Henry Vane

Henry Vane

Henry Vane, the son of Sir Henry Vane, Secretary of State to Charles I, was born in Hadlow, Kent, in 1613. Vane was educated at Oxford University. A Presbyterian, Vane emigrated to America in 1635 and eventually became Governor of Massachusetts.

In 1637 Vane returned to England and in 1640 he was elected to represent Hull in the House of Commons. Over the next couple of years he advocated religious toleration and the establishment of a constitutional monarchy. Along with John Pym he led the campaign to have Thomas Wentworth, Earl of Strafford, ousted from power.

During the Civil War Vane became leader of the Republicans in Parliament (1643-1653). Later he opposed the authoritarianism of Oliver Cromwell and in 1656 was prosecuted for writing the pamphlet, A Healing Question.

On 3rd September 1658, Oliver Cromwell died. Parliament and the leaders of the army now began arguing amongst themselves about how England should be ruled. General George Monck, the officer in charge of the English army based in Scotland, decided to take action, and in 1660 he marched his army to London.

When Monck arrived he reinstated the House of Lords and the Parliament of 1640. Royalists were now in control of Parliament. Monk now contacted Charles II, who was living in Holland. Charles agreed that if he was made king he would pardon all members of the parliamentary army and would continue with the Commonwealth's policy of religious toleration. Charles also accepted that he would share power with Parliament and would not rule as an 'absolute' monarch as his father had tried to do in the 1630s.

This information was passed to Parliament and it was eventually agreed to abolish the Commonwealth and bring back the monarchy. In August 1660, Charles II and Parliament agreed to pass the Act of Indemnity and Oblivion. This resulted in the granting of a free pardon to anyone who had supported the Commonwealth government. However, the king retained the right to punish those people who had participated in the trial and execution of Charles I.

Henry Vane was arrested and charged with conspiring against Charles I. He was found guilty of high treason and executed on 14th June 1662.