The Cabal ministry or the CABAL refers to a group of high councillors of King Charles II of England, Scotland and Ireland from 1668 to c. 1674.
The term "Cabal" has a double meaning in this context. It refers to the fact that, for perhaps the first time in English history, effective power in a royal council was shared by a group of men, a cabal, rather than dominated by a single "favourite". The term also serves as the acronym "C-A-B-A-L" for the names of the five Privy Councillors (Clifford, Arlington, Buckingham, Ashley, and Lauderdale) who formed the council's Committee for Foreign Affairs.
Through the Foreign Affairs committee and their own offices, the five members were able to direct government policy both at home and abroad. The notion of an organised group in government, as opposed to a single royal favourite holding clear power, was seen by many as a threat to the authority of the throne. Others saw it as subverting the power of the Council or of Parliament, whilst Buckingham's close relationship with the King made the Cabal unpopular with some reformers. The title "Cabal" resulted from the perception that they had conspired together in Clarendon's fall and prosecution, and in its increasingly secretive conduct of government, and was helped by the fact that the initial letters of their names could be arranged to form CABAL as an acronym. However, there were sharp ideological divisions among the five, ranging from the Parliamentary idealism of Ashley to the autocratic absolutism of Lauderdale.
Members of the Cabal ministry