Following the end of the Clarendon Ministry in 1667, conduct of the government of Charles II fell to a group that came to be known as the Cabal. This group consisted of five Privy Councillors (Clifford, Arlington, Buckingham, Ashley, and Lauderdale) who formed the council's Committee for Foreign Affairs. Through that 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 between the five, ranging from the Parliamentary idealism of Ashley to the autocratic absolutism of Lauderdale.
Buckingham's only office was Master of the Horse, with responsibility for overseeing the King's travel arrangements; but he was in constant contact and clear favour with the King, and he was the centre of the Cabal's grip on power. Between them, Arlington and Lauderdale had, for several years, held two of the three Secretaryships of State, despite Clarendon's objections. Lauderdale now had an even freer hand in Scottish affairs and increased his standing at the Court, whilst Arlington took the leading role in foreign affairs. Though the Duke of Albemarle was First Lord of the Treasury Commission until his death in 1670, he had already retired from public life and Treasury matters were left to the other three commissioners: the Chancellor of the Exchequer, Lord Ashley; the Comptroller of the Household, Sir Thomas Clifford; and Ashley's deputy at the Exchequer, Sir John Duncombe. The role of Lord Chancellor was initially filled by Sir Orlando Bridgeman, the Royalist lawyer who had prosecuted the Regicides; but he only held office as Lord Keeper.
The Cabal began to split in 1672, particularly over the autocratic nature of the King's Royal Declaration of Indulgence, the financing of the Third Anglo-Dutch War, and Britain's relationship with France. Personal rivalries and a conflict over foreign policy between Buckingham and Arlington escalated. The Ministry became very unpopular, characterised by arbitrary rule. Towards the end of the year, Ashley, now the Earl of Shaftesbury, became Lord Chancellor, leaving Treasury matters to Clifford and the Exchequer to Duncombe. He pressed publicly for greater reform of government, taking the side of the Opposition against his colleagues and the King. Clifford resigned over the in-fighting and retired from public life. Shaftesbury was replaced by Viscount Osborne, soon to become Earl of Danby, in the summer of 1673. Danby immediately established his authority over the remaining members of the Cabal. Buckingham's feud with Arlington saw him leak the details of the Treaty of Dover and fall from favour in 1674. Arlington survived as Southern Secretary until September of that year. Lauderdale retained his position and his relatively Autonomy power in Scotland, becoming an enemy of Shaftesbury. Shaftesbury began to agitate against Charles and his successor, James II; he briefly returned to government in the Privy Council Ministry and took a lead in forming the partisan group that would eventually become known as the Whigs.
These five members made up the "cabal" (Clifford, Arlington, Buckingham, Ashley, Lauderdale), which held most of the power within the government.
|Master of the Horse||The Duke of Buckingham||1668–1674|
|Southern Secretary||The Lord Arlington||1667–1674||appointed 1662; created Earl of Arlington in 1672|
|Chancellor of the Exchequer||The Lord Ashley||1667–1672||created Earl of Shaftesbury in 1672|
|First Lord of Trade||1672–1674|
|Secretary of State for Scotland||The Earl of Lauderdale||1667–1674||created Duke of Lauderdale in 1672|
|Comptroller of the Household||Sir Thomas Clifford||1667–1672||created Baron Clifford of Chudleigh in 1672|
|Lord High Treasurer||1672–1673|
The remaining members of the ministry, as would be expected, held less power than the cabal.
|Lord Keeper||Orlando Bridgeman, Bt.||1667–1674|
|First Lord of the Treasury||The Duke of Albemarle||1667–1670|
|Lord Privy Seal||The Lord Robartes||1667–1674||also Lord Lieutenant of Ireland (1669–1670)|
|Northern Secretary||Sir William Morice, Bt.||1667–1668|
|Sir John Trevor||1668–1672|
|Chancellor of the Exchequer||Sir John Duncombe||1672–1674|
|Master-General of the Ordnance||In commission||1667–1670|
|Sir Thomas Chicheley||1670–1674|
|Paymaster of the Forces||Sir Stephen Fox||1667–1674|