English Civil War
gigatos | June 7, 2022
The English Civil War (1642-1651) was a series of armed conflicts and political manoeuvring between supporters of Parliament (“Roundheads”) and Royalists (“Cavaliers”), particularly over the governance of England. The first war (1642-1646) and the second (1648-1649) were fought between supporters of King Charles I and supporters of the Long Parliament, while the third (1649-1651) was fought between supporters of King Charles II and supporters of the Remaining Parliament. The war ended with the victory of the Parliamentarians at the Battle of Worcester on 3 September 1651.
The overall outcome of the war had three ramifications: the trial and execution of Charles I (1649), the exile of his son Charles II (1651), and the replacement of the English monarchy with, first, the Commonwealth of England (1649-1653) and then the Protectorate under Oliver Cromwell (1653-1658) and later his son Richard (1658-1659). In England, the Anglican Church”s monopoly on Christian worship ended, while in Ireland the victors consolidated the Protestant ascendancy. Constitutionally, the wars set the precedent that an English monarch could not rule without the consent of Parliament, although the idea of a parliament as England”s ruling power was only legally established during the Glorious Revolution in 1688.
The term “English Civil War” most often appears in singular form, although historians often divide the conflict into two or three separate wars. These wars were not confined to England, as Wales was part of the Kingdom of England and was affected accordingly, and the conflicts also involved wars with, and civil wars within, both Scotland and Ireland. The war in all these countries is known as the War of the Three Kingdoms. In the early 19th century, Sir Walter Scott referred to this war as the ”Great Civil War”.
Unlike other civil wars in England, which focused on who should rule, this war was more concerned with how the kingdoms of England, Scotland and Ireland were governed. The 1911 Encyclopædia Britannica called the series of conflicts the ”Great Rebellion”, while some historians – notably Marxists such as Christopher Hill (1912-2003) – have long preferred the term ”English Revolution”.
Both sides had their geographical strengths. Royal strengths included the countryside, counties and less economically developed areas of northern and western England. On the other side, all the cathedral cities (with the exception of York, Chester, Worcester, Hereford and the royal citadel of Oxford) joined Parliament. All the industrial centres, ports and advanced economic regions in the south and east of England were usually Parliamentarian strongholds. Lacey Baldwin Smith said, “The words populous, wealthy and rebellious seemed to go hand in hand.”
The reign of the king
The English Civil War broke out less than forty years after the death of Queen Elizabeth I in 1603. Elizabeth”s death resulted in the succession of her twice deposed first cousin, King James VI of Scotland, to the English throne as James I of England, creating the first personal union of the Scottish and English kingdoms… As King of Scots, James had grown accustomed to the weak tradition of the Scottish parliament since assuming control of the Scottish government in 1583, so on assuming power south of the border, the new King of England was genuinely affected by the constraints the English parliament tried to place on him in exchange for money. Despite this, James”s personal extravagance led to a shortage of money, constantly having to resort to extra-parliamentary sources of income.
This extravagance was tempered by James”s peaceful disposition, so that when his son Charles I succeeded to the English and Scottish thrones in 1625, the two kingdoms were at peace, both internally and in their relations with each other. Charles hoped to unite the kingdoms of England, Scotland and Ireland into a single new kingdom, fulfilling his father”s dream. Many English MPs were suspicious of such a move because they feared that the creation of a new kingdom would destroy the old English traditions that were linked to the English monarchy. Since Charles shared his father”s position on the power of the crown (James described kings as ”little gods on earth”, chosen by God to rule according to the doctrine of the ”Divine Right of Kings”), the parliamentarians” suspicions had some justification.
Parliament in England”s constitutional framework
At the time, England”s parliament did not have much of a permanent role in the English system of government. Instead, it functioned as a temporary advisory committee and was convened only if and when the monarch saw fit. Once convened, the continued existence of parliament was at the king”s discretion, as it could be dissolved by him at any time.
However, despite this limited role, in previous centuries Parliament had acquired de facto powers of sufficient significance that monarchs could not simply ignore them indefinitely. For a monarch, Parliament”s most indispensable power was its ability to raise tax revenues far in excess of all other sources of revenue available to the Crown. By the seventeenth century, Parliament”s taxing powers came to rely on the fact that the gentry was the only stratum of society with the ability and authority to collect and remit the most significant forms of taxation then available locally. This meant that if the king wanted to ensure uninterrupted revenue collection, he needed the cooperation of the gentry. For all the Crown”s legal authority, by any modern standard, its resources were limited to the extent to which, if and when the gentry refused to collect the King”s taxes on a national scale, the Crown having no practical means by which to persuade them to do so.
Therefore, to ensure their cooperation, the monarchs allowed the gentry (and only them) to elect their representatives to the House of Commons. When they convened, together with the House of Lords, these elected representatives formed a Parliament. The concept of parliaments therefore allowed the gentry representatives to meet in the first place (at least in the monarch”s view) so that they could vote on any taxes the monarch expected to be collected. In the process, the representatives could also forward and send policy proposals to the king in the form of laws. However, Parliament had no legal means of imposing its will on the monarch; its only leverage was to threaten the king with the withholding of the funds needed to carry out his plans.
Parliamentary concerns and the Law Petition
Many concerns were raised about Charles” marriage to a Roman Catholic princess, the French Henrietta Maria, in 1625. Parliament refused to grant him the traditional right to collect customs duties for his entire reign, deciding instead to grant it only provisionally and to negotiate with him.
In the meantime, Charles decided to send an expeditionary force to liberate the French Huguenots whom the French royal troops had besieged at La Rochelle. Military support for Protestants on the Continent had the potential to alleviate concerns caused by the King”s marriage to a Catholic. However, Charles”s insistence that one of the royal favourites, George Villiers, Duke of Buckingham, assume command of the English force, undermined this support. Unfortunately for Charles and Buckingham, the rescue expedition ended in fiasco (1627), and Parliament, already hostile to Buckingham for his monopoly on royal patronage, opened impeachment proceedings against him. Charles responded by dissolving Parliament. This move, saved Buckingham, but reinforced the impression that Charles wanted to avoid parliamentary control over his ministers.
Having dissolved Parliament and failing to raise money without it, the King summoned a new one in 1628. (Elected members included Oliver Cromwell and Edward Coke.) The new Parliament drafted the Petition of Right, and Charles accepted it as a concession for his grant. Among other things, the petition referred to Magna Carta. However, it did not grant him the right to Tonnage and Weight, which Charles had collected without parliamentary authorization since 1625. Several of the most active members of the opposition were imprisoned, which provoked a riot; one of them, John Eliot, later died in prison and was considered a martyr for the rights of Parliament.
Charles I avoided convening a parliament for the next decade, a period known as “Charles I”s personal rule” or “11-year tyranny”. During this period, Charles”s lack of money determined his policies. Firstly, to avoid Parliament, the King had to avoid any war so he made peace with France and Spain, effectively ending England”s involvement in the Thirty Years War. However, this in itself was not enough to balance the finances of the crown.
Unable to raise revenue without Parliament and unwilling to convene it, Carol resorted to other means. One method was to revive certain, often outdated, conventions. For example, failure to attend and receive a knighthood at Charles”s coronation was an offence punishable by a fine paid to the Crown. The King also tried to raise revenue through the ship tax, exploiting a naval war panic in 1635 by demanding that inland counties pay the royal navy tax. The law supported this policy, but the authorities ignored it for centuries and many regarded it as another extra-parliamentary (and therefore illegal) tax. Some prominent men refused to pay the tax, arguing that it was illegal, but lost in court, and the fines they were fined for refusing to pay it (and for opposing the legality of the tax) caused widespread outrage.
During his “personal reign”, Charles stirred up great antagonism with his religious measures: he believed in “High Anglicanism”, a sacramental version of the Church of England based, theologically, on Arminianism, a belief shared with his main political adviser, Archbishop William Laud. In 1633, Charles appointed Laud as Archbishop of Canterbury and began to make the church more ceremonial, replacing wooden communion tables with stone altars. Puritans accused Laud of reintroducing Catholicism; when they complained, they were arrested. In 1637, John Bastwick, Henry Burton and William Prynne had their ears cut off for writing pamphlets attacking Laud”s views – a rare punishment for men and one that aroused anger. Moreover, church authorities revived statutes given in Elizabeth I”s time about church attendance and fined the Puritans for not attending Anglican church services.
Rebellion in Scotland
The end of Charles” personal reign came when he tried to apply the same religious policies to Scotland. The Church of Scotland, with its episcopal structure, had independent traditions. Charles, however, wanted a unitary church throughout Britain and introduced a new version of the Book of Common Prayer in Scotland in mid-1637. This was met with violent resistance; a riot broke out in Edinburgh, which apparently started in St. Giles Cathedral, according to Jenny Geddes. In February 1638, Scots voiced their objections to royal policy in the National Covenant. This document took the form of a ”loyal protest”, rejecting all innovations that had not been checked in advance by the free parliaments and the General Assemblies of the Church.
In the spring of 1639, King Charles I accompanied his forces to the Scottish border to end the rebellion called the Bishops” War. But after an inconclusive military campaign, he accepted the Scottish armistice offered: the Treaty of Berwick. The truce turned out to be temporary, and a second war followed in mid-1640. This time, a Scottish army defeated Charles”s forces in the north, then captured Newcastle. Eventually, Charles agreed not to interfere with Scotland”s religion and to pay the Scots” war expenses.
Charles needed to suppress the rebellion in Scotland. However, he had insufficient funds and had to ask for money from a newly elected parliament in 1640. The majority faction in the new Parliament, led by John Pym, took this call for money as an opportunity to discuss grievances against the crown and opposed the idea of an English invasion of Scotland. Charles took exception to this lezmajestate (hence the name ”Short Parliament”.
Without the support of parliament, Charles attacked Scotland again, breaking the armistice at Berwick, and suffered a total defeat. The Scots went on to invade England, occupying Northumberland and Durham. Meanwhile, another of Charles”s chief advisers, Thomas Wentworth, 1st Earl of Wentworth, became Lord Deputy of Ireland in 1632 and brought in much-needed revenue for Charles, persuading the Irish Catholic gentry to pay new taxes in return for promised religious concessions.
In 1639, Charles recalled Wentworth to England and in 1640 made him Earl of Straford in an attempt to get him to achieve similar results in Scotland. This time he was less successful and English forces fled the battlefield in the second battle with the Scots in 1640. Almost the whole of the north of England was occupied and Charles had to pay £850 a day to prevent the Scots from advancing. Had he not paid, the Scots would have ”taken” the money by smashing and burning the towns of northern England.
All this put Carol in a desperate financial position. As King of Scots, he had to find money to pay for the Scottish army in England; as King of England, he had to find money to pay for and equip an English army to defend England. His means of raising English revenue without an English parliament critically diminished. Against this background, and in accordance with the advice of the Magnum Concilium (House of Lords, but without a House of Commons, so not a Parliament), Charles finally succumbed to pressure and summoned another English Parliament in November 1640.
The Long Parliament
The new Parliament proved even more hostile to Carol than the previous one. It immediately began to discuss complaints against Charles and his government, and with Pym and Hampden at the helm took the opportunity presented by the King”s troubles to force through various reform measures – including many with strongly ”anti-papal” themes – which the King had to accept. Lawmakers passed a law that a new parliament should convene at least once every three years – without summoning the king, if necessary. Other laws passed by parliament: it was illegal for the king to impose taxes without the consent of parliament and later gave parliament control over the king”s ministers. Finally, parliament passed a law forbidding the king to dissolve parliament without its consent, even if three years had passed. Since then, this parliament has been known as the ”Long Parliament”. However, the parliament tried to avoid conflict by asking all adults to sign the Protest, an oath of allegiance to Charles.
At the beginning of the proceedings of the Long Parliament, he overwhelmingly accused Thomas Wentworth, Earl of Strafford of high treason and other crimes and misdemeanours.
Henry Vane the Younger, provided evidence of the misuse of the army in Ireland, claiming that Strafford encouraged the king to use his army raised in Ireland to threaten England. This evidence was obtained from Vane”s father, Henry Vane the Elder, a member of the King”s Privy Council, who refused to confirm it in parliament out of loyalty to Charles. On 10 April 1641, Pym”s case collapsed, but Pym appealed directly to Henry Vane the Younger to produce a copy of the note from the King”s Privy Council, discovered by the younger Vane and secretly handed over to Pym, much to the displeasure of Vane the Elder. These notes from the King”s Privy Council contained evidence that Strafford told the King, “Sire, you have done your duty and your subjects have failed to do their duty and therefore you are absolved from the rules of government and can use extraordinary measures, you have an army in Ireland with which you can subjugate the kingdom.”
Pym immediately issued a detainer, arguing Strafford”s guilt and demanding that he be killed. Unlike a finding of guilt in a trial, detention did not require a legal burden of proof, but did require the king”s approval. Charles, however, assured Strafford that he would not sign the act, without which the bill could not pass. In addition, the Lords objected to the seriousness of the death sentence imposed on Strafford. However, rising tensions and a plot in the army in support of Strafford began to influence the issue. On 21 April, the House of Commons passed the bill (204 in favour, 59 against and 250 abstentions), with the Lords abstaining. Charles, still angry about the manipulation in the House of Commons concerning Buckingham, refused. Strafford himself, hoping to put right the war he glimpsed, wrote to the King and asked him to reconsider. Charles, fearing for his family”s safety, signed the deed on 10 May. Strafford was beheaded two days later. Meanwhile, both parliament and the king agreed to an independent investigation into the king”s involvement in the Strafford plot.
The Long Parliament then passed the Triennial Act, also known as the Dissolution Act of May 1641, to which royal assent was easily granted. The Triennial Act required that parliament be summoned at least once every three years, and that when the king did not issue a proper summons, members could meet on their own. This act also prohibited ship tax without the consent of parliament, fines for seizing knights and forced loans. Monopolies were severely curtailed and the Star Chamber and High Commission Courts were abolished by the Habeas Corpus Act 1640 and the Triennial Act respectively. All remaining forms of taxation were legalized and regulated by the Tonnage and Weight Act. On 3 May, Parliament decreed the Protest, attacking the “evil counsels” of Charles”s government, in which petitioners pledged to defend the “true reformed religion”, Parliament and the person, honour and estate of the King. During May, the House of Commons released several bills attacking bishops and episcopacy in general, each time the bill was rejected by the House of Lords.
Both Charles and Parliament hoped that Strafford”s execution and the advent of the Protest would put an end to the intentions of war, but in fact encouraged them. Charles and his supporters continued to reject the demands of parliament, while parliamentarians continued to suspect Charles of wanting to impose episcopalianism and royal rule unchecked by military force. Within months, Irish Catholics, fearing a resurgence of Protestant power, struck first and all of Ireland quickly descended into chaos. Rumours circulated that the King supported the Irish, and Puritan members of the House of Commons began to say that this was the fate Charles had prepared for them all.
In early January 1642, accompanied by 400 soldiers, Charles attempted to arrest five members of the House of Commons on charges of treason. This attempt failed. When the troops entered Parliament, Charles asked William Lenthall, Speaker of the House, about the whereabouts of the five. Lenthall replied, “Be it your Majesty”s pleasure, I have neither eyes to see, nor tongue to speak in this place, but as the House is pleased to lead me, whose servant I am here.” In other words, the Speaker proclaimed himself a servant of Parliament rather than of the King.
In the summer of 1642 these national upheavals helped polarize opinion. Opposition to Charles also arose from many local grievances. For example, the imposition of drainage systems in The Fens adversely affected the livelihoods of thousands of people after the king awarded a series of drainage contracts. Many felt that the King was indifferent to public welfare, and this played a large part in the shift of much of the East of England to the parliamentary camp. This feeling brought with it men like the Earl of Manchester and Oliver Cromwell, each a major opponent of the king. In contrast, one of the most important drainage contractors, the Earl of Lindsey, was to die for the king at the Battle of Edgehill.
In early January 1642, a few days after failing to capture five members of the House of Commons, fearing for the safety of his family and retinue, Charles left the London area for the north. Subsequent negotiations conducted by frequent correspondence between the King and the Long Parliament until early summer proved fruitless. As the summer progressed, towns declared their sympathy for one faction or the other: for example, the garrison at Portsmouth, under Sir George Goring, sided with the king, but when Charles tried to obtain arms for his cause from Kingston upon Hull, the repository for weapons used in previous Scottish campaigns, Sir John Hotham, the military governor appointed by parliament in January, refused to let Charles enter Hull. When Carol returned with more men, Hotham turned them away. Carol issued a warrant for Hotham to be arrested as a traitor, but failed to enforce it. Over the summer months, tensions rose and fighting broke out in some places, with the first death of the conflict occurring in Manchester.
At the start of the conflict, much of the country remained neutral, although the Royal Navy and most English towns sided with Parliament, while the King found considerable support in rural communities. Historians estimate that both sides had only about 15,000 soldiers. However, the war spread rapidly and eventually involved every level of society. Many areas tried to remain neutral. Some formed local bands to protect their localities against the excesses of both armies, but most localities found themselves unable to resist both the king and parliament. On the one hand, the king and his supporters fought for traditional government within the church and state. On the other hand, most supporters of the parliamentary cause initially fought to defend what they saw as a traditional balance of governance within church and state, a style of governance that was undermined during the “11-year tyranny” by the misguided advice they received from his advisers. The views of members of parliament ranged from unquestioning support for the king – at one point during the First Civil War, several members of the Commons and Lords gathered in the king”s Oxford parliament instead of Westminster – to radicals who wanted major reforms to favour religious independence and the redistribution of power nationally. However, even the most radical supporters of the parliamentary cause wanted King Charles to remain on the throne.
After the disaster at Hull, Charles moved to Nottingham, where, on 22 August 1642, he raised the royal standard. When he raised his standard, Charles had about 2,000 knights and a small number of Yorkshire infantry with him and, using the archaic system of a conscription, Charles”s supporters began to build a larger army. Charles set off in a south-westerly direction, first to Stafford and then to Shrewsbury, because support for his cause seemed particularly strong in the Severn Valley and North Wales. As he passed through Wellington, in what became known as the ”Wellington Declaration”, he declared that he would support ”the Protestant religion, the laws of England and the freedom of parliament”.
Supporters of parliament who opposed the King did not remain passive in this pre-war period. As with Kingston upon Hull, they took steps to secure the support of strategic towns by appointing officials to support their cause, and on 9 June they voted to muster an army of 10,000 volunteers and appointed Robert Devereux commander three days later. He was ordered “to save the person of Her Majesty, the Prince of Wales and the Duke of York from the hands of those desperate persons who were in connection with them”. The Lord Lieutenant, whom Parliament called, used the military order to command the militia to join Essex”s army.
Two weeks after the King raised his flag at Nottingham, Essex led his army north to Northampton, receiving support along the way (including a detachment of Cambridgeshire cavalry raised and commanded by Oliver Cromwell). By mid-September Essex”s forces had grown to 21,000 infantry and 4,200 cavalry and dragoons. On 14 September he moved his army to Coventry and then north to the Cotswolds, a strategy by which he placed his army between the Royalists and London. With the size of both armies now numbering in the tens of thousands and with Worcestershire alone between them, it was inevitable that cavalry reconnaissance units would sooner or later meet. This happened in the first major battle of the Civil War, when a cavalry troop of about 1,000 Royalists commanded by Prince Rupert, a German nephew of the King and one of the outstanding cavalry commanders of the war, defeated a detachment of Parliamentarian cavalry under Colonel John Brown at the Battle of Powick Bridge, at a bridge over the River Teme near Worcester.
Rupert retreated to Shrewsbury, where a council of war discussed two courses of action: advance to Essex”s new position near Worcester or march along the open road to London. The council decided to take the road to London, but not to avoid a battle, because the Royalist generals wanted to fight Essex before he became too strong, and the tempers of both sides made it impossible to delay the decision. In the words of the Earl of Clarendon: “it was thought wiser to go to London, being sure that morally the Earl of Essex would stand in the way”. Accordingly, the army left Shrewsbury on 12 October, gaining two days on the enemy, and set off south-east. This had the desired effect, as it forced Essex to set off to intercept it as well.
The first battle of the war, fought at Edgehill on 23 October 1642, proved inconclusive and both Royalists and Parliamentarians proclaimed victory. The second battle of the war, at Turnham Green, resulted in Charles being forced to retreat to Oxford. This town would become his headquarters for the rest of the war.
In 1643 the Royalist forces won at Adwalton Moor and gained control of much of Yorkshire . In the Midlands, a Parliamentary force led by Sir John Gell besieged and captured the cathedral city of Lichfield after the death of the original commander, Lord Brooke. This group later reunited with Sir John Brereton”s forces to fight in the undecided Battle of Hopton Heath (19 March 1643), where the Royalist commander, the Earl of Northampton, was killed. Subsequent battles in the west of England, at Lansdowne and Roundway Down, also fell to the Royalists. Prince Rupert was thus able to occupy the city of Bristol. In the same year, Oliver Cromwell formed his ”Ironsides”, a disciplined unit through which he demonstrated his military leadership. With their help, he won a victory at the Battle of Gainsborough in July.
At this stage, between 7 and 9 August 1643, there were several popular demonstrations in London – both pro- and anti-war. There were protests at Westminster. A London women”s peace demonstration, which turned violent, was suppressed by William Waller”s cavalry regiment. Some women were beaten and even killed, and many were arrested.
Following these events in August, the Venice representative in England reported to the dogel that the government in London had taken considerable steps to quell dissent.
In general, the beginning of the war was favourable to the Royalists. The turning point came in the late summer and early autumn of 1643, when the Earl of Essex”s army forced the King to lift the siege of Gloucester and then drove off the Royalist army at the First Battle of Newbury (20 September 1643), only to return triumphantly to London. Other Parliamentary forces won the Battle of Winceby, giving them control of Lincoln. Political manoeuvring to gain an advantage in numbers led Charles to negotiate a ceasefire in Ireland, allowing English troops to fight on the Royalist side in England, while Parliament offered concessions to the Scots in return for their help.
With the help of the Scots, Parliament won at Marston Moor (2 July 1644), gaining York and the north of England. Cromwell”s leadership in this battle proved decisive, demonstrating his potential as a political leader and an important military leader. Defeat at the Battle of Lostwithiel in Cornwall, however, marked a serious reversal of the parliamentary situation in south-west England. The subsequent battles around Newbury (27 October 1644), though tactically indecisive, proved strategic for parliament.
In 1645, the parliament reaffirmed its determination to fight the war to the end. It passed the Self-denying Ordinance, whereby all members of each house of parliament relinquished their command of the army, and thus reorganised the main forces into the New Model Army under Sir Thomas Fairfax, Cromwell being adjutant-commander and lieutenant-general of the cavalry. In two decisive battles – the Battle of Naseby on 14 June and the Battle of Langport on 10 July – the Parliamentarians effectively destroyed Charles”s armies.
In the remnants of his English kingdom, Charles sought to regain a stable base of support by consolidating the Midlands. He began to form an axis between Oxford and Newark-on-Trent in Nottinghamshire. These towns had become strongholds and proved more loyal to him than others. He conquered Leicester, which lay between them, but his resources were exhausted. With little chance to replenish them, in May 1646 he tried to take refuge in a Scottish Presbyterian army at Southwell in Nottinghamshire. Charles was eventually handed over to the English parliament by the Scots and imprisoned. This marked the end of England”s first civil war.
Charles I took advantage of the distraction to negotiate a secret treaty with the Scots, again promising church reform, on 28 December 1647. Under the agreement, called the ”Pledge”, the Scots pledged to invade England in Charles” name and restore him to the throne, on condition that Presbyterianism be established for three years.
A series of Royalist uprisings across England and a Scottish invasion took place in the summer of 1648. Forces loyal to Parliament put down most of the rebellions in England after fighting that was seen more as harassment, but the Kent, Essex and Cumberland rebellions, the rebellion in Wales and the Scottish invasion involved prolonged battles and sieges.
In the spring of 1648, unpaid parliamentary troops from Wales changed sides. Colonel Thomas Horton defeated the Royalist rebels at the Battle of St Fagans (8 May), and the rebel leaders surrendered to Cromwell on 11 July after the two-month siege of Pembroke. Sir Thomas Fairfax defeated a Royalist uprising in Kent at the Battle of Maidstone on 1 June. Fairfax, after his success at Maidstone and the pacification of Kent, headed north to subdue Essex, where, under the beloved, experienced and popular leader Sir Charles Lucas, Royalists had joined in large numbers. Fairfax pushed the enemy towards Colchester, but his first attack on the town was repulsed and so he had to participate in a long siege.
In the north of England, Major-General John Lambert mounted a successful campaign against a number of Royalist uprisings – the largest by Sir Marmaduke Langdale of Cumberland. Thanks to Lambert”s successes, the Scottish commander, the Duke of Hamilton, was able to march on Carlisle in the pro-Royalist Scottish invasion of England. Supporters of the Parliamentarians under Cromwell engaged in battle against the Scots at Preston (17-19 August). The battle took place largely at Walton-le-Dale near Preston in Lancashire and resulted in a victory for Cromwell”s troops over the Royalists and Scots commanded by Hamilton. This parliamentary victory marked the end of the Second English Civil War.
Nearly all the Royalists who fought in the First Civil War gave their word that they would not fight Parliament and many of them, like Lord Astley, refused to break their word so they did not fight in the Second War. So the victors in the Second Civil War showed little mercy to those who fought again. On the evening of Colchester”s surrender, MPs shot Sir Charles Lucas and Sir George Lisle. Parliamentary authorities sentenced to death the leaders of the Welsh rebellion, Major-General Rowland Laugharne, Colonel John Poyer and Colonel Rice Powel, but executed only Poyer (25 April 1649) after selecting him by election. Of the five important royalists who fell into the hands of parliament, three, the Duke of Hamilton, the Earl of Holland and Lord Capel, one of the Colchester prisoners and a man of great character, were beheaded at Westminster on 9 March.
Charles”s secret pacts and the encouragement of his supporters to break their word prompted parliament to debate whether to bring the king back to power. Those who still supported his return to the throne, such as army leader and moderate Fairfax, once again tried to negotiate with him. Furious that parliament continued to portray Charles as ruler, the army went to parliament and coordinated ”Pride”s Purge” (named after the commanding officer of the operation, Thomas Pride) in December 1648. Troops arrested 45 members of parliament and kept another 146 out. They only allowed 75 members to attend, and then only with the permission of the army. This remaining parliament was ordered to set up, in the name of the people of England, a High Court to try Charles I for treason. Fairfax, a constitutional and moderate monarchist, refused to attend the trial and resigned as head of the army, allowing Oliver Cromwell to come to power.
At the end of the trial, the 59 delegates (judges) found Charles I guilty of high treason, as “tyrant, traitor, murderer and public enemy”. His beheading took place on a scaffold outside the Banqueting House of Whitehall Palace on 30 January 1649. After the Restoration in 1660, of the surviving regicides not living in exile, nine were executed and most of the others sentenced to life imprisonment.
Following the execution, Charles, the eldest son, was in Jersey, where he was publicly proclaimed King Charles II (after the first public proclamation in Edinburgh on 5 February 1649) on 17 February 1649 in the Royal Square in St Helier.
Ireland has experienced a period of continuous warfare since the 1641 rebellion, with most of the island controlled by the Irish Confederates. Increasingly threatened by the armies of the English Parliament after the arrest of Charles I in 1648, the Confederates signed a treaty of alliance with the English Royalists. Royal and Confederate forces under the Duke of Ormonde attempted to eliminate the Parliamentary army holding Dublin by besieging the city, but their opponents led them to the Battle of Rathmines (2 August 1649). While former member of parliament Admiral Robert Blake blockaded Prince Rupert”s fleet at Kinsale, Oliver Cromwell was able to land an army in Dublin on 15 August 1649 to stop the Royalist alliance in Ireland.
Cromwell”s suppression of the Royalists in Ireland in 1649 still resonates strongly with many Irish people. After the siege of Drogheda, the massacre of nearly 3,500 people – comprising around 2,700 Royalist soldiers and 700 others, including civilians, prisoners and Catholic priests (Cromwell claimed all the men carried guns) – became one of the historical memories that led to the Irish-English and Catholic-Protestant conflicts over the past three centuries. The Parliamentarian conquest of Ireland lasted another four years until 1653, when the last soldiers of the Irish Confederacy and Royalists surrendered. The victors seized almost all the land held by Irish Catholics following the conquest and distributed it to creditors of Parliament, soldiers who fought alongside the Parliamentarians, soldiers who served in Ireland and English people who had settled there before the war.
The execution of Charles I changed the dynamics of the Scottish Civil War, which broke out between Royalists and Presbyterians in 1644. By 1649, the fighting found the Royalists in disarray, and their leader, the Marquis of Montrose, went into exile. At first, Charles II encouraged Montrose to gather an army from the Highlands to fight on the Royalist side. However, when the Scottish Presbyterians (who disagreed with Charles I”s execution and feared for the future of Presbyterianism under the new Commonwealth) offered him the crown of Scotland, Charles abandoned Montrose to his enemies. However, Montrose, who had raised an army of mercenaries in Norway, reached Scotland and could not abandon the fight. He failed to convince many Highland clans, and the Presbyterians defeated his army at the Battle of Carbisdale in Ross-shire on 27 April 1650. The victors captured Montrose shortly afterwards and took him to Edinburgh. On 20 May, the Scottish Parliament sentenced him to death and hanged him the next day.
Charles II arrived in Scotland at Garmouth in Morayshire on 23 June 1650 and signed the National Covenant of 1638 and the Covenant of 1643 shortly after coming ashore. With his Scottish Royalist followers and new Presbyterian allies, King Charles II became the greatest threat facing the new English republic. In response to the threat, Cromwell left one of his lieutenants in Ireland to continue the suppression of the Irish Royalists and returned to England.
He arrived in Scotland on 22 July 1650 and proceeded to lay siege to Edinburgh. By the end of August, illness and lack of supplies had depleted his army and he had to order a retreat to his base at Dunbar. A Scottish army, assembled under David Leslie, tried to block the retreat, but Cromwell defeated it at the Battle of Dunbar on 3 September. Cromwell”s army then took Edinburgh, and by the end of the year his army had occupied much of southern Scotland.
In July 1651, Cromwell”s forces crossed the Firth of Forth into Fife and defeated the Scots at the Battle of Inverkeithing (20 July 1651). The new English army advanced towards Perth, allowing Charles, in command of the Scottish army, to move south into England. Cromwell followed Charles to England, leaving George Monck to complete the campaign in Scotland. Monck captured Stirling on 14 August and Dundee on 1 September. The following year, in 1652, he defeated the remnants of Royalist resistance and, under the terms of the ”Draft Union”, the Scots were given 30 seats in a unified parliament in London and General Monck was appointed military governor of Scotland.
Although Cromwell”s new army defeated a Scottish army at Dunbar, Cromwell could not prevent Charles II from marching from Scotland deep into English territory at the head of another Royalist army. The Royalists went west to England because English sympathies were stronger there, but although some English Royalists joined the army, they came in much smaller numbers than Charles and his supporters in Scotland had hoped. Cromwell eventually entered the fray and defeated the new king at Worcester on 3 September 1651.
After the Royalist defeat at Worcester, Charles II fled to France, hiding in safe houses, and the parliament remained in de facto control of England. Resistance continued for a time in the Channel Islands, Ireland and Scotland, but with the pacification of England, resistance in the rest of the country did not threaten the military supremacy of the new army.
Figures for casualties during this period are not reliable, but some attempts have been made to provide rough estimates. In England, a conservative estimate is that around 100,000 people died as a result of the conflicts related to the three civil wars. Historical records count 84,830 deaths from the wars. Counting the accidents and the wars of the two bishops, an estimate of 190,000 deaths out of a total population of about five million is reached.
The figures for Scotland are even less reliable and should be treated more carefully. The casualty figures include the deaths of prisoners in conditions that hastened their deaths, with estimates of 10,000 prisoners who did not survive or return home (8,000 captured during and immediately after the Battle of Worcester were deported to New England, Bermuda and the West Indies to work for landowners as apprentice labourers). There are no figures to calculate the number of people who died from war-related diseases, but applying the same percentage of disease to battle deaths with the English figures to the Scottish figures gives an unreasonable estimate of 60,000 to a population of about one million.
The figures for Ireland are described as “marvels of guesswork”. Of course, the devastation caused to Ireland was massive, with the best estimate offered by Sir William Petty, the father of English demography. Petty estimates that 112,000 Protestants and 504,000 Catholics were killed by plague, war and famine, giving an estimated total of 616,000 dead out of a pre-war population of about one and a half million. Although Petty”s figures are the best available, they are still acknowledged to be preliminary; they do not include the estimate of 40,000 sent into exile, some of whom served as soldiers in continental European armies, while others were sold into servitude in New England and the West Indies. Many of those sold to New England landowners eventually prospered, but many of those sold to West Indian landowners worked themselves to death.