20 History-Shattering Times Subjects Overthrew their Monarchies

Portrait of King Charles I in his robes of state, by a follower of Anthony van Dyck (c. 1636). Wikimedia Commons.

19. The English monarchy was deposed and replaced with the Commonwealth of England in 1649

Following the protracted First and Second Civil Wars, lasting from 1642-1646 and 1648-1649 respectively, the victorious Parliamentarians dispensed limited mercy to their captive enemies in the hopes of ending the horrific cycle of bloodshed. Executing several prominent Royalists, these reprisals culminated in the trial of King Charles I on charges of high treason. Reasoning the monarch had misused his position and the powers afforded him for his own political and personal gain, in so doing making himself a “tyrant, traitor, murderer, and public enemy”, Charles was convicted, sentenced to death, and beheaded on January 30, 1649.

Just days later, on February 7 Parliament voted down the notion of continuing the monarchy, instead passing an act to abolish the position of king on March 17. Proclaiming the Commonwealth of England, despite investing power in Parliament as a formal republic this new system was hardly less authoritarian and, following the declaration of the Protectorate in 1653, Oliver Cromwell ruled as a de facto king until his death by natural causes in 1658. Enduring a period of turbulence and lacking leadership, on May 8, 1660, Charles II was invited to return by the Convention Parliament and restore the interrupted monarchy to end the short-lived political exercise in England.