English Civil War

Queen Elizabeth I

Queen Elizabeth I

Queen Elizabeth ascended to the English throne on the 17th November 1558 and crowned on the 15th January 1559, at Westminster.  She was the last Tudor monarch to sit upon the throne, and upon her death on the 24th March 1603, she had died, without an heir.

The English throne passed to her cousin; James VI of Scotland, the son of Mary, Queen of Scots and Lord Darnley.  On the 9th February 1567 Darnley was murdered and in the June Mary was imprisoned at Lochleven Castle.  Mary abdicated her crown, passing it to her son James, who was crowned King James VI of Scotland on the 29th July 1567.  In 1568 Mary escaped and fled across the border into England, expecting support from Queen Elizabeth.

NPG 1766,Mary, Queen of Scots,by Unknown artist

Mary Queen of Scots

Mary, became Queen Elizabeth’s prisoner, and on the 25th October 1586, was sentenced to death for plotting against Queen Elizabeth’s life, and on the 8th February 1587 died at the hands of her executioner at Fotheringhay Castle.

King James I

King James I

King James VI of Scotland, ascended to the English throne on the 24th July 1603, and was crowned King James I of England at Westminster Abbey on the 25th July.

England, Scotland and Ireland, had become united, under a single monarch; King James I of England, of the Stuart dynasty.

James believed that Kings took their authority from God, but accepted his actions were subject to the laws of the land.  He was often in dispute with Parliament, over the royal finances, as his predecessors have been, before him.

King James I of England reigned for 22 years and as James VI of Scotland, reigned for 57 years, died on the 27th March 1625.

King Charles I

King Charles I

Charles I, son of King James I and Anne of Denmark ascended to the English throne on the 27th March 1625.  On the 1st May 1625 Charles had married Henrietta Maria, daughter of Henry IV of France by proxy in front of Notre Dame in Paris.  On the 13th June 1625 Charles I of England married Henrietta Maria in Canterbury.  Charles I was crowned King of England on the  2nd February 1626 at Westminster Abbey, without his wife, his Queen at his side.  She being a Roman Catholic would not participate in a Protestant religious ceremony.

Charles had informed Parliament, that a marriage to a Roman Catholic would not change religious lifestyle of a Protestant England.  Saying that he added to the French treaty of marriage, that he promised to remove all restraints, upon Catholic subjects residing in England.

Charles I had delayed the opening of his first Parliament, until the marriage ceremony had taken place on English soil.

Charles believed, much as his father had before him, it was his divine right as King, to rule without interference from Parliament.

Charles forces through highly unpopular “Ship Money,” tax to raise funds without the consent of Parliament.  They replied in 1628 by presenting him with the Petition of Right a declaration of the “Rights and Liberties of the Subject,” which under pressure, he had no choice but to abide by its terms.

In 1629 Charles steps forward and dissolves Parliament, and opted to rule as he believes it is his divine right from 1629 – 1640.

The Short Parliament, met in April of 1640, and the main topic, led to their refusal to grant Charles funds, until grievances between the two sides had been ironed out.  A stale mate existed and Parliament was dissolved once again.

In November of 1640, the Long Parliament was assembled, and an Act was passed, preventing the dissolvement of Parliament without consent of all parties.

Charles and Parliament, could not work with each other, they were at odds with each other.  Charles failure of 4th January 1642, of arresting five parliamentary leaders, believed Parliament had become too Puritanical.

The King and Parliament were on different sides of the fence, and the English Civil War between Royalists and Parliamentarians, was a powder keg waiting to explode.

Charles I, felt he had no choice, and on the 22nd August 1642, withdrew from London, and declared war on Parliament, raising his standard at Nottingham.  The English Civil War of 1642-1648 had begun.

In October 1642, the Royalists won a tactical victory over Parliamentary forces at the “Battle of Edgehill.”

Henrietta Maria of France

Henrietta Maria of France

In 1643 Henrietta Maria, actively supported her husband, landing at Bridlington, Yorkshire, with a ship laden down with men and arms, to fight the Royalist cause.

In 1643 Royalists defeated Parliamentary forces at the “Battle of Chalgrove Field,” with the taking of Bristol.

Oliver Cromwell by History Heroes

Oliver Cromwell

On the 16th June 1645, Oliver Cromwell’s New Model Army defeated Royalist forces.

In April of 1646, Charles barely escapes with his life from the “Siege of Oxford,” surrendering at Newark to the Scottish Army.

In January 1647, Scottish forces handed Charles I, over to Parliamentary forces, and in June Cromwell’s forces escorted him to Hampton Court Palace.  In the November he briefly escapes, and is recaptured and held at Carisbrooke Castle on the Isle of Wight.

In January of 1649, a court of justice is convened by the House of Commons, to hear the case against King Charles I.  For, he has been accused of treason against England; pursuing his own objectives, rather than those of England.

Charles refused to plead, in the belief the court was unlawful, and that the monarch, had absolute authority of his kingdom, granted to him by God.

The court challenged the question of sovereign immunity, stating the King of England, was not a person, but an office to govern by the laws of the land.

On the 26th January 1649, the court had found him guilty, and sentenced him to death.  On Tuesday the 30th January 1649, King Charles I of England was beheaded in front of the Banqueting House in Whitehall, London.

An act of Parliament was passed, on the 30th January 1649, forbidding the automatic succession of the son of Charles I.  On the 7th February, the office of the King had been abolished.

Main Battles of the English Civil War:

Battle of Edgehill: 23rd October 1642

The Earl of Essex commanded Parliamentarian forces, their aim to prevent King Charles and his army reaching London.  Parliamentarian and Royalist forces met at Edgehill mid-afternoon of the 23rd October.

Both armies faced each other in traditional battle formation; cavalry units and dragoons on the right, and left flanks, infantry to the middle.  The Parliamentarians had two cavalry regiments to the rear.

Prince Rupert led the Royalist army; leading his cavalry unit in a charge, which saw Parliamentarian cavalry and infantry flee the scene.  Royalist infantry forces advanced into battle, inflicting losses and causing panic and confusion to their opposing armies.  By night, the battle was all but over, neith side had won, but each claimed victory over the other.  The Royalists had their chance to capitalise against the Parliamentarian army, and bring the war to a quick end.

Battle of Marston Moor: 2nd July 1644

Parliamentarian and Scottish forces attacked York.  Royalist forces and the York garrison met their attackers on Marston Moor.

The battle started late in the day, Royalist cavalry advanced on Parliamentarian infantry causing high losses.  Then a surprise attack to the rear of the Royalists; Oliver Cromwell attacked with his cavalry, defeating the Royalists, and many surrendered.

The Parliamentarians had won the battle of Marston Moor.  York surrendered two weeks later.  The north was now effectively under the control of the Parliamentarians and Scottish forces.  Their decisive victory had almost wiped out the Royalist northern field army.  Oliver Cromwell was seen as an effective commander.  His strong leadership and the discipline of his men had played a crucial role in winning the battle.

Battle of Naesby: 14th June 1645

Sir Thomas Fairfax, commander of the Parliamentarian New Model Army had been ordered to break off his siege of Oxford.  The Royalist Army of King Charles I had taken the Parliamentarian garrison at Leicester.  The New Model Army marched north with orders to attack the Royalists.  King Charles marched south to aid Oxford.  At Daventry, King Charles discovered that Fairfax and the New Model Army were closing in on his army.

The Parliamentary forces had taken up position on the ridge, just outside Naseby.  The Royalists drew first blood.  The Parliamentarian infantry were forced back and some of their cavalry fled.  Prince Rupert and his cavalry units left the field and headed for the Parliamentarian baggage train at Naseby.  Oliver Cromwell, commander of the right flank of cavalry units successfully repelled a Royalist cavalry charge and then sent units to attack behind their lines, as Parliamentarian forces regrouped.  The Royalist infantry was defeated.  Some surrendered, whilst others fled.  Prince Rupert returned to the battlefield but his men refused to fight.  The New Model Army had won a decisive victory.

Naseby was the beginning of the end of the first English Civil War.  King Charles had lost his main Royal Army.  As well as the loss of his infantry, horses, field arms, artillery and gunpowder.  These resources of the King lost, and replacements would not be that easy…

Wikipedia Images

Source Material:
The English Civil War by Maurice Ashley                                          
Civil War by Taylor Downing & Maggie Millman                      
Warfare – Renaissance to Revolution by Jeremy Black                       
Short History of England by Simon Jenkins                                          
A History of Britain by Richard Dargie 

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