Charles I and the Civil War

Charles I and the Civil War

We remember Charles as the first and only King to be executed in this country. Others had been deposed and quietly murdered in the past, but he was the first to have a full trial and execution.

He is remembered for failing to recognise the importance of Parliament and refusing to compromise with dissident MPs. He antagonised Parliament by his attempts to rule without them throughout the 1630s.

When war with the Scots forced him to recall Parliament, Charles found himself forced to go along with a series of measures – including the arrest of some of his key advisers. However, as soon as the opportunity arose, he attempted to have his opponents arrested.

When that failed Charles panicked and, believing his life was in danger, fled north and raised his royal standard at Nottingham – the moment war was declared between the King and the parliament. It was the start of The Civil War, or English Civil War (historians disagree over what title we should give it).

The Civil War was in fact a series of wars that pitted supporters of the monarchy, known as “Royalists” or “Cavaliers”, against supporters of the English parliament, known as “Parliamentarians” or “Roundheads”.

Ultimately, the war was a struggle over how much power parliament should have over the monarchy and would challenge forever the idea that an English monarch had the right to rule without the consent of their people.

From the 11 Years’ Tyranny to the development of propaganda this eBook explores the life and portrayal of King Charles I, as well as certain events during the Civil War. Detailed articles explain key topics, edited from various Our Site resources.

Included in this eBook are articles written for Our Site by leading Stuart historian Leanda de Lisle. Features written by Our Site staff past and present are also included. You can access all these articles on Our Site. Charles I and the Civil War was compiled by Tristan Hughes.


Who were the Cavaliers in the English Civil War?

Roundheads. The name given to the supporters of the Parliament of England during the English Civil War. Also known as Parliamentarians, they fought against Charles I of England and his supporters, the Cavaliers or Royalists, who claimed rule by absolute monarchy and the divine right of kings.

One may also ask, who won the English Civil War? English Civil War

Date 22 August 1642 &ndash 3 September 1651
Location Kingdoms of England, Ireland and Scotland.
Result Parliamentarian victory

Also know, who were the Royalists in the English Civil War?

The Royalists (or Cavaliers) were the nobles and Englishmen who chose to support King Charles I in the English Civil War. They were opposed by those

What did the Cavaliers wear in the English Civil War?

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.


It was one of the most tumultuous periods in British history and culminated in the execution of King Charles I. Our English Civil War timeline charts how Royalists became fiercely pitted against Parliamentarians

Soon after ascending to the English throne, King Charles I became embroiled in a series of arguments with Parliament over his insistence of raising taxes without its authorisation.

Charles also aroused suspicion, particularly among Puritans, over his intentions regarding the Church following his marriage to a Roman Catholic, Henrietta Maria of France.

These issues, along with some other factors, led to a fierce war that raged on English soil for years. Follow our English Civil War timeline, which charts events that led up to the brutal uprising and the aftermath.

Charles I, King Charles I of Great Britain and Ireland from 1625. Credit: GL Archive/Alamy

1625 King Charles I succeeds his father King James I to the throne.

1629 After Parliament objects to his collection of ‘tonnage and poundage’ taxes, Charles takes the drastic decision to dissolve Parliament, claiming he is accountable only to God.

April-May 1640 The Bishops’ Wars between England and Scotland (the Scots are resisting Charles’s attempts to enforce episcopacy on them) forces Charles to recall Parliament, bringing to an end his Personal Rule. Later known as the ‘Short Parliament’, it is dissolved after just three weeks.

September 1640 Following the disaster of the Short Parliament, Charles is forced to recall Parliament for a second time as only it has the power to raise funds for the ongoing Bishops’ Wars. Known as the Long Parliament, it lasts until 1660, largely because it passes an act forbidding its dissolution without members’ consent.

May 1641 Sir Thomas Wentworth, Earl of Strafford and Lord Lieutenant of Ireland, one of Charles I’s allies, is executed for high treason for urging the king to use Irish forces to launch a military coup against Parliament.

October 1641 An uprising by Catholics in Ireland, which results in the deaths of many English and Scottish Protestant settlers, exacerbates the sense of unease already bubbling away in the country.

22 November 1641 Proposed by John Pym, leader of the Long Parliament, a list of grievances against King Charles I known as the Grand Remonstrance is passed by Parliament.

1 December 1641 The Grand Remonstrance is presented to Charles by Parliament.

4 January 1642 Charles arrives at the Houses of Parliament to arrest Pym and four other rebels. However, realising they have been tipped off and have gone, he laments, “I see the birds have flown.”

1642 Charles sends Henrietta to France to enlist Catholic support and also to try to raise funds by selling the Crown Jewels.

June 1642 Members of the House of Lords and House of Commons issue the Nineteen Propositions – the outline of a new constitution – in a bid to reach a settlement with Charles.

22 August 1642 Charles declares war on Parliament by raising his standard in Nottingham. The country is forced to choose between two camps: Royalists (known as Cavaliers) and Parliamentarians (known as Roundheads).

15 September 1643 Royalists agree a ceasefire with Irish Catholics.

25 September 1643 Parliamentarians form an alliance with the Scots.

February 1645 The New Model Army is established with Oliver Cromwell second in command to Sir Thomas Fairfax.

14 June 1645 Charles’s Royalist forces suffer a humiliating defeat by the New Model Army at the Battle of Naseby.

27 April 1646 A disguised King Charles escapes from Oxford and surrenders himself to Scottish forces at Newark.

17-19 August 1648 The New Model Army, now headed by Oliver Cromwell defeat a Scottish-Royalist Army at Preston.

30 January 1649 King Charles I is executed at Banqueting House in Whitehall, having been tried for high treason in Westminster Hall.

1 January 1651 Charles’s son, Charles II, is crowned King of Scotland at Scone Castle, Perth.

16 December 1653 Oliver Cromwell declares himself Lord Protector.

3 September 1658 Cromwell dies and his son, Richard, becomes Lord Protector. However, the Commonwealth soon collapses and Charles II is asked to return from exile.

29 May 1660 Charles II is restored to the English throne.


  • Charles I (19 November 1600 – 30 January 1649) was King of England, King of Scotland, and King of Ireland from 27 March 1625 until his execution in 1649.
  • Charles engaged in a struggle for power with the Parliament of England, attempting to obtain royal revenue whilst the Parliament sought to curb his Royal prerogative which Charles believed was divinely ordained.
  • Many of his English subjects opposed his actions, in particular his interference in the English and Scottish churches and the levying of taxes without parliamentary consent, because they saw them as those of a tyrannical, absolute monarch.
  • Charles's reign was also characterised by religious conflicts.
  • His failure to successfully aid Protestant forces during the Thirty Years' War, coupled with the fact that he married a Roman Catholic princess, generated deep mistrust concerning the king's dogma.
  • Charles further allied himself with controversial ecclesiastic figures, such as Richard Montagu and William Laud, whom Charles appointed Archbishop of Canterbury.
  • Many of Charles's subjects felt this brought the Church of England too close to the Roman Catholic Church.
  • Charles's later attempts to force religious reforms upon Scotland led to the Bishops' Wars, strengthened the position of the English and Scottish parliaments and helped precipitate his own downfall.
  • Charles's last years were marked by the English Civil War, in which he fought the forces of the English and Scottish parliaments, which challenged his attempts to overrule parliamentary authority, use his position as head of the English Church to pursue religious policies which caused anger of reformed groups such as the Puritans.
  • Charles was defeated in the First Civil War (1642–45), after which Parliament expected him to accept its demands for a constitutional monarchy.
  • He remained defiant and tried to forge an alliance with Scotland and escaped to the Isle of Wight.
  • This led to the Second Civil War (1648–49) and a second defeat for Charles, who was subsequently captured, tried, convicted, and executed for high treason.
  • The monarchy was then abolished and a republic called the Commonwealth of England, also referred to as the Cromwellian Interregnum, was declared.
  • Charles's son, Charles II, who dated his accession from the death of his father, did not take up the reins of government until the restoration of the monarchy in 1660.

Early Reign

  • On 11 May 1625 Charles was married by proxy to Henrietta Maria in front of the doors of the Notre Dame de Paris, before his first Parliament could meet to forbid the banns.
  • Many members were opposed to the king's marrying a Roman Catholic, fearing that Charles would lift restrictions on Roman Catholics and undermine the official establishment of the reformed Church of England.
  • Although he stated to Parliament that he would not relax restrictions relating to recusants, he promised to do exactly that in a secret marriage treaty with Louis XIII of France.
  • Moreover, the price of marriage with the French princess was a promise of English aid for the French crown in the suppressing of the Protestant Huguenots at La Rochelle, thereby reversing England's long held position in the French Wars of Religion.
  • The couple were married in person on 13 June 1625 in Canterbury.
  • Charles was crowned on 2 February 1626 at Westminster Abbey, but without his wife at his side due to the controversy. Charles and Henrietta had seven children, with three sons and three daughters surviving infancy.
  • Distrust of Charles's religious policies increased with his support of a controversial ecclesiastic, Richard Montagu.
  • In his pamphlets A New Gag for an Old Goose, a reply to the Catholic pamphlet A New Gag for the new Gospel, and also his Immediate Addresse unto God alone, Montagu argued against Calvinist predestination, thereby bringing himself into disrepute amongst the Puritans.
  • After a Puritan member of the House of Commons, John Pym, attacked Montagu's pamphlet during debate, Montagu requested the king's aid in another pamphlet entitled Appello Caesarem (1625), a reference to an appeal against Jewish persecution made by Saint Paul the Apostle.
  • Charles made the cleric one of his royal chaplains, increasing many Puritans' suspicions as to where Charles would lead the Church, fearing that his favouring of Arminianism was a clandestine attempt on Charles's part to aid the resurgence of Catholicism within the English Church.
  • Charles's primary concern during his early reign was foreign policy.
  • The Thirty Years' War, originally confined to Bohemia, was widening into a wider European war.
  • In 1620 Frederick V was defeated at the Battle of White Mountain and by 1622, despite the aid of English volunteers, had lost his hereditary lands in the Electorate of the Palatinate to the Holy Roman Emperor Ferdinand II.
  • Having agreed to help his brother-in-law regain the Palatinate, Charles declared war on Spain, which under the Catholic King Philip IV had sent forces to help occupy the Palatinate.
  • Parliament preferred an inexpensive naval attack on Spanish colonies in the New World, hoping that the capture of the Spanish treasure fleets could finance the war.
  • Charles, however, preferred more aggressive (and more expensive) action on the Continent
  • Parliament voted to grant a subsidy of only £140,000, an insufficient sum for Charles.
  • The House of Commons limited its authorisation for royal collection of tonnage and poundage to a period of one year, although previous sovereigns since 1414 had been granted the right for life.
  • In this way, Parliament could keep a check on expenditures by forcing Charles to seek the renewal of the grant each year.
  • Charles's allies in the House of Lords, led by the Duke of Buckingham, refused to pass the bill.
  • Although no Parliamentary Act for the levy of tonnage and poundage was obtained, Charles continued to collect the duties.
  • The war with Spain under the leadership of Buckingham went badly, and the House of Commons began proceedings for the impeachment of the duke.
  • Despite Parliament's protests, however, Charles refused to dismiss his friend, dismissing Parliament instead.
  • Charles caused more unrest by trying to raise money for the war through a "forced loan": a tax levied without Parliamentary consent.
  • November 1627, the test case in the King's bench, the 'Five Knights' Case' – which hinged on the king's prerogative right to imprison without trial those who refused to pay the forced loan – was upheld on a general basis.
  • Summoned in 1628, Parliament passed a Petition of Right on 26 May, calling upon the king to acknowledge that he could not levy taxes without Parliament's consent, impose martial law on civilians, imprison them without due process, or quarter troops in their homes.
  • Charles assented to the petition, though he continued to claim the right to collect customs duties without authorisation from Parliament.
  • Despite Charles's agreement to suppress La Rochelle as a condition of marrying Henrietta Maria, he reneged upon his earlier promise and instead launched a defence of the fortress under the leadership of Buckingham in 1628, thereby driving a wedge between the English and French Crowns that was not surmounted for the duration of the Thirty Years' War.
  • Buckingham's failure to protect the Huguenots – indeed, his attempt to capture Saint-Martin de-Re then spurred Louis XIII's attack on the Huguenot fortress of La Rochelle – furthered Parliament's detestation of the Duke.
  • 23 August 1628, Buckingham was assassinated.
  • The public rejoicing at his death accentuated the gulf between the court and the nation, and between the crown and the Commons.
  • Although the death of Buckingham ended the war with Spain and eliminated his leadership as an issue, it did not end the conflicts between Charles and Parliament over taxation and religious matters.

Personal Rule/Parliament Prorogued


The Early Stuarts and the English Civil War

James I
Elizabeth was followed to the throne by James VI of Scotland, who became James I of England. James believed in the absolute power of the monarchy, and he had a rocky relationship with an increasingly vociferous and demanding Parliament. It would be a mistake to think of Parliament as a democratic institution, or the voice of the common citizen. Parliament was a forum for the interests of the nobility and the merchant classes (not unlike today, some would say).

The Gunpowder Plot
James was a firm protestant, and in 1604 he expelled all Catholic priests from the island. This was one of the factors which led to the Gunpowder Plot of 1605. A group of Catholic plotters planned to blow up Parliament when it opened on November 5. However, an anonymous letter betrayed the plot and one of the plotters, Guy Fawkes, was captured in the cellars of the Houses of Parliament with enough gunpowder to blow the place sky high. Most of the plotters were captured and executed. (See our in-depth examination of the Gunpowder Plot here).

The Rise of the Puritans
During James' reign radical Protestant groups called Puritans began to gain a sizeable following. Puritans wanted to "purify" the church by paring down church ritual, educating the clergy, and limiting the powers of bishops. King James resisted this last. The powers of the church and king were too closely linked. "No bishop, no king," he said. The Puritans also favoured thrift, education, and individual initiative, therefore they found great support among the new middle class of merchants, the powers in the Commons.

James' attitude toward Parliament was clear. He commented in 1614 that he was surprised his ancestors "should have permitted such an institution to come into existence . It is sedition in subjects to dispute what a king may do in the height of his power".

The King James Bible
In 1611 the King James Version of the Holy Bible was issued, the result of seven years of labour by the best translators and theological minds of the day. It remained the authoritative, though not necessarily the most accurate, version of the Bible for centuries.

Charles I (1625-49) continued his father's acrimonious relationship with Parliament, squabbling over the right to levy taxes. Parliament responded with the Petition of Right in 1628. It was the most dramatic assertion of the traditional rights of the English people since the Magna Carta. Its basic premise was that no taxes of any kind could be allowed without the permission of Parliament.

Charles finally had enough, and in 1629 he dissolved Parliament and ruled without it for eleven years. Some of the ways he raised money during this period were of dubious legality by the standards of the time.

Between 1630-43 large numbers of people emigrated from England as Archbishop Laud tried to impose uniformity on the church. Up to 60,000 people left, 1/3 of them to the new American colonies. Several areas lost a large part of their populations, and laws were enacted to curb the outflow.

Ship Money
In 1634 Charles attempted to levy "ship-money", a tax that previously applied only to ports, on the whole country. This raised tremendous animosity throughout the realm. Finally, Charles, desperate for money, summoned the so-called Short Parliament in 1640. Parliament refused to vote Charles more money until its grievances were answered, and the king dismissed it after only three weeks. Then a rebellion broke out in Scotland and Charles was forced to call a new Parliament, dubbed the Long Parliament, which officially sat until 1660.

Civil War
Parliament made increasing demands, which the king refused to meet. Neither side was willing to budge. Finally in 1642 fighting broke out. The English Civil War (1642-1646) polarized society largely along class lines. Parliament drew most of its support from the middle classes, while the king was supported by the nobility, the clergy, and the peasantry. Parliamentary troops were known as Roundheads because of their severe hairstyle. The king's army were known as Cavaliers, from the French for "knight", or "horseman".

The war began as a series of indecisive skirmishes notable for not much beyond the emergence of a Parliamentary general from East Anglia named Oliver Cromwell. Cromwell whipped his irregular volunteer troops into the disciplined New Model Army.

Meanwhile, Charles established the royalist headquarters in Oxford, called his own Parliament, and issued his own money. He also allied himself with Irish Catholics, which alienated some of his supporters.

To the poor, the turmoil over religion around the Civil War meant little. They were bound by tradition and they supported the king, as they always had. Charles encouraged poor relief, unemployment measures, price controls, and protection for small farmers. For most people, life during the Civil War went on as before. Few were involved or even knew about the fighting. In 1644 a farmer at Marston Moor was told to clear out because the armies of Parliament and the king were preparing to fight. "What?" he exclaimed, "Has them two fallen out, then?"

Marston Moor
The turning point of the war was probably that same Battle of Marston Moor (1644). Charles' troops under his nephew Prince Rupert were soundly beaten by Cromwell, giving Parliament control of the north of England. Above the border, Lord Montrose captured much of Scotland for Charles, but was beaten at Philiphaugh and Scot support was lost for good.

The Parliamentary cause became increasingly entangled with extreme radical Protestantism. In 1645 Archbishop Laud was executed, and in the same year, the Battle of Naseby spelled the end of the royalist hopes. Hostilities dragged on for another year, and the Battle of Stow-on-the-Wold (1646) was the last armed conflict of the war.

The death of a king
Charles rather foolishly stuck to his absolutist beliefs and refused every proposal made by Parliament and the army for reform. He preferred to try to play them against each other through intrigue and deception. He signed a secret treaty which got the Scots to rise in revolt, but that threat was snuffed out at Prestonpans (1648).

Finally, the radical core of Parliament had enough. They believed that only the execution of the king could prevent the kingdom from descending into anarchy. Charles was tried for treason in 1649, before a Parliament whose authority he refused to acknowledge. He was executed outside Inigo Jones' Banqueting Hall at Whitehall on January 30.


Charles I (1600 - 1649)

Charles I © Charles I was king of England, Scotland and Ireland, whose conflicts with parliament led to civil war and his eventual execution.

Charles I was born in Fife on 19 November 1600, the second son of James VI of Scotland and Anne of Denmark. On the death of Elizabeth I in 1603 James became king of England and Ireland. Charles's popular older brother Henry, whom he adored, died in 1612 leaving Charles as heir, and in 1625 he became king. Three months after his accession he married Henrietta Maria of France. They had a happy marriage and left five surviving children.

Charles's reign began with an unpopular friendship with George Villiers, Duke of Buckingham, who used his influence against the wishes of other nobility. Buckingham was assassinated in 1628. There was ongoing tension with parliament over money - made worse by the costs of war abroad. In addition, Charles favoured a High Anglican form of worship, and his wife was Catholic - both made many of his subjects suspicious, particularly the Puritans. Charles dissolved parliament three times between 1625 and 1629. In 1629, he dismissed parliament and resolved to rule alone. This forced him to raise revenue by non-parliamentary means which made him increasingly unpopular. At the same time, there was a crackdown on Puritans and Catholics and many emigrated to the American colonies.

Unrest in Scotland - because Charles attempted to force a new prayer book on the country - put an end to his personal rule. He was forced to call parliament to obtain funds to fight the Scots. In November 1641, tensions were raised even further with disagreements over who should command an army to suppress an uprising in Ireland. Charles attempted to have five members of parliament arrested and in August 1642, raised the royal standard at Nottingham. Civil war began.

The Royalists were defeated in 1645-1646 by a combination of parliament's alliance with the Scots and the formation of the New Model Army. In 1646, Charles surrendered to the Scots, who handed him over to parliament. He escaped to the Isle of Wight in 1647 and encouraged discontented Scots to invade. This 'Second Civil War' was over within a year with another royalist defeat by Parliamentarian general Oliver Cromwell. Convinced that there would never be peace while the king lived, a rump of radical MPs, including Cromwell, put him on trial for treason. He was found guilty and executed on 30 January 1649 outside the Banqueting House on Whitehall, London.


The Second Civil War

Print Collector / Contributor / Getty Images

With Charles defeated, the victorious parties sought to establish a new government. In each case, they felt that the king's participation was critical. Playing the various groups against one another, Charles signed an agreement with the Scots, known as the Engagement, by which they would invade England on his behalf in exchange for the establishment of Presbyterianism in that realm. Initially supported by Royalist revolts, the Scots were ultimately defeated at Preston by Cromwell and John Lambert (1619–1684) in August and the rebellions put down through actions such as Fairfax's Siege of Colchester. Angered by Charles' betrayal, the army marched on Parliament and purged those who still favored an association with the king. The remaining members, known as the Rump Parliament, ordered Charles tried for treason.


What If Charles I had won the English Civil War?

Dr Christopher Langley
An historian of the social and religious aspects of Early Modern Britain and Ireland, Dr Christopher Langley is a lecturer at the University of York and Newman University. He is in the process of publishing the book Worship, Civil War And Community, 1638-1660, which will focus on warfare and religion in the Civil War era.

Christopher Langley: A serious policy of purging national and local councils of those who were clearly disaffected with the royalist cause. Those who had changed sides would be tolerated in exchange for an oath declaring their allegiance – similar to the oaths administered by his son [Charles II] after 1660. Charles would have had to change his religious policy. A broad-based system would continue with bishops at its head, but perhaps local disciplinary structures may have been tweaked to allow local management. Extremists on either side (Presbyterian, Catholic or radical) would have been excluded.

John Morrill: It depends on whether it was won by a knock-out blow, such as complete victory at Edgehill or Turnham Green and a royal occupation of London, or as a result of a ‘winning draw’ – in which case, a negotiated settlement in which Charles agreed to honour the concessions he had made in 1640 and 1641 but not the new demands of 1642 and later.

Which battles would Charles have had to win to regain control in the war?

Langley: This is a difficult question as much depended upon political machinations after battles. I am inclined to mention that a decisive victory at Edgehill may have allowed for a more dramatic march toward the capital – the loss of any real royalist presence in the southeast severely hindered the war effort. A real royalist victory at the first Battle of Edgehill may have inclined some in Parliament to soften their stance and provide Charles with an important bargaining chip. Alternatively, Marston Moor in 1644 was critical as it had serious consequences for any royalist desire to connect supporters in Scotland, Ireland and the north of England.

What would have happened to Oliver Cromwell, the Roundhead Army and the Parliamentary supporters?

Professor John Morrill
John Morrill FBA is Life Fellow of Selwyn College Cambridge and Emeritus Professor of British and Irish History. He is a prolific author of more than 120 books and essays, mainly about the civil wars of the 17th century and about the aftermath of the Reformation.

Langley: With the possibility of routing the New Model Army [the force raised by the Parliamentarians], the royalist negotiating position would have been much stronger. While Charles may have wanted the New Model disbanding, he would have had to deal with the arrears in pay accrued since its formation. If Charles would have carried the day early on in the conflict, Cromwell may have been imprisoned, but his position would not have been so prominent. After Marston Moor in 1644, Cromwell’s star really rose. Cromwell’s destiny would have been dependent on his own response. However, if he continued to oppose Charles and refused to accept his authority, he would have been executed for treason.

Would Charles now have complete power over the English Parliament?

Morrill: In the unlikely event of Charles winning an all-out victory, he would have attempted to resume Personal Rule [the period from 1629 to 1640 when he didn’t call Parliament]. With no foreign threat and the economy bouncing back from the wartime recession, he could probably have managed on the funds available but being Charles there would likely have been provocations. The genie of Puritanism was out of the bottle and it is almost impossible to see him behaving as sensibly as his son did in managing that problem.

Would England have regressed as a country without having a parliament?

Langley: Following the 1641 Triennial Act [requiring that Parliament meet for at least a 50-day session once every three years], Parliament would certainly have been recalled. The question of ‘when’ is more tricky. I am inclined toward thinking that Charles would have recalled a purged Parliament and pressured it to pass acts against treasonable figures. Of course, Charles would have had to deal with the ‘ordinances’ (rather than full-blown ‘acts’) that Parliament had passed in his absence. As many of these were associated with cash generation, one is inclined to feel that Charles would have kept some of them and rubber-stamped them as full acts. Following the fears of social unrest, the return to stability may have been greeted happily in some quarters. Parliament had already obtained concessions from Charles, so England would not have emerged from a Royalist victory as an absolutist state. Despite the 11 years when Charles ruled without a parliament, he had no designs on serious reform along the lines we see by ‘absolutist’ French kings later in the century.

What would have been the religious response?

Langley: Charles was committed to a broad Church of England with himself at the head, buttressed by a series of archbishops. In the event of any victory, Charles could not simply turn the clock back. If a decisive victory occurred before 1646 (when the Westminster Assembly abolished key parts of the Anglican Church) then less work would have had to be done. Pressure to reform the Church would have continued to exist and some Presbyterians at the Westminster Assembly were already pushing for a middle way.

Morrill: Charles believed he would answer to God for his actions as head of the Church. He also believed the Church of England was both Catholic and Reformed – that it was in direct descent from the apostolic church but had thrown off the corruptions introduced in worship and practice by bishops and patriarchs of Rome who had also claimed authority over all other patriarchs.

King Charles I before the Battle of Edge Hill, painted by Charles Landseer

How would Ireland and Scotland have fared under Charles’ continued kingship?

Langley: Charles governed Scotland like his father: in absentia. I cannot see Charles becoming any more ‘hands on’ with Scotland if he had been victorious in England. The idea of one religious policy for England, Scotland and Ireland may have slowed down, but it was something to which Charles was committed. An English invasion of Scotland would have been avoided as it would have opened divisions in the English – many English puritans still saw Scotland’s Presbyterians as a beacon of hope and may have sided with them.

As for Ireland, the situation was different. Charles had significant pockets of support but more decisive action would have been needed. Victory in England would have allowed Charles to either change tactic or break off negotiations with the Catholic Confederation altogether. While Dublin and the Pale remained largely loyal, it is difficult to envisage Charles quelling Irish resistance without a land invasion.

Morrill: Charles could have left Scotland well alone. He had cut a deal with them in 1641 which we would nowadays call devolution max – self-determination and self-governance with him as puppet king. He could have tried to divide and rule, but it would have been low on his list of priorities as he tried to rebuild in England. Ireland as early as late-1642 was 85 per cent under Irish-Catholic control and he might well have cut a deal with the Irish Confederation – a kind of devolution max – so as not to have to pour money into reconquering Ireland. We might even have got the 1921 partition into Catholic South and Protestant North 300 years earlier!

What would have England been like in 1651 after a royalist victory?

Langley: Some historians have described the Cromwellian 1650s as a ‘police state.’ Charles may have feared similar dissent from disaffected individuals and chosen to do something about the unregulated printed presses in London and tried to control their output. The presence of many troops created problems for the Cromwellian regime – I see no reason why an army would not have caused Charles a headache, too. In Scotland, demobilised troops would have gone back to fight in the final stages of the Thirty Years’ War.

The religious experiments that took place in the 1650s under Cromwell would have been totally different under Charles. Charles would have attempted to settle England back to an Anglican middle-way – and there is plenty of evidence to suggest that moderate Anglicans dotted throughout 1650s England would have welcomed it. Religious dissent would have gone underground – like before the war – but would have perhaps led to problems in subsequent decades for Stuart rule.

Depiction of the Battle of Naseby

How would it have affected the likelihood of future revolutions in other nations?

Morrill: The inspiration of the English Revolution for later revolutions is precisely that the revolution of 1649 and the extraordinary outpouring of radical writing in the years 1646-59 – Milton, Harrington, Algernon Sidney, Cromwell. If there was no 1649 revolution, none of those might have happened.

Originally published in All About History 17

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The English Restoration begins

Under invitation by leaders of the English Commonwealth, Charles II, the exiled king of England, lands at Dover, England, to assume the throne and end 11 years of military rule.

Prince of Wales at the time of the English Civil War, Charles fled to France after Oliver Cromwell’s Parliamentarians defeated King Charles I’s Royalists in 1646. In 1649, Charles vainly attempted to save his father’s life by presenting Parliament a signed blank sheet of paper, thereby granting whatever terms were required. However, Oliver Cromwell was determined to execute Charles I, and on January 30, 1649, the king was beheaded in London.

After his father’s death, Charles was proclaimed king of England by the Scots and by supporters in parts of Ireland and England, and he traveled to Scotland to raise an army. In 1651, Charles invaded England but was defeated by Cromwell at the Battle of Worcester. Charles escaped to France and later lived in exile in Germany and then in the Spanish Netherlands. After Cromwell’s death in 1658, the English republican experiment faltered. Cromwell’s son Richard proved an ineffectual leader, and the public resented the strict Puritanism of England’s military rulers.

In 1660, in what is known as the English Restoration, General George Monck met with Charles and arranged to restore him in exchange for a promise of amnesty and religious toleration for his former enemies. On May 25, 1660, Charles landed at Dover and four days later entered London in triumph. It was his 30th birthday, and London rejoiced at his arrival. In the first year of the Restoration, Oliver Cromwell was posthumously convicted of treason and his body disinterred from its tomb in Westminster Abbey and hanged from the gallows at Tyburn.


What were the consequences of the British Civil Wars?

The immediate consequence of the English Civil Wars and the wars of the three kingdoms was that there was no monarchy. It was replaced at first by a Commonwealth government based on the Rump Parliament and then by the Protectorate of Oliver Cromwell. The Protectorate passed to Cromwell’s son following Oliver’s death. He was a far less capable or willing politician. In 1660 the monarchy was restored.

The Civil Wars also had consequences socially and economically. Any conflict that results in the loss of so many lives will impact upon the nations ability to perform well economically. The damage that was caused by the wars took some time to recover in places.

The Architectural appearance of some towns and cities changed as a result of the English Civil Wars. For centuries some towns had been dominated by castles. Parliament ‘slighted’ many of these. This was an act of reducing the height of the defensive walls. It rendered them useless in any future conflict. This has a benefit of minimising the chances of disgruntled Royalists taking up the cause but also runs the risk of giving any invader or raider an easier advance.

Legislation and the method of government still sees consequences in day to day running of Parliament. That England, then Great Britain, have had a Constitutional Monarchy is a result of the changes made following the English Civil Wars and as part of negotiations for the Restoration of the monarchy.

Actions taken by both sides in the wars of the three kingdoms have had lasting political consequences. The religious nature of the disputes tied in with political decisions made in the immediate aftermath. These in turn led to other decisions being made. It contributed to divisions being reinforced. This is perhaps most visible in Northern Ireland where there remain murals relating to battles and sieges of this period.


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