December 8, 1648
Thomas Pride was a colonel in the service of the Parliamentary New Model Army during the English Civil War. In December, 1648, after the initial defeat of the Royalist armies, many moderate Parliamentarians wanted to make peace with King Charles. The more militant army leaders were adamantly opposed to any conciliation with the king. Under the orders of the Army Council, Pride prevented up to 130 moderate MPs from entering Parliament. Some of these were simply barred from the Commons, others were placed under arrest.
The remaining members of Parliament formed what has been called the Rump Parliament. The Rump was much more amenable to the Army's demands, and duly voted in favour of the trial and eventual execution of the king.
Though the removal of the moderate MPs has been termed 'Pride's Purge', Pride himself did not play a major role in the unfolding of events; he was merely an officer of the Army and led his men in carrying out their orders. Pride died 10 years later, in 1658.
Why was it important?
Pride's Purge has been called the only military coup in English history. There is a certain amount of truth in that claim. Certainly it was not usual for the army to interfere with the workings of Parliament, but that is what occurred on this occasion. Without Pride's Purge, it is possible that the execution of Charles I might never have occurred, and the monarchy might never have been abolished.
Though it is unclear whether army head Sir Thomas Fairfax actually ordered the purge, it seems probable that Fairfax's second, Oliver Cromwell, must have been aware of what was about to transpire. In light of his subsequent rise to rule under the Commonwealth, we can safely say that if the Purge had never occurred, Cromwell would never have had the powerful role in English history that he eventually had.