George Monck

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George Monck

The English general and statesman George Monck, 1st Duke of Albemarle (1608-1670), was instrumental in the restoration of Charles II to the English throne in 1660.

George Monck, or Monk, who was born on Dec. 6, 1608, of an old Devonshire family of modest means, chose the vocation of soldier while only 17. He served with English expeditions to the Continent, and later with Dutch forces—a not uncommon practice for a soldier of fortune in those days. Subsequently, he commanded his own regiment in Ireland after the rebellion began there in 1641 against the English. He was captured by the parliamentary forces and imprisoned for 2 years in England, but because of his reputation as an excellent soldier, little concerned with politics, he was released and accepted command under the Puritan regime. Still later, after Oliver Cromwell defeated the Scots, Cromwell appointed Monck commander in chief of English forces in Scotland.

Soon afterward, Monck was recalled by Parliament and given command in the Dutch War of 1652-1654 as a "general of the fleet." Though without naval experience, he learned quickly, and the trust that Parliament had placed in him was vindicated in his victory over the Dutchman Maarten Tromp on July 29-31, 1652.

The most important chapter in Monck's life began with his return in 1653 to Scotland, where, serving as a commander in chief of parliamentary forces, he suppressed royalist counterrisings. After the death of Cromwell in 1658 and the short-lived rule of his ineffective son, Richard, and then rule by the army, men of various political factions turned to Monck, who had remained aloof from politics. He was taciturn by nature, and his views had always remained a mystery, though it is likely that he was a moderate Presbyterian whose loyalty to the regime and to Parliament was unquestioned. Tension mounted as he marched his army south into England. With the utmost caution, he entered London in February 1660. He soon proclaimed the return of Parliament, which had not been permitted to meet for several months and which, it was known, would now ask for the return of the King. His achievement was the bloodless restoration of the monarchy. A grateful Charles II rewarded him with the title, among others, of Duke of Albemarle.

Monck occupied a prominent naval command once more in the Dutch War of 1665-1667, with rather mixed results. Afterward, he retired more and more from public affairs. He died on Jan. 3, 1670, revered as a national hero.

Further Reading

Monck seldom has been a subject for biographers, most of whom must rely heavily on a contemporary account by Monck's chaplain, Dr. Thomas Gumble, The Life of General Monck (1671). Both Sir Julian Corbett's short biography, Monk (1889), and John D. G. Davies's longer work, Honest George Monck (1936), besides being somewhat inaccessible, tend to be extremely laudatory. Oliver Martin Wilson Warner, Hero of the Restoration: A Life of General George Monck (1936), is a useful study. Monck figures prominently in two works by Godfrey Davies, The Early Stuarts, 1603-1660 (1937; 2d ed. 1959) and The Restoration of Charles II, 1658-1660 (1955). His career after 1660 is briefly recounted in George Clark, The Later Stuarts, 1660-1714 (1934; 2d ed. 1955). □

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George Monck

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George Monck