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'this war without

 an enemy'

The English Civil Wars 


(1642 - 1651)

First Civil War (1642 - 1645)

Second Civil War (1648 - 1649)

Third Civil War (1649 - 1651)  

& The Commonwealth  (1649 - 1653)

The Republic (1653 1659)

Restoration of the Monarch (1660)


The English Civil Wars consisted of a series of armed conflicts and political manoeuvrings  between the Royalists (known as Cavaliers), lead by King Charles I, and Parliamentarians (known as Roundheads) during the years 1642 to 1651.

The first Civil war (1642 - 1645)  

On 22 August 1642 at Nottingham, Charles raised the Royal Standard calling for loyal subjects to support him. 

The Battle of Edgehill in October 1642 showed that early on the fighting was even. Broadly speaking, Charles retained the north, west and south-west of the country, and Parliament had London, East Anglia and the south-east, although there were pockets of resistance everywhere, ranging from solitary garrisons to whole cities.

However, the Navy sided with Parliament (which made continental aid difficult), and Charles lacked the resources to hire substantial mercenary help. Parliament had entered an armed alliance with the predominant Scottish Presbyterian group under the Solemn League and Covenant of 1643, and from 1644 onwards Parliament's armies gained the upper hand - particularly with the improved training and discipline of the New Model Army.

The Self-Denying Ordinance was passed to exclude Members of Parliament from holding army commands, thereby getting rid of vacillating or incompetent earlier Parliamentary generals. Under strong generals like Sir Thomas Fairfax and Oliver Cromwell, Parliament won victories at Marston Moor (1644) and Naseby (1645).

The capture of the King's secret correspondence after Naseby showed the extent to which he had been seeking help from Ireland and from the Continent, which alienated many moderate supporters.

Ended in defeat for Charles at the battles of Naseby in Northamptonshire and Langport in Somerset. After their victory the parliamentarians represented by Oliver Cromwell, Henry Ireton, Colonel Rainborough and other officers attempted to negotiate a settlement with Charles, in which they expected him to accept their demands for a constitutional monarchy. 

Although defeated and a prisoner he would not accept this, instead, he remained defiant provoking the Second Civil War.


Second Civil War (1648 - 1649).

Although nearly all the Royalists who had fought in the First Civil War had given their parole not to bear arms against the Parliament, a series of Royalist uprisings throughout England and a Scottish invasion occurred in the summer of 1648. Forces loyal to Parliament put down most of the uprisings in England after little more than skirmishes, but uprisings in Kent, Essex and Cumberland, the rebellion in Wales and the Scottish invasion involved the fighting of pitched battles and prolonged sieges.

The victory at the battle of Preston in Cumbria by the troops of Cromwell over the Royalists and Scots marked the end of the Second English Civil War.

The betrayal by Charles, who showed himself incorrigible, dishonourable, and responsible for unjustifiable bloodshed, caused Parliament to debate whether to return the King to power at all. Those who still supported Charles's place on the throne tried once more to negotiate with him.  Furious that Parliament continued to countenance Charles as a ruler, the army marched on Parliament and ordered them to try Charles for treason in the name of the people of England.

Charles I was found guilty of high treason, as a "tyrant, traitor, murderer and public enemy". He was beheaded on a scaffold in front of the Banqueting House of the Palace of Whitehall on January 30, 1649.  


Third civil war (1649 - 1651) & the Commonwealth of England (1649 - 1653)

With the monarchy overthrown, power was assumed by a Council of State, which included Oliver Cromwell, then Lord General of the Parliamentary Army.        

At the same time, however, Scotland recognized Charles II as his father's successor and proved unwilling to allow the English to decide the fate of their monarchy. Consequently, on 5 February 1649, Charles II was proclaimed King of Scots in Edinburgh. Charles himself soon came to despise his Scottish hosts. Nevertheless, the Scots remained Charles's best hope of restoration, and he was crowned King of Scots at Scone on 1 January 1651.

With Cromwell's forces now threatening Charles's position in Scotland, it was decided to mount an attack on England. With many of the Scots refusing to participate, and with few English royalists joining the force as it moved south into England, the invasion ended in defeat at the Battle of Worcester on 3 September 1651, following which Charles is said to have hidden in the Royal Oak at Boscobel House, subsequently escaping to France in disguise.


Republic (1653 1659)

Parliament continued to exist until Cromwell forcibly disbanded it in 1653. England and subsequently Scotland and Ireland became a united republic under Oliver Cromwell, the Lord Protector; a monarch in all but name: he was even "invested" on the royal coronation chair.

Upon his death in 1658, Cromwell was briefly succeeded by his son, Richard Cromwell as Lord Protector. However, the new Lord Protector, with no power base in either Parliament or the New Model Army, was forced to abdicate in 1659. The Protectorate of England was abolished, and the Commonwealth of England re-established.


Restoration of the Monarch (1660)

During the civil and military unrest which followed, George Monck, the Governor of Scotland, was concerned that the nation would descend into anarchy. Monck and his army marched into the City of London and forced the Parliament to dissolve itself. For the first time in almost twenty years, the members of Parliament faced a general election. 

A year later in 1660, the election of a predominantly Royalists House of Commons, restored the monarchy and Charles I's son Charles II, became King. However, constitutionally, the wars established a precedent that British monarchs could not govern without the consent of Parliament.


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