It is generally assumed that the kingless Commonwealth established in 1649 was the unforeseen consequence of the regicide: an expedient taken hesitantly and nothing more than a stop-gap. ‘Republicanism’ was a minority position even among those who remained at Westminster during the dramatic events of 1648–9: the majority remained committed to monarchical forms of government. By reappraising the surviving evidence, this article proposes a radically different account of the genesis of the Commonwealth regime. Not only were preparations already underway in the weeks before Charles I's death that helped to pave the way for government without a king, but also the decision to abolish kingship after the regicide was itself taken relatively quickly, with no discernible signs of hesitation. Even if few who defended or served the Commonwealth were republican, this need not mean that the majority were attached to monarchy. Rather, many of those who supported the regime, drawing upon the experiences and ideas of 1640s parliamentarianism, claimed that the form of government was only ever of secondary importance in comparison to its substance. They did not think kingship was inherently unlawful, but they did not believe it was absolutely necessary either.
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