The English Civil War was a seventeenth-century battle between the Parliamentarians and the Royals over the future of England’s government and the degree to which the monarchy and representatives would hold power.
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Below is a comprehensive English Civil War timeline, featuring the events leading up to the war, the most important battles, and the events signaling the end of the war.
|13th June 1625||King Charles Marries||King Charles I married Henrietta Maria, daughter of Henry IV of France at St Augustine’s Church, Canterbury, Kent. The marriage was not popular because she was a Catholic.|
|May 1626||Parliament Dismissed||Parliament were unhappy with the activities of Charles’ chief minister, George Villiers, 1st Duke of Buckingham. Buckingham had led a failed mission to Cadiz and it appeared that he was planning to help the French to put down the Protestant Huguenot uprising. Parliament moved to have Buckingham dismissed from office. Charles retaliated by dismissing parliament.|
|13th March||Parliament Recalled||Charles needed money to finance the war with France and Spain and reluctantly recalled Parliament.|
|1628||Thirty-Nine Articles||Charles re-issued the Thirty Nine Articles into the Church of England. This was seen as a move towards Rome and evidence of the King’s Catholic leanings.|
|7th June 1628||Petition of Right||Parliament formed a committee of grievances and prepared a Petition of Right which was presented to the King. The Petition was designed to protect subjects from any further taxation unauthorised by Parliament.
Charles signed the document reluctantly.
|22nd August 1628||Buckingham Assassinated||George Villiers, 1st Duke of Buckingham, was stabbed to death by naval lieutenant John Felton.|
|March 1629||The Three Resolutions||There were outbursts in Parliament when the Petition of Right was debated and the doors were locked to keep royal guards out. The Speaker, who wanted to adjourn the proceedings, was held in his chair. Parliament passed three resolutions:
1.That they would condemn any move to change religion.
2. That they would condemn any taxation levied without Parliament’s authority.
3. That any merchant who paid ‘illegal’ taxes betrayed the liberty of England.
Charles dismissed Parliament.
|March 1629||MPs Arrested||Charles arrested nine members of the Commons for offences against the state. Three were imprisoned. This action by the King made him more unpopular. The King, defended his action by stating his belief in his own divine right saying that ‘Princes are not bound to give account of their actions, but to God alone.’|
|1632||Thomas Wentworth||Known as ‘Black Tom Tyrant’ by the Irish, Thomas Wentworth, Lord Deputy of Ireland, ruled Ireland with a firm hand. However, his rule alienated the planters of Ulster and antagonised the landowners of Connaught.|
|August 1633||Archbishop Laud||Charles appointed William Laud as Archbishop of Canterbury. Laud was known to have Catholic leanings and Charles hoped that his appointment would help to stop the rise of the Puritans.|
|18 June 1633||King of Scotland||Charles was crowned King of Scotland at Holyrood Abbey, Edinburgh.|
|1634 – 1636||Ship Money||This tax was paid by coastal towns to pay for the upkeep of the Royal Navy. In a bid to raise more money, Charles now imposed the tax on inland towns as well.|
|June 1638||Ship Money||John Hampden, challenged the King’s right to impose such a tax but he lost the case and the court ruled that the King was the only authority that could impose such a tax.|
|February 1638||National Covenant and Book of Common Prayer||Charles demanded that the Book of Common Prayer be used in the Scottish Kirk. The Calvinist-dominated Scottish church resisted the move. There were riots and a National Covenant was formed which protested against any religious interference in Scotland by England. The Scottish Kirk was so incensed that it expelled the Bishops installed in Scotland by James I.|
|1639||Pacification of Berwick||Thomas Wentworth’s had led a scratch army against the Scots but had been defeated on the border and had been forced to sign a temporary truce at Berwick. Wentworth told the King that in order to raise an efficient army he must recall Parliament. Charles, who had enjoyed his eleven years tyranny, was forced to recall Parliament.|
|13th April 1640||Short Parliament||The new Parliament refused to authorise any new taxes until the King agreed to abandon ‘ship money’. The King said that he would only abandon ship money if Parliament would grant him enough money to re-open the war with Scotland. Parliament refused and was dismissed after three weeks.|
|1640||Oliver Cromwell||Oliver Cromwell was elected to Parliament for the second time. He openly criticised Charles taxes and the level of corruption in the Church of England.|
|Oct 1640||Scotland||Thomas Wentworth, Earl of Strafford, set out for the Scottish border with a makeshift army. However, the army mutinied and the Scots seized English land. The Scots demanded a daily rate be paid until a satisfactory treaty was put in place.|
|21 Oct 1640||Treaty of Ripon||This treaty between Scotland and England allowed the Scots to stay in Durham and Northumberland until a final settlement was concluded.|
|Nov 1640||Long Parliament||Charles had to have money to pay for an efficient army with which to defeat the Scots. However, he couldn’t have the money until he agreed to Parliament’s demands which included an Act which stated that parliament should meet once every five years and the arrest for treason of Strafford. Charles had no choice but to comply.|
|20 May 1641||Wentworth Beheaded||Thomas Wentworth, Earl of Strafford, was executed on Tower Hill.|
|Summer 1641||Triennial Act||This act allowed Parliament to be summoned without royal command and declared ‘ship money’ to be illegal.|
|Late Summer 1641||Revolt in Ireland||A revolt broke out in Ireland. Parliament critical of the King’s handling of matters in both Ireland and Scotland, passed propositions that the Parliament and not the King should be responsible for the country’s defence.|
|22 Oct 1641||Catholic Rebellion in Ireland||A Catholic rebellion broke out in Ulster and quickly spread across the country. Many Protestant settlers were driven from their homes and the rebellion became war.|
|November 1641||Grand Remonstrance||This document, put together by Pym, listed parliament’s grievances against the King since his reign began.|
|4 Jan 1642||Charles Arrests five MPs||Charles instructed his attorney-general to issue a charge of treason against one peer and five members of the Commons including Pym and Hampden. When Parliament refused to recognise the charge, Charles sent a troop of horsemen to make the arrests. However, Parliament had been warned and the five men had fled. this move by Charles was extremely unpopular and across the country people declared themselves for Parliament and against Popery. Charles removed himself and his family from Whitehall to Hampton Court.|
|Jan 1642||Preparations for War||Charles sent his wife Henrietta Maria to the Continent to enlist Catholic support for his cause against Parliament. She was also to pawn the crown jewels to buy arms. Although both sides were now preparing for war, negotiations continued.|
|March 1642||Militia Ordinance||This allowed Parliament to take control of the Militia, virtually the only armed body in the country.|
|April 1642||Charles – Hull||Charles tried to secure an arsenal of equipment left in Hull from his Scottish campaign. He was blocked by Sir John Hotham, with parliamentary and naval support and was forced to retire to York. Charles made his headquarters in York.|
|June 1642||Nineteen Propositions||The Nineteen Propositions were issued by Parliament in the hopes of reaching a settlement with the King. They called for a new constitution recognising their own supremacy; demanded that ministers and judges should be appointed by parliament not by the King and also that all Church and military matters should come under the control of Parliament.|
|22 Aug 1642||Civil War – Standard raised||Charles raised his standard at Nottingham formally declaring war. However, both sides hoped that either war could be averted or that one decisive battle would put an end to the matter.|
|7 Sept 1642||Portsmouth falls to Parliament||The vital port and fortress of Portsmouth surrendered to Parliament.|
|23 Oct 1642||Battle of Edgehill||In the early afternoon, Charles sent his army down the hill to meet the Parliamentary army commanded by Essex. On the royalist right was Prince Rupert who broke Essex’s left flank. In the centre, reinforcements arrived and they managed to push forward putting the lives of the King’s sons, Charles and James, in danger. The battle was a stalemate with neither side able to advance.|
|12, 13 Nov 1642||Small Battles||The Royalists led by Prince Rupert managed to surprise and capture Brentford. However, the following day Rupert was surprised to find his route to the city of London barred at Turnham Green by Essex and an army of some 24,000. The Royalist commander decided to retire rather than fight.|
|Jan 1643||Royalist Victories||The Royalists had victories over Parliament at Braddock Down and Nantwich|
|1643||Skirmishes and Battles||Parliament took Lichfield, Reading, Wakefield, Gainsborough,
Royalists took Ripple Field, Tewkesbury, Chewton Mendip, Chalgrove Field, Landsdowne Hill, Bristol and Yorkshire. Re-took Lichfield and Gainsborough, and held Cornwall, Newark and Devises
|30 June 1643||Battle of Adwalton Moor||the Royalist commander, William Cavendish decided to try and enclose the Parliamentarian army in Bradford. However, Fairfax, the Parliamentary commander decided that his army had a better chance of survival if they fought the Royalists in a battle rather than being surrounded and forced to surrender. The Royalists won the battle.|
|13 July 1643||Battle of Roundaway Down||The Royalists were the first to charge but there was no counter-charge. After two more charges the Parliamentary cavalry had fled. Waller then turned his attention to the Parliamentary infantry who stood firm until a force led by Hopton attacked them from behind. Caught between two Royalist armies the majority of Parliamentarian soldiers simply fled from the battlefield giving the Royalists victory.|
|Aug 1643||Solemn League and Covenant||This document swore to preserve the Church of Scotland and reform the religion of England and Ireland ‘according to the word of God and the example of the best reformed churches’ and to protect ‘the rights and liberties of parliaments’. It was accepted by the English Parliament in September.|
|20 Sept 1643||First Battle of Newbury||Essex’s force of tired wet and hungry Parliamentarians intended to rest at Newbury, a town sympathetic to the Parliamentarians. However, Rupert had arrived there first and Essex had no choice but to fight.
Essex moved the Parliamentarians before daybreak and secured the ‘Round Hill’, just south of Newbury. The surrounding countryside was criss-crossed with lanes and hedgerows which offered excellent cover for the foot soldiers but was quite unsuitable for horse. Parliament won the battle
|June 1644||Battle of Marston Moor||This was the largest single battle of the Civil War involving 45,000 men. Although the Royalists were outnumbered, they decided to fight. They were defeated by Parliament. For the first time since the Civil War had began Rupert’s cavalry were beaten by a Parliamentarian cavalry charge.|
|27 October 1644||Second Battle of Newbury||The Royalists were sandwiched between two Parliamentary forces. Each time Parliament made some gain they were beaten back by the Royalists. The battle, which lasted all day, ended in a draw.|
|14th June 1645||Battle of Naseby||The Parliamentarians broke their siege on Oxford and forced the Royalists into battle. Initially the Royalists took up a defensive stance but later the order to attack was given. The battle lasted just three hours and saw the death of most of the Royalist foot soldiers. It was a decisive victory for Parliament. Charles fled the battlefield as soon as it was apparent that he had lost both the battle and the war.|
|6th May 1646||Surrender to the Scots||Charles I surrendered to the Scots|
|24th June 1646||Surrender||Oxford, Charles I’s capital surrendered to Parliament|
|30th January 1647||Charles I Imprisoned||The Scots handed Charles over to parliament. He was imprisoned in Holdenby House, Northamptonshire|
|November 1647||Putney Debates||This was a series of debates held by different Parliamentarian forces to try to decide on a new constitution.|
|November 1647||Charles Escaped||Charles I escaped imprisonment and fled to Carisbrooke Castle, Isle of Wight|
|December 1648||Charles Recaptured||Charles was recaptured and sent to Windsor Castle|
|6th January 1649||Rump Parliament||The Rump Parliament began. All members of Parliament who were in favour of negotiating with the King had been expelled. The Rump Parliament gave parliament the right to make new Acts of Parliament without the king’s approval|
|20th January 1649||Trial of King Charles began||King Charles was tried for treason by a High Court of Justice specially set up for the trial. The court found Charles guilty and sentenced him to death.|
|30 Jan 1649||Execution||King Charles I was executed by beheading, outside Whitehall Palace, London. He was buried in St George’s Chapel, Windsor.|
Charles I – The Slide to War
Charles I came to the throne in 1625 after the death of his father, James I. Like his father, he believed in the Divine Right of Kings. Although only parliament could pass laws and grant money for war, because they refused to do as he wished, Charles chose to rule without them.
Charles made repeated mistakes throughout his reign that took the country into Civil War and ultimately led to his death on January 30th 1649.
In the first year of his reign, Charles married Princess Henrietta Maria of France, a Catholic. Parliament were concerned about the marriage because they did not want to see a return to Catholicism and they believed that a Catholic Queen would raise their children to the Catholic faith.
Instead of listening to the advice of his Parliament, Charles chose the Duke of Buckingham as his main advisor. Parliament disliked Buckingham and resented his level of power over the King. In 1623 he had been responsible for taking England to war with Spain and parliament used this to bring a charge of treason against him.
However, the King dismissed parliament in order to save his favourite. In 1627, Buckingham led a campaign into France which saw the English army badly defeated. In 1628, while preparing for a naval invasion of France, Buckingham was assassinated.
The monarch’s income was paid out of customs duties and when a new King or Queen came to the throne parliament voted for their income to be paid for life. In Charles I’s case, though, it was only granted for one year. The members of parliament wanted to make sure that Charles did not dismiss them. Their plan did not work, Charles chose to rule alone and found his own way of getting money.
It had always been the custom that in times of war, people living on the coast, would pay extra taxes for the defence of the coastline by naval ships.
In 1634, Charles decided that ‘ship money’ should be paid all the time. One year later he demanded that people living inland should also pay ‘ship money’. The people were not pleased and a man named John Hampden refused to pay the tax until it had been agreed by parliament.
The case went to court and the judge found Charles’ actions to be legal. The people had no choice but to pay.
In 1639, Charles needed an army to go to Scotland to force the Scots to use the English Prayer book. A new tax was introduced to pay for the army. People now had to pay two taxes and many simply refused. Many of those jailed for not paying the taxes were released by sympathetic jailors. By 1639 most of the population was against Charles. ‘Ship Money’ was made illegal in 1641.
The Protestants had been upset by Charles’ marriage to Catholic Henrietta Maria of France. They were even more upset when Charles, together with Archbishop Laud, began making changes to the Church of England. It was ordered that churches be decorated once again and that sermons should not be just confined to the Bible. A new English Prayer Book was introduced in 1637.
Charles also demanded that the new English Prayer Book be used in Scottish Churches. This was a very big mistake. The Scots were more anti-Catholic than the English and many of them were Puritans. There were riots in Scotland against the new service and Charles was forced to raise an army to fight against the Scots. The English army was defeated by the Scots and Charles foolishly agreed to pay Scotland ?850 per day until the matter was settled. Money he did not have!
The Irish Catholics were fed up with being ruled by English Protestants who had been given land in Ireland by James I.
In 1641, news reached London that the Catholics were revolting. As the news travelled it was exaggerated and Londoners learned that 20,000 Protestants had been murdered. Rumours spread that Charles was behind the rebellion in a bid to make the whole of the United Kingdom Catholic.
An army had to be sent to Ireland to put the rebellion down but who was to control the army. Parliament was worried that if Charles had control of the army he would use it to regain control over Parliament. In the same way, if Parliament controlled the army they would use it to control the King. It was a stalemate.
One of Charles I’s major mistakes was that he was unable to gain the co-operation of his parliament. His determined belief in the Divine Right of Kings led to his dismissing parliament in 1629 and ruling without them. The fact that he did not have a parliament to grant him money meant that he had to tax his people heavier and introduce unpleasant taxes such as ship money (see above). It was only when Charles needed an army to fight against Scotland that he was forced to recall parliament in 1640. This parliament remained in office for so many years that it is known as the Long Parliament.
The Long Parliament
Having been dismissed from office for eleven years, this parliament was determined to make the most of being recalled and Charles’ favourite, Thomas Wentworth, Earl of Strafford, of treason. Strafford was executed in May 1641.
In November 1641, parliament presented the King with a list of complaints called the Grand Remonstrance that asked for the power of bishops to be reduced and for Charles’ councillors to be men trusted by parliament. Not all members of parliament were in favour of it and it was only passed by 159 votes to 148.
In January 1642 Charles made what was the most foolish move of his reign. He burst into the Houses of Parliament with 400 soldiers and demanded that the five leading MPs be arrested. The five MPs had had advance warning and had fled.
Charles dismissing Parliament
In June 1642 the Long Parliament passed a new set of demands called the Nineteen Proposals that called for the King’s powers to be greatly reduced and a greater control of government to be given to parliament. This move divided parliament between those who supported the Nineteen Proposals and those who thought parliament had gone too far.
Both Parliament and Charles began collecting together their own armies. War was inevitable. People were forced to choose sides and on 22nd August 1642, the King raised his standard at Nottingham.
Oliver Cromwell was born on April 25th 1599. His family had become wealthy following the dissolution of the monasteries by Thomas Cromwell and had changed their name from Williams to Cromwell in recognition of the man that had made their fortune.
He attended Cambridge University where he gained a reputation for his commitment to Puritanism. In 1620 he married Elizabeth Bourchier and the couple had two sons. In 1628 he became Member of Parliament for Huntingdon. In 1640 he was elected to the Long Parliament as Member for Cambridge, although he played no prominent part in the government.
Oliver Cromwell and the English Civil War
When the Civil war began in 1642, Cromwell was sent to organize the defense of Norfolk. He was noted for his organizational skills and bravery and when the East Anglian counties formed the Eastern Association, Cromwell was put in charge of the cavalry. His reputation was further enhanced when his cavalry made a notable contribution to the Battle of Marston Moor. When the New Model Army was formed, Cromwell was made General of the Horse and he played an important part in the defeat of the King in the Battle of Naseby.
When the Civil War ended with Parliament victorious, Cromwell played a part in trying to keep Parliament united. He also tried to smooth things between Parliament and the army in 1647 when the army mutinied and refused to disband. He played a prominent part in the second Civil War.
Here are the most important changes that Oliver Cromwell instituted.
- He was the prime mover behind the decision to execute the King in 1649 and the establishment of the Commonwealth.
- Having stabilized England, Cromwell left for Ireland to put down the Irish Civil War. As an extreme Puritan, he hated the Catholics and had never forgiven them for their alleged massacre of Protestants in 1641.
- He therefore felt he was justified in seeking revenge and was responsible for the Massacre of Drogheda in September 1649.
Oliver Cromwell Takes Command
Cromwell was becoming increasingly frustrated with the members of the Rump Parliament who had not passed reforms in either the political or religious sphere. In 1653, at the head of an army, Cromwell marched into Parliament and dismissed the members. It was replaced by the Barebones Parliament, a select parliament of committed Puritans who elected Cromwell as Lord Protector.
English Civil War: Royalist or Parliamentarian?
From the moment that Charles I raised his standard at Nottingham in August 1642, ordinary people throughout the land were forced to choose which side they were on. In the majority of cases this choice was made for them as they simply joined the army that reached their city or town first.
Support remained much the same throughout 1642 and 1643, but during 1644 and 1645 people began to change sides.
|For the King
Catholics, most of the Nobles and gentry, about half of all Members of Parliament, the poorer areas of the North and West.
The supporters of the King were called Cavaliers because many of them fought on horseback. The term comes from the French ‘chevalier’ meaning ‘horse’. Cavaliers had long hair and wore fancy clothes.
Puritans, the more militant Members of Parliament, merchants, the richer areas of the South and East.
Parliamentarians were nicknamed ’roundheads’ because they cut their hair very short. They also wore very plain and simple clothes.
These maps show how Charles gradually lost control of England and Wales as the Parliamentarians gained more and more support.
The overall outcome of the English Civil War was the trial and execution of Charles I, then the exile of Charles II, and finally the replacement of the English monarchy with the Commonwealth of England and the Protectorate under the rule of Oliver Cromwell and his son Richard. This ultimately led to Parliament as the ruling power of England, being formally legally established as part of the Glorious Revolution in 1688.
The wars left England as one of the few countries in Europe without a monarch, and many of the factions of the war were sidelined.
English Civil War Battles
English Civil War battles were significant in the scope of British history but they were not arrayed in the manner of a typical war. Although this was a civil war, and the whole country was affected, there were remarkably few major battles.
Edgehill 23rd October 1642
Both the Royalist and the Parliamentary armies were on the move. Charles’ army, commanded by the King himself, was marching from Shrewsbury to London while Parliament’s army, under Robert Devereux, third Earl of Essex was marching from London to Worcester. When the armies were a few miles apart, Prince Rupert persuaded Charles to take to the high ground at Edgehill. Essex realised that the Royalist army was close and formed his men for battle. Both commanders deployed their troops in the same way with infantry in the middle and cavalry to the flank.
The Parliamentary army opened the battle with a volley of cannon fire. Prince Rupert led a Royalist cavalry charge on the right side of the battlefield and the Parliamentarians fled. Meanwhile another group of Royalist cavalry charged the left side of the field and the Parliamentarians fled.
If the Royalist cavalry had rejoined their army it is likely that the Royalists would have won the battle. However, both cavalry commanders chose to pursue the fleeing Parliamentarians leaving Charles without a cavalry regiment.
Seeing that he now had an advantage, Essex commanded a general assault on the Royalists. Although the Royalists held ground for a while many soon decided to run. However, Essex had thought of this and had sent a cavalry regiment to the back of the field to cut down any who chose to flee the battlefield. They did not get the chance to do this as Prince Rupert had returned with his cavalry. The light was giving way to darkness by now and as both sides were exhausted it was decided to call the battle a draw.
Adwalton Moor 30th June 1643
The Royalists were well supported in the North of England. Knowing that he had a lot of support the Royalist commander, William Cavendish, Duke of Newcastle, decided to try and enclose the Parliamentarian army in Bradford. However, Fairfax, the Parliamentary commander decided that his army had a better chance of survival if they fought the Royalists in a battle rather than being surrounded and forced to surrender.
The two armies met at Adwalton Moor, an area covered with fields enclosed by fences and hedges. This was not good country for the Royalist cavalry and Fairfax knew that this would give him an advantage even though his army was heavily outnumbered. Fairfax decided to adopt a defensive position and successfully withstood several Royalist charges. Feeling optimistic that they were successfully withstanding the Royalists and forcing them to defeat, several groups of Parliamentarian soldiers decided to pursue the Royalists rather than maintaining their defensive line. The Royalists were able to easily force the split Parliamentarians to retreat to Bradford.
Roundaway Down 13th July 1643
The Parliamentary commander Sir William Waller, had managed to push back the Royalist army, commanded by Lord Hopton, to Devizes. Knowing that the Royalists were in a bad way and having seen a company fleeing for Salisbury, Waller allowed his army to have food and rest before mounting a final assault on the Royalists. What he did not realise was that when they reached Salisbury the Royalists turned North to seek help.
Lord Henry Wilmot was the Royalist commander who led a force to assist Hopton. When Waller realised that Hopton was approaching he took up battle position on Roundaway Down, just north of Devizes. He positioned his infantry in the middle and cavalry at the sides.
The Royalists were the first to charge and for some reason there was no Parliamentarian counter-charge. After two more charges the Parliamentary cavalry had fled. Waller then turned his attention to the Parliamentary infantry. However, they stood firm until a force led by Hopton attacked them from behind. Caught between two Royalist armies the majority of Parliamentarian soldiers simply fled from the battlefield.
First Battle of Newbury 20th September 1643
Robert Devereux, third Earl of Essex, had marched from London to Gloucester to re-supply a Parliamentary army. On his return journey he was attacked by a small company led by Prince Rupert, who wanted to slow his return to London. Rupert managed to slow the Parliamentarians enough to allow Charles I to reach the Parliamentarian town of Newbury before Essex.
Charles positioned his army across Essex’s route ensuring that the Parliamentarians would have no choice but to fight. As the two sides were stationing their soldiers, Charles foolishly allowed the Parliamentarians to station a battery of artillery and a company of infantrymen on Round Hill.
The Royalists chose to attack Round Hill first. However, they were unable to mount a successful attack because the area was covered with hedgerows and bushes making it difficult for the cavalry to be effective. The Royalists suffered a number of losses and were driven back. A second Royalist attack on Round Hill was more successful and the Parliamentarians were pushed back. But the Royalist cavalry had been badly fired upon and no further attacks were made. The battle was declared a draw.
Marston Moor 2nd July 1644
Prince Rupert was marching across the North of England to relieve a Royalist army trapped in York. News of Rupert’s position in the North reached Oliver Cromwell, the Parliamentary Lieutenant General, and an army was sent to meet the Royalists.
Rupert outmanoeuvred the Parliamentarians by sending a cavalry detachment south to Marston Moor while taking the rest of the Royalist army to York and then to Marston Moor by a Northern route. Meanwhile, Rupert sent a message to William Cavendish, Duke of Newcastle, to meet him at Marston Moor.
The combined Royalist forces were outnumbered by the Parliamentarians but decided to fight anyway. They reached their battle positions in the early evening and assumed that the battle would not begin until the early morning. Unfortunately for them the Parliamentarians had decided to mount an attack that evening and the Royalists were totally unprepared for the attack.
For the first time since the Civil War had began. Rupert’s cavalry, at one end of the field, were beaten by a Parliamentarian cavalry charge. Things were better for the Royalists at the other end of the field where the Parliamentarians had been beaten back. Having defeated Rupert, the Parliamentarians were feeling optimistic and successfully defeated the Royalist infantry, killing those who did not flee.
Second Battle of Newbury 27th October 1644
Charles positioned his army so as to defend the northern border of Newbury. He knew that he had a strong position and hoped that the Parliamentarians would not attack until Prince Rupert had joined him and strengthened his army further.
The Parliamentarian commander, Edward Montague, positioned his army on the north-eastern ridge. The Parliamentarians knew that it was going to be difficult to defeat the Royalists so they embarked on a daring plan. Sir William Waller led a large force of Parliamentarians around the edge of the Royalist army. As day broke on the 27th October, Edward Montague and William Waller attacked simultaneously. Waller succeeded in taking a Royalist outpost but made no further gains. Meanwhile the Royalists managed to hold off the attack by Montague.
The battle lasted all day with the Royalists sandwiched between two Parliamentarian forces. Each time the Parliamentarians made some gains they were beaten back by the Royalists. Heavy losses were sustained by the Roundheads. By nightfall, both armies were exhausted and Charles decided to retreat to Oxford. Although Cromwell wanted to pursue the Royalists, he did not have the backing of his army commanders and the Royalists were able to flee the battle scene safely.
The Battle of Naseby 14th June 1645
The Parliamentarian, General Fairfax, had laid siege to Oxford in a bid to lure Charles into battle. Hearing that his Royalist ‘capital’ had been placed under siege Charles had immediately marched to Oxford to release the city. As Charles neared Oxford, Fairfax broke the siege and marched north to meet Charles. Not wanting to be forced into battle against Fairfax, Charles turned north. Unfortunately for the Royalists, they could not outmarch the Parliamentarians and had no choice but to turn and fight.
They took up a good defensive position and waited for word of Fairfax’s position. Prince Rupert discovered that the Parliamentarians were camped near Naseby and suggested that the Royalists should advance on Fairfax. The decision to advance was taken and the Royalists left their strong defensive position to make an attack. This was not a good decision as Fairfax had deployed his army in a very strong position, going so far as to hide some of his troops from sight.
Both sides took up their usual positions with infantrymen in the centre and cavalry on the flanks. The Parliamentarian cavalry were commanded by Oliver Cromwell and Henry Ireton, the Royalist cavalry were commanded by Marmaduke Langdale and Prince Rupert. The Royalist cavalry, under Prince Rupert, made the first attack and pushed the Parliamentarian cavalry back. Meanwhile the Royalist infantry had some success over parliament. However, Langdale’s cavalry had not fared so well, they had been pushed back by Cromwell.
The Parliamentarian New Model Army then took to the field concentrating mainly on the Royalist infantry. Charles’ army were unable to withstand this new attack and many foot soldiers surrendered.
The battle lasted just three hours and in that time most of the Royalist foot soldiers were killed or taken prisoner. The Royalists also lost all of their artillery and most of their baggage. Charles fled the battlefield as soon as it became apparent that he had lost the battle.
English Civil War Weapons
The seventeenth-century English Civil War witnessed the evolution of personal and portable firearms. However, the simple pike still had its purposes, as edged weapons were wielded alongside mortars, cannons, and muskets. Below is a description of English Civil War weapons.
Primary English Civil War Weapons
This device is easy to maneuver and can be used by one man alone. An explosive shell is fired high into the air and explodes on impact. Although it was difficult to aim, this weapon was the most destructive of those used in the Civil War.
The cannons used in the Civil War were very heavy and difficult to move. The largest needed a team of 16 horses to move them. More commonly, smaller cannon were used but even these required at least 4 men to move them. For this reason they had to be put into position before a battle began. The missiles fired from the cannon were usually balls of iron, but sometimes stones were used. After the cannon had been fired the soldiers operating it had to go through a strict procedure of cleaning, loading the weapon and loading the gunpowder before it could be fired again. Aiming was difficult and the cannon were more effective as a means of instilling fear into the enemy than actually causing damage.
There were two types of musket; the matchlock and the flintlock, which could be as long as five feet and had a firing range of up to 300 yards. They were both loaded in the same way; gunpowder was poured into the barrel and packed in hard with a stick. Then the lead ball would be put in followed by wadding to hold the ball in place.
To fire the matchlock, the most common type of musket, the soldier would empty gunpowder into a pan and cover it to protect it. He would then press a lighted piece of flax into a metal trigger called the serpent. When the gun was fired the lighted flax in the serpent would come down into the pan and light the gunpowder. The flame from this would then enter the barrel of the gun and ignite the gunpowder that had been poured into it and the lead ball would be fired.
To fire the flintlock was slightly easier but more expensive. The pan would be filled in the same way but the serpent contained a piece of flint which, when it struck the pan, would produce a spark which would ignite the gunpowder.
Both weapons were dangerous and clumsy to use. Some of the longer muskets needed a rest to balance the barrel on because they were too heavy to hold. They were impossible to reload quickly and were most effective when a group of musketeers fired a volley of shots at the enemy.
The Pike was one of the most commonly used weapons on the Civil War battlefield. The pike was a long wooden shaft with a steel point on the end. They were cheap to make, soldiers required very little training to use them and they could be very effective especially when used in a group. Pikes were supposed to be sixteen feet in length but often soldiers sawed a few feet off the ends to make them easier to carry.
The Pikemen often formed the front line of an army. Operating together they had to lower their pikes to prevent a cavalry charge from breaking the ranks. The cavalrymen’s horses would be injured by the pike and would fall to the ground unseating his rider who would then be an easy target for the musketmen or for the sword. If the army was surrounded then the pikemen would form a circle and lower or raise their pikes to provide a ‘hedgehog’ of cover.
English Civil War Bibliography
Battles of the Civil War – Owen Crossby
Castles of Wales and the Civil War – Castles of Wales
Charles I – Britannia
Civil War Re-enactment – The Sealed Knot
The English Civil War – History Learning Site
The English Civil War – Dr E. L. Skip Knox
The English Civil War – Encyclopedia.com
The English Civil War – P. H. Vickers
History of the Civil War – Owen Crossby
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