiscated estates of the regicides went to the Crown, these was swallowed up by the King's household expenses.
In September 1660, the Convention granted Charles II an annual income of £1,200,000 to be raised initially from grants and subsidies.

San Diego Sarah  •  Link


The Convention Parliament was dissolved by Charles II on 29 December, 1660.
A new parliament, called under the King's authority, was elected during March and April 1661.
During the election campaign, a hardening of attitudes towards conciliation became apparent, with many Anglicans and Royalists claiming that their interests had been ignored in the initial Restoration settlement.

In March, the government was alarmed when the 4 London parliamentary seats were secured by Presbyterians amid anti-Episcopalian demonstrations in the city.
Elsewhere, the government intervened wherever possible to hinder the election of Presbyterian sympathisers, playing upon fears of political instability and religious extremism.

The new parliament first assembled on 8 May, 1661.
It came to be known as the Cavalier Parliament because of the predominance of Royalist and Anglican MPs returned.
It sat for a total of 17 sessions, and was dissolved in January 1679.

The first act of the Cavalier Parliament was to confirm all legislation passed by the Convention during the previous year.
It then set about consolidating the Convention's work in re-establishing monarchical government and defining the Crown's powers and limitations.

The Militia Act of 1661 confirmed that the monarch, as head of state, was supreme commander of the army and navy. This settled one of the most important questions over which the first Civil War had been fought.
The prerogative courts which had enabled Charles I's autocratic personal rule during the 1630s were not revived, but the Cavalier Parliament did not question the monarch's right to appoint ministers and state officials or to direct foreign policy.

The Bishops' Exclusion Act of 1641 was repealed, thus allowing Anglican bishops to take their seats in the House of Lords, which had already been re-established by the Convention.

In 1664, the Triennial Act was modified so that it was no longer possible to force the monarch to call a parliament every 3 years.

The Crown remained dependent upon Parliament for revenue, but it was found that the annual sum granted by the Convention was insufficient to meet Charles II's expenses.
In 1662, the Cavalier Parliament imposed the Hearth Tax as a supplemental tax to make up the shortfall. This caused great resentment because collectors and constables were given authority to enter households to inspect the number of hearths for taxation.
Even with the addition of the Hearth Tax, the King's expenses exceeded his income. However, the MPs were becoming critical of the Stuart brothers' lavish lifestyle and were reluctant to make further grants.

San Diego Sarah  •  Link


The predominance of conservative Anglicans and Royalists in the Cavalier Parliament ruled out any prospect of a lasting reconciliation with the Presbyterians in a broadly based national church.
After restoring bishops to the House of Lords, Parliament set about passing a series of measures to ensure conformity to the doctrines of the Church of England and to discourage Presbyterians and the radical sects.
The Restoration religious settlement were expressed in 4 Acts of Parliament known collectively as the Clarendon Code.
The name was derived from Sir Edward Hyde, Earl of Clarendon, who served as Charles II's lord chancellor — although Clarendon was not the instigator of the actsm and argued against some of the more severe requirements.

The Corporation Act of 1661 required all office holders in towns and cities to take oaths of allegiance to the Crown, to renounce the Solemn League and Covenant, and to take the sacrament in accordance with the doctrines of the Church of England.

The Act of Uniformity of 1662 brought all ordained clergymen under the doctrines and liturgy of the established Church.
Candidates for the ministry had to be ordained by a bishop according to the rites of the Church of England.
They were required to renounce the Solemn League and Covenant and to declare their acceptance of the revised Book of Common Prayer and all doctrinal articles sanctioned by the Church.

Hundreds of Presbyterian and non-conformist clergymen were ejected from their livings on St, Bartholomew's Day (24 August) 1662 for refusing to comply with the Act of Uniformity.

The Conventicle Act of 1664 was intended to prevent clergymen ejected by the Act of Uniformity from forming their own congregations.
Fines or imprisonment were imposed upon anyone attending an independent prayer meeting or act of worship ("conventicle") that was not in accordance with the Anglican liturgy.

Similarly, the Five-Mile Act of 1665 was intended to curb the influence of dissenting clergymen by prohibiting them from residing within 5 miles of any living they had held before the Act was passed.
Furthermore, they were required to take an oath of non-resistance to royal authority before accepting any appointment as tutor or schoolmaster.

Charles II was more tolerant than the Cavalier Parliament in matters of religion and tried to modify some of the harsher legislation in favour of dissenters and Catholics. This led to increasing disharmony between Crown and Parliament as his reign proceeded.

Godfrey Davies, The Restoration of Charles II, 1658-60 (San Marino 1955)

Ronald Hutton, Charles II, King of England, Scotland & Ireland (Oxford 1989)

Ronald Hutton, The Restoration, a political and religious history of England and Wales 1658-1667 (Oxford 1985)

Keith Wrightson: An Unsettled Settlement: The Restoration Era, 1660-1688 Open Yale courses, 2009…

San Diego Sarah  •  Link

A possibly unintended consequence of the name of this Act -- which expressed Charles II's desire to consign to oblivion the Civil Wars and Interregnum -- was that people had to find another way of expressing on-going concerns about the violence, fear and unruliness of those times. They did it by referring to the Munster Rising of 1534-35.

Of course, if you're told to forget something, it immediately brings to mind exactly what you are supposed to be forgetting. And this is what happened in 1661:…

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Chart showing the number of references in each month of the diary’s entries.