Between 1642 and 1651, armies loyal to King Charles I and to Parliament clashed in three civil wars over long-standing disputes over religious freedom and how the “three kingdoms” of England, Scotland and England. Ireland should be ruled. Notable results of the wars included the execution of King Charles I in 1649, 11 years of Republican rule in England, and the creation of Britain’s first national army.
Context: The rise of the Stuarts and King Charles I
England’s last Tudor monarch, Elizabeth I, died in 1603 and her cousin James Stuart succeeded her. Already King James VI of Scotland, he also became King James I of England and Ireland, uniting the three kingdoms under one ruler for the first time. Although initially the Catholic minority in England welcomed James’ ascension to the throne, they later turned against his regime, even attempting to blow up the King and Parliament in the powder plot.
Jacques’ son Charles I succeeded him to the throne in 1625. His marriage to a Catholic princess, Henrietta Maria of France fueled suspicion (especially among more radical Protestants, known as the Puritans) that the king would reintroduce Catholic traditions into the Church of England. Charles also firmly believed in his divine right to rule, and in 1629 he completely dismissed Parliament; he wouldn’t remember it for the next 11 years.
War in Scotland
From the late 1630s Charles strove to establish a more English religious practice in Scotland, generating fierce resistance among that country’s Presbyterian majority. A Scottish army defeated Charles’ forces and invaded England, forcing Charles to recall Parliament in 1640 to generate the money needed to pay his own troops and settle the conflict. Instead, Parliament moved swiftly to restrict the king’s powers, even ordering the trial and execution of one of his top ministers, Lord Strafford.
Amid political upheaval in London, the Catholic majority in Ireland rebelled, slaughtering hundreds of Protestants in October 1641. Accounts of the violence inflamed tensions in England, as Charles and Parliament were left out. ‘agreement on how to react. In January 1642, the king tried unsuccessfully to arrest five deputies who opposed him. Fearing for his own safety, Charles fled London for the north of England, where he called on his supporters to prepare for war.
First English Civil War (1642-46)
When Civil War broke out in August 1642, Royalist forces (known as the Cavaliers) controlled the north and west of England, while parliamentarians (or round heads) dominated the southern and eastern parts of the country. . The king’s forces seemed to gain the upper hand in early 1643, especially after entering into an alliance with Irish Catholics to end the Irish rebellion. But a key alliance between parliamentarians and Scotland that year led to a large Scottish army joining the fray alongside Parliament in January 1644.
On July 2, 1644, Royalist and Parliamentary forces met at Marston Moor, east of York, in the biggest battle of the First English Civil War. A parliamentary force of 28,000 routed the smaller Royalist army of 18,000, ending the king’s control over northern England. In 1645, Parliament created a standing, professional and trained army of 22,000 men. This new model army, commanded by Sir Thomas Fairfax and Oliver Cromwell, won a decisive victory in June 1645 at the Battle of Naseby, thus condemning the royalist cause.
Second English Civil War (1648-1649) and execution of King Charles I
Even in defeat, Charles refused to give in, but sought to capitalize on the religious and political divisions between his enemies. While on the Isle of Wight in 1647-1648, the King succeeded in concluding a peace treaty with the Scots and the Royalist Marshal, sentiment and discontent with Parliament in a series of armed uprisings across England in the spring and summer of 1648.
After Fairfax, Cromwell and the New Model Army easily crushed the royalist uprisings, diehard opponents of the king took over a smaller Parliament. Concluding that peace could not be reached during Charles’ lifetime, they set up a high court and brought the king to justice for treason. Charles was convicted and executed by beheading on January 30, 1649 in Whitehall.
Third English Civil War (1649-51)
With Charles’ death, a Republican regime was established in England, supported by the military might of the New Model Army. From late 1649, Cromwell led his army in a successful reconquest of Ireland, including the notorious slaughter of thousands of Irish and Royalist soldiers and civilians at Drogheda. Meanwhile, Scotland came to an agreement with the executed king’s eldest son, also named Charles, who was crowned King Charles II of Scotland in early 1651.
Even before being officially crowned, Charles II had formed an army of English and Scottish royalists, prompting Cromwell to invade Scotland in 1650. After losing the Battle of Dunbar to Cromwell’s forces in September 1650, Charles led a invasion of England the following year, only to suffer another defeat against a huge parliamentary army in Worcester. The young king narrowly escaped capture, but the decisive victory ended England’s Third Civil War, as well as the greatest War of the Three Kingdoms (England, Scotland and Ireland).
Impact of civil wars
It is estimated that 200,000 English soldiers and civilians were killed in the three civil wars, by fighting and the spread of disease by armies; the loss was proportional, in terms of population, to that of the First World War.
In 1653 Oliver Cromwell was installed as Lord Protector of the Commonwealth of England, Scotland and Ireland, and attempted (largely unsuccessfully) to consolidate broad support behind the new Republican regime amid the growth continued radical religious sects and widespread unease over the new position. army.
After Cromwell’s death in 1658, he was succeeded as protector by his son Richard, who abdicated eight months later. With the continued disintegration of the republic, the largest parliament was assembled and negotiations began with Charles II to take back the throne. The triumphant king arrived in London in May 1660, marking the start of the English Restoration.
British Civil Wars. National Army Museum.
Mark Stoyle. Overview: Civil War and Revolution, 1603-1714. BBC.
The English Civil Wars: Origins, Events and Legacy. English heritage.
Simon Jenkins. A Brief History of England: The Glorious History of a Turbulent Nation. (Public Affairs, 2011)