The news of the King's death was received throughout Europe with a thrill of horror. The Czar of Russia chased the English envoy from his court. The ambassador of France was withdrawn on the proclamation of the Republic. The Protestant powers of the Continent seemed more anxious than any to disavow all connexion with the Protestant people who had brought their King to the block. Holland took the lead in acts of open hostility to the new power as soon as the news of the execution reached the Hague; the States-General waited solemnly on the Prince of Wales, who took the title of Charles the Second, and recognized him as "Majesty," while they refused an audience to the English envoys. Their Stadtholder, his brother-in-law, the Prince of Orange, was supported by popular sympathy in the aid and encouragement he afforded to Charles; and eleven ships of the English fleet, which had found a refuge at the Hague ever since their revolt from the Parliament, were suffered to sail under Rupert's command, and to render the seas unsafe for English traders. The danger was far greater nearer home. In Scotland Argyle and his party proclaimed Charles the Second King, and despatched an Embassy to the Hague to invite him to ascend the throne.
In Ireland, Ormond had at last brought to some sort of union the factions who ever since the rebellion had turned the land into a chaos - the old Irish Catholics or native party under Owen Roe O'Neil, the Catholics of the English Pale, the Episcopalian Royalists, the Presbyterian Royalists of the north; and Ormond called on Charles to land at once in a country where he would find three-fourths of its people devoted to his cause. Nor was the danger from without met by resolution and energy on the part of the diminished Parliament which remained the sole depositary of legal powers. The Commons entered on their new task with hesitation and delay. Six weeks passed after the King's execution before the monarchy was formally abolished, and the government of the nation provided for by the creation of a Council of State consisting of forty-one members selected from the Commons, who were entrusted with full executive power at home or abroad. Two months more elapsed before the passing of the memorable Act which declared "that the People of England and of all the dominions and territories thereunto belonging are, and shall be, and are hereby constituted, made, established, and confirmed to be a Commonwealth and Free State, and shall henceforward be governed as a Commonwealth and Free State by the supreme authority of this nation, the representatives of the People in Parliament, and by such as they shall appoint and constitute officers and ministers for the good of the people, and that without any King or House of Lords".
[Authorities. - Rushworth's collection ceases with the King's Trial; White-lock and Ludlow continue as before, and must be supplemented by the Parliamentary History and the State Trials. Special lives of Vane and Martyn will be found in Mr. Forster's " Statesmen of the Commonwealth," and a vigorous defence of the Council of State in the "History of the Commonwealth," by Mr. Bisset. For Irish affairs see the Ormond Papers collected by Carte, and Cromwell's despatches in Carlyle's " Letters." The account given by Mr. Carlyle of the Scotch war is perhaps the most valuable portion of his work. The foreign politics and wars of this period are admirably illustrated with a copious appendix of documents by M. Guizot ("Republic and Cromwell," vol. i.), whose account of the whole period is the fairest and best for the general reader. Mr. Hepworth Dixon has published a biography of Blake.] [Mr. Masson's " Life of Milton," vols. iv. and v., which illustrate this period, have been published since this list was drawn up. - Ed].
Of the dangers which threatened the new Commonwealth some were more apparent than real. The rivalry of France and Spain, both anxious for its friendship, secured it from the hostility of the greater powers of the Continent; and the ill-will of Holland could be delayed, if not averted, by negotiations. The acceptance of the Covenant was insisted on by Scotland before it would formally receive Charles as its ruler, and nothing but necessity would induce him to comply with such a demand. On the side of Ireland the danger was more pressing, and an army of twelve thousand men was set apart for a vigorous prosecution of the Irish war. But the real difficulties were the difficulties at home. The death of Charles gave fresh vigour to the royalist cause, and the new loyalty was stirred to enthusiasm by the publication of the "Eikon Basilike," a work really due to the ingenuity of Dr. Gauden, a Presbyterian minister, but which was believed to have been composed by the King himself in his later hours of captivity, and which reflected with admirable skill the hopes, the suffering, and the piety of the royal "martyr." The dreams of a rising were roughly checked by the execution of the Duke of Hamilton and Lords Holland and Capell, who had till now been confined in the Tower. But the popular disaffection told even on the Council of State. A majority of its members declined the oath offered to them at their earliest meeting, pledging them to an approval of the King's death and the establishment of the Commonwealth. Half the judges retired from the bench.
Thousands of refusals met the demand of an engagement to be faithful to the Republic which was made to all beneficed clergymen and public functionaries. It was not till May, and even then in spite of the ill-will of the citizens, that the Council ventured to proclaim the Commonwealth in London. The army indeed had no thought of setting up a mere military rule. Still less did it contemplate leaving the conduct of affairs to the small body of members, which still called itself the House of Commons, a body which numbered hardly a hundred, and whose average attendance was little more than fifty. In reducing it by " Pride's Purge " to the mere shadow of a House the army had never dreamed of its continuance as a permanent assembly: it had, in fact, insisted as a condition of even its temporary continuance that it should prepare a bill for the summoning of a fresh Parliament. The plan put forward by the Council of Officers is still interesting as the basis of many later efforts towards parliamentary reform. It advised a dissolution in the spring, the assembling every two years of a new Parliament consisting of four hundred members elected by all householders rateable to the poor, and a redistribution of seats which would have given the privilege of representation to every place of importance.