The later Stuart church inherited many of the problems that had been faced by its antecedents at institutional, social, and intellectual levels, but was also rocked by several new and profound challenges. It is important, therefore, to locate the established church within a long-term framework of gradual developments and sharp disjunctures. This book offers an account of how clerics and laymen experienced the events of the period between the Restoration of the monarchy in 1660 and the Hanoverian succession of 1714. Politics and religion under the later Stuarts were powerfully intermingled, rather than sharply differentiated categories. Some clerics exercised considerable secular power, whilst many laymen dictated the terms of the church's position at local and national levels. Indeed it could hardly have been otherwise when religious beliefs were made into a shibboleth for holding public office and clerics expounded political maxims from pulpits across the land. Having sketched in the basic framework of relevant events in the later Stuart period, and their historical and geographical contexts, it remains to conclude by drawing them together. Three themes emerge as paramount because of their capacity to ignite contemporary discussion in the light of past experience. These include: the conflicting sources of authority for the Church of England, the relations between clergy and laymen, and the question of how successfully the church exercised its pastoral function.
When the Convention Parliament voted on 1 May 1660 to recall Charles Stuart to the throne, nearly nine years after he fled into exile following defeat at the Battle of Worcester, the news was widely celebrated. Drawn up by Charles along with several of his advisors, the Declaration of Breda laid the groundwork for the monarchy's restoration in England. During the 1650s, John Milton composed some of the most strident defences of the execution of Charles I and of republican forms of government. The diary of Samuel Pepys is one of the most important records of English society in the years following the Restoration, and Pepys himself was closely involved in the events surrounding Charles's return. Awarded with the posts of Poet Laureate in 1668 and Historiographer Royal in 1671, John Dryden was one of the foremost defenders of the restored Stuart monarchy.