IN retrospect, March 1681 was to mark a dividing-line in Charles's reign, between politics which were centred principally upon Parliaments and politics which operated without them. Historians have conventionally used that point to close the chapter titled 'The Exclusion Crisis' and open that christened 'The Tory Reaction'. The utility of the first term has been questioned before, and it may now be pointed out that the second phenomenon had been under way since 1679. To Charles himself, the dissolution of the 'Third Exclusion Parliament' did not, at first, seem to mark a change of eras. Not only did he tell the nation, in April, that he intended to call another Parliament soon, but he was sincere in this. His battle with the Whigs was as bitter as ever. Only with the passage of time did it become obvious that something had changed, and that a new system of government was, at last, emerging.
The winter of 1680-1 had left the King with yet another team of advisers. Towering over the rest were Halifax and Hyde, who duplicated to a great extent the relationship between Buckingham and Arlington a decade before. To many observers the Marquis was patently the chief minister and influence upon the government, and certainly Charles summoned him to comment upon all major issues. But, like that of the dissolute Duke before him, his power was more apparent than tangible. He held no great office, occupied only 'a little garret' in Whitehall, knew nothing of the secret diplomacy with France, and (as shall be seen) had remarkably little success in getting his advice followed. The King valued him for his intelligence and his stand over Exclusion, and his useful habit of telling people that he only supported Charles because the latter was the champion of the Church and the law. 1 Hyde made a less prominent and self-confident figure than Halifax, but was far more central to the administration. He had, of course, been Charles's only agent in the dealings with the French and continued to be so. In April 1681 he was rewarded with the tide of Viscount and promotion to the head of the Treasury Commission. His appetite for work remained even greater than his appetite for drink, and when the Privy Council convened he was always