The declaration was named after the city of Breda in the Netherlands. It was actually written in the Spanish Netherlands, where Charles had been residing since March 1656; however, at the time of writing, England had been at war with Spain since 1655. To overcome the difficulties, both practical and in terms of public relations, of a prospective King of England addressing his subjects from enemy territory, Monck advised Charles to relocate himself to the United Netherlands, and to date his letters as if they were posted from Breda. Charles left Brussels, his last residence in the Spanish Netherlands, and passing through Antwerp arrived in Breda 4 April, and resided there until 14 May, after which he departed for England travelling via The Hague. The declaration, however (actually several letters, addressed to Monck, the Houses of Parliament, and the City of London), was despatched as soon as Charles had crossed the Dutch border, and was dated 4 April (OS)/14 April (NS).
Anthony Jackson, a courtier from Killingswold Grove, Yorkshire, to Charles II while he was in exile "at Breda", and who had also served Charles I, proclaimed Charles II as the rightful King of England in this place, and for that, he was awarded a knighthood. Jackson's mother was the former Ursula Hildyard of Yorkshire, who could claim direct descendancy from Rollo (AKA "Hrolf") the Viking through William the Conqueror though Edward I "Longshanks" Plantagenet, extending her known ancestry back to about 873 AD in Denmark.
The Declaration was drawn up by Charles and his three chief advisors, Edward Hyde, the Marquis of Ormond (James Butler), and Sir Edward Nicholas, in order to express the terms by which Charles hoped to take up "the possession of that right which God and Nature hath made our due. It guaranteed a "free and general pardon" to any old enemies of the King-to-be and of his father who recognized Charles II as their lawful monarch, with the exception of some of the regicides of Charles I.
It also promised "a free parliament, by which, upon the word of a king, we will be advised" and religious toleration. The Declaration undertook to settle army pay arrears of the soldiers in the service of General Monck. The landed classes were reassured that establishing the justice of contested grants and purchases of estates that had been made "in the continued distractions of so many years and so many and great revolutions" was to be determined in Parliament.
Copies were delivered to both houses of the Convention Parliament by Sir John Grenville. Other copies with separate covering letters were delivered to Lord General George Monck to be communicated to the Lord President of the Council of State and to the Officers of the Army under his command, and to the Generals of the "Navy at Sea" and to the City of London.
Several British warships would be named HMS Breda after the declaration.
And to the end that the fear of punishment may not engage any, conscious to themselves of what is passed, to a perseverance in guilt for the future, by opposing the quiet and happiness of their country in the restoration both of king, peers and people to their just, ancient and fundamental rights, we do by these presents declare, that we do grant a free and general pardon, which we are ready upon demand to pass under our Great Seal of England, to all our subjects, of what degree or quality soever, who within forty days after the publishing hereof shall lay hold upon this our grace and favour, and shall by any public act declare their doing so, and that they retum to the loyalty and obedience of good subjects (excepting only such persons as shall hereafter be excepted by parliament). Those only excepted, let all our loving subjects, how faulty soever, rely upon the word of a king, solemnly given by this present Declaration, that no crime whatsoever committed against us or our royal father before the publication of this shall ever rise in judgment or be brought in question against any of them, to the least endamagement of them either in their lives, liberties or estates, or (as far forth as lies in our power) so much as to the prejudice of their reputations by any reproach or term of distinction from the rest of our best subjects, we desiring and ordaining that henceforward all notes of discord, separation and differcnce of parties be utterly abolished among all our subjects, whom we invite and conjure to a perfect union among themselves, under our protection, for the resettlement of our just rights and theirs in a free parliament, by which, upon the word of a king, we will be advised.
And because the passion and uncharitableness of the times have produced several opinions in religion, by which men are engaged in parties and animosities against each other, which, when they shall hereafter unite in a freedom of conversation, will be composed and better understood, we do declare a liberty to tender consciences, and that no man shall be disquieted or called in question for differences of opinion in matter of religion which do not disturb the peace of the kingdom; and that we shall be ready to consent to such an act of parliament as, upon mature deliberation, shall be offered to us, for the full granting that indulgence.
And because, in the continued distractions of so many years and so many and great revolutions, many grants and purchases of estates have been made, to and by many officers, soldiers and others, who are now possessed of the same, and who may be liable to actions at law upon several titles, we are likewise willing that all such differences, and all things relating to such grants, sales and purchases, shall be determined in parliament, which can best provide for the just satisfaction of all men who are concerned.
And we do further declare, that we will be ready to consent to any act or acts of parliament to the purposes aforesaid, and for the full satisfaction of all arrears due to the officers and soldiers of the army under the command of General Monk, and that they shall be received into our service upon as good pay and conditions as they now enjoy.
Given under our Sign Manual and Privy Signet, at our Court at Breda, this 4/14 day of April, 1660, in the twelfth year of our reign.