IN this week in 1660, King Charles II returned to Great Britain in an event which history recalls as the Restoration of the Monarchy, a constitutional upheaval that hugely involved Scotland and which gave us back our King of Scots, though some would argue he never went away.

The controversialist Peter Hitchens writing in the Daily Mail last week mentioned the Restoration in a piece replete with self-serving fatuous opinions. Here’s how it began: “All the other nations of the UK are set on tearing themselves away from England. I have given up trying to persuade them to stay. Let us leave them instead. Have a referendum if you must, but I reckon that any party that puts an English secession from the UK in its general election manifesto will win a smashing majority.

“You could not call this ‘independence’ since England has never depended on the other countries in these islands.

“I would call it the Restoration of England, in recollection of that other great moment in our history when Oliver Cromwell’s nightmare republic junta crumbled in 1660 and we returned with relief to our ancient laws and liberties.”

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Hitchens goes on to present a Little Englander’s somewhat honeyed view of Englishness, though one paragraph struck me as very correct: “Look around Europe and see those nations that are happiest. They are the small compact ones which concentrate on their own business and contentment rather than stomping about the world pretending to be great powers when they long ago ceased to be so.”

Scotland, take note. And let us hope Hitchens gets his wish, even if he is so blatantly wrong about the Restoration.

For in 1660, the Restoration was not just about England regaining the Stuart dynasty on the throne, rather it was an event conceived and planned in Scotland, albeit by an Englishman, with a Scot to the fore in the machinations which led to Charles II leaving his exile in the Netherlands, departing from Scheveningen on May 23, 1660, and landing at Dover on May 25.

There to meet him was Lord General George Monck, to whom Charles owed his return to his kingdoms of Scotland, England and Ireland.

A professional soldier since his teens, Monck fought for Charles I before switching to the Parliamentarian side under Oliver Cromwell. In the civil war, Monck proved a highly effective general in the New Model Army which eventually forced Charles II to flee to the Continent. Charles did so as King of Scotland, having been crowned successor to his executed father at Scone on January I, 1651, an action which forced Cromwell to march north to confront the Presbyterian-led Scottish Parliament which had declared Charles to be King of Scotland, Ireland, England and France. Nobody told the French.

After the disastrous – for the Scots – Battle of Dunbar in September, 1651, Monck led his troops to Dundee and they sacked the town and killed hundreds of its citizens. Cromwell then made Monck his military commander of a conquered Scotland. He suppressed all rebellions against Cromwell’s Commonwealth – ie, dictatorship – and leaving Scotland he fought at sea before he returned to Scotland to successfully end Glencairn’s Rising in 1654.

Throughout his time in Scotland, Monck had his own regiment. We know them as the Coldstream Guards, the oldest continuously serving regiment in the British Army.

After the death of Oliver Cromwell in 1658, the Lord Protector was succeeded by his weak and ineffective son Richard. England quickly began to descend into anarchy while Monck kept a firm control of Scotland. The so-called Rump Parliament began to dismiss army officers with royalist leanings, but that only served to inspire them to agitate for the return of Charles II. Public opinion, too, began to turn against the quarrelsome Parliamentarians and it was clear that something needed to be done to restore order in the three kingdoms.

Monck’s formidable army in Scotland marched to his tune, and behind the scenes Monck made contact with Charles. The go-between was the unlikely figure of a Scottish merchant then resident in Rotterdam, William Bruce, who is better known as the architect who, after the Restoration, did much to introduce the Palladian style of building into Scotland.

Though letters were later made public, we don’t know exactly how negotiations proceeded between General Monck and Charles II, and Bruce never fully revealed the extent of his work, but we can take it that the King and his general devised a strategy which emerged into public glare when Monck marched his men to the Border, gathering at Coldstream.

Monck continued south into England in October, 1659, and an army quickly put together by the Parliamentarians melted away in the face of Monck’s mighty force that included many Scottish officers and troopers. By Christmas Eve, 1659, Monck’s army had begun to restore the parliament which Cromwell and his supporters had purged of all MPs who did not back the Lord Protector and his son. In February, 1660, this so-called Long Parliament dissolved itself at Monk’s persuasion – coercion more like – and the way was clear for a Monck-led Convention Parliament full of royalists which voted on May 2 to restore the monarchy.

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They did so after Charles issued the Treaty of Breda in early April, promising a free and general pardon to those who had opposed his father, except for the commissioners who had brought about his execution. He also promised religious tolerance, and pay the army its arrears. The treaty was seen across his three kingdoms as proof that the monarchy was worth restoring.

The English Parliament proclaimed Charles king on May 8, backdating his reign to the execution of his father on January 31, 1649. The Scottish Parliament followed suit on May 14, but unlike the Westminster Parliament made no arrangements for subsequent coronation on the grounds that Charles II had already been crowned once at Scone.

On May 29, 1660, on his 30th birthday, Charles entered London in glory, though he made sure that Monck’s army with its Scottish soldiers was on hand to protect him. For the remaining 25 years of his life he never visited his Kingdom of Scotland once.