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|English Council of State|
|Executive government of the Commonwealth of England|
14 February 1649 – 30 April 1653
|Preceded by||Charles I (as King)|
|Succeeded by||Oliver Cromwell (as Lord Protector)|
25 May 1659 – 28 May 1660
|Preceded by||Richard Cromwell (as Lord Protector)|
|Succeeded by||Charles II (as King)|
Charles's execution on 30 January was delayed for several hours so that the House of Commons could pass an emergency bill to declare the representatives of the people, the House of Commons, as the source of all just power and to make it an offence to proclaim a new King. This in effect abolished the monarchy and the House of Lords.
The Council of State was appointed by Parliament on 14 and 15 February 1649, with further annual elections. The Council's duties were to act as the executive of the country's government in place of the King and the Privy Council. It was to direct domestic and foreign policy and to ensure the security of the English Commonwealth. Due to the disagreements between the New Model Army and the weakened Parliament, it was dominated by the Army.
The Council held its first meeting on 17 February 1649 "with [Oliver] Cromwell in the chair". This meeting was quite rudimentary, "some 14 members" attending, barely more than the legal quorum of nine out of forty-one councillors elected by Parliament. The first elected president of the council, appointed on 12 March, was John Bradshaw who had been the President of the Court at the trial of Charles I and the first to sign the King's death warrant.
The members of the first council were the Earls of Denbigh, Mulgrave, Pembroke, and Salisbury; Lords Grey and Fairfax; Lisle, Rolle, Oliver St John, Wilde, Bradshaw, Cromwell, Skippon, Pickering, Masham, Haselrig, Harington, Vane jun, Danvers, Armine, Mildmay, Constable, Pennington, Wilson, Whitelocke, Martin, Ludlow, Stapleton, Heveningham, Wallop, Hutchinson, Bond, Popham, Valentine Walton, Scot, Purefoy, Jones.
When the Rump Parliament was dissolved by Cromwell with the support of the Army Council on 20 April 1653, the Council went into abeyance. It was reconstituted on 29 April with thirteen members seven of whom were Army officers. With the failure of Barebone's Parliament, the Council was re-modelled with the Instrument of Government to become something much closer to the old Privy Council advising the Lord Protector Oliver Cromwell. Constitutionally between thirteen and twenty-one councillors were elected by Parliament to advise the Protector, who was also elected by Parliament. In reality Cromwell relied on the Army for support and chose his own councillors.
The replacement constitution of 1657, the pseudo-monarchical Humble Petition and Advice, authorised 'His Highness the Lord Protector'; to choose twenty-one Councillors and the power to nominate his successor. Cromwell recommended his eldest surviving son Richard Cromwell, who was proclaimed the successor on his father's death on 3 September 1658 and legally confirmed in the position by the newly elected Third Protectorate Parliament on 27 January 1659.
After the reinstatement of the Rump Parliament (7 May 1659) and the subsequent abolition of the position of Lord Protector, the role of the Council of State along with other interregnum institutions becomes confused as the instruments of state started to implode. The Council of State was not dissolved until 28 May 1660, when King Charles II personally assumed the government in London.
Lord President of the Council of State
The role of the President of the Council of State (usually addressed as "Lord President") was intended to simply preside over the Council of State.
John Bradshaw, the first president, served in the office longer than any other person to do so (serving for two years and ten months total). The reason no other individual served in the position longer than Bradshaw was due to a resolution passed by the Parliament on 26 November 1651 stating that "That no Person of any Committee of Parliament, or of the Council of State, shall be in the Chair of that Committee, or Council, for any longer Time, at once, than one Month" (Commons Journal, 7:43-44). Even during the Protectorate of Oliver and Richard Cromwell, the position of Lord President of the Council of State, known during this period as the Protector's Privy Council, remained in existence until the re-establishment of the monarchy in 1660.
The following is a list of those who served as the Lord President of the Council of State.
|17 February 1649||12 March 1649||vacancy||Pro tempore Oliver Cromwell|
|12 March 1649||29 December 1651||John Bradshaw|
|29 December 1651||26 January 1652||Bulstrode Whitelocke|
|26 January 1652||23 February 1652||Sir Arthur Haselrig|
|23 February 1652||22 March 1652||Philip Sidney, Lord Lisle|
|22 March 1652||19 April 1652||John Lisle|
|19 April 1652||17 May 1652||Henry Rolle|
|17 May 1652||14 June 1652||Sir Henry Vane the younger|
|14 June 1652||12 July 1652||Philip Herbert, Earl of Pembroke|
|12 July 1652||9 August 1652||Denis Bond|
|9 August 1652||7 September 1652||William Purefoy|
|7 September 1652||5 October 1652||Sir James Harrington|
|5 October 1652||25 October 1652||Sir William Constable|
|25 October 1652||22 November 1652||Sir William Masham|
|22 November 1652||1 December 1652||Sir William Constable|
|1 December 1652||29 December 1652||unknown|
|29 December 1652||26 January 1653||Henry Rolle|
|26 January 1653||23 February 1653||John Bradshaw|
|23 February 1653||23 March 1653||Thomas Chaloner|
|23 March 1653||20 April 1653||Denis Bond|
|20 April 1653||29 April 1653||Dissolved along with the Rump Parliament by Cromwell with the support of the Army Council|
|29 April 1653[a]||6 May 1653||John Lambert||Reconstituted with thirteen members of whom nine were Army officers.[b]|
|6 May 1653||13 May 1653||Sir Gilbert Pickering|
|13 May 1653||27 May 1653||unknown|
|27 May 1653||10 June 1653||John Desborough|
|10 June 1653||24 June 1653||unknown|
|24 June 1653||5 July 1653||Philip Jones of Fonmon||Welsh|
|8 July 1653||21 July 1653||Sir Gilbert Pickering|
|21 July 1653||4 August 1653||Edward Montagu|
|4 August 1653||17 August 1653||unknown|
|17 August 1653||31 August 1653||Sir Anthony Ashley Cooper|
|31 August 1653||14 September 1653||Robert Tichborne|
|14 September 1653||28 September 1653||unknown|
|28 September 1653||14 October 1653||Charles Howard|
|4 October 1653||3 November 1653||Samuel Moyer||acting|
|14 October 1653||3 November 1653||Samuel Moyer|
|3 November 1653||6 December 1653||Edward Montagu|
|6 December 1653||12 December 1653||Walter Strickland|
|December 1653||6 May 1659||Henry Lawrence||During the Protectorate|
|7 May 1659||18 May 1659||Replaced by a Committee of Safety|
|19 May 1659||25 October 1659||Josiah Berners (or Barnes)||Members of the Council known to serve as president during most of 1659 the first year of the second period of the Commonwealth, which started in May when the Protectorate of Richard Cromwell came to an end.[c]|
|Sir James Harrington,|
|Sir Arthur Hesilrige|
|Archibald Johnston, Lord Warriston (Scot)|
|Sir Henry Vane the younger|
|26 October||Late December||Replaced by another Committee of Safety|
|30 December 1659||23 February 1660||unknown|
|23 February 1660||28 May 1660||Arthur Annesley||Anglo-Irish|
- The precise date of the reconstitution varies between sources:
- The thirteen members were Captain-General Oliver Cromwell; Major-Generals John Lambert, Thomas Harrison, John Desborough and Matthew Thomlinson; Colonels Anthony Stapley, Robert Bennet, William Sydenham and Philip Jones; and four civilians, Walter Strickland, Sir Gilbert Pickering, John Carew and Samuel Moyer. (Jenkins 1890, p. 67)
- The presidents of the council during this period are listed in alphabetic order—as is done by the source (Schultz 2010)—not in the chronological order of the rest of the list.
- Emerich, John; Acton, Lord Edward Dalberg, eds. (1934), The Cambridge modern history, 5, CUP Archive, p. 437
- Hume, David (1983) , "Chapter: LX: The Commonwealth: Endnote [a]", The History of England from the Invasion of Julius Caesar to the Revolution in 1688, Foreword by William B. Todd, 6 vols., 6, Indianapolis: Liberty Fund, retrieved September 2013 Check date values in:
- Jenkins, Edward (1890), The Constitutional Experiments of the Commonwealth: A study of the Years 1649–1660, Cambridge historical essays, III, CUP Archive, p. 67
- Schultz, Oleg, ed. (13 March 2010), Commonwealth of England: Council of State: 1649-1660, Archontology.org, retrieved September 2013 Check date values in:
|accessdate=(help); External link in
- Tanner, Joseph Robson (1928), English Constitutional Conflicts of the Seventeenth Century, 1603-1689 (reprint ed.), CUP Archive, p. 168, ISBN 9780521065986
- Firth, C.H; Rait, R.S., eds. (1911), "13 February 1649: An Act of this Present Parliament for Constituting a Counsell of State for the Comonwealth [sic] of England", Acts and Ordinances of the Interregnum, 1642-1660, pp. 2–4
- House of Commons (1802), "House of Commons Journal: 14 February 1649", Journal of the House of Commons (1648-1651), 6, pp. 140–141, retrieved 13 September 2013
- Plant, David, Council of State, British Civil Wars website
- List of the President of the Council of State 1649-1660