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The English Civil War


Cromwell and Charles I

Cromwell looking at the executed King
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Executing the King had not been an easy decision for Cromwell, and he had faced a lot of opposition over it, even from within Parliament. In fact, the King's trial only went ahead after Parliament was "purged" of those opposed. On 6 December 1648, Colonel Thomas Pride, with a military guard, stood outside the House of Commons and barred from Parliament a 186 members. A further 45 were arrested. This incident is known as Pride's Purge. This purge outraged a lot of members and over 80 left in protest. The remaining Parliament, known as "The Rump", consisted of only 200 members. The House of Lords also opposed putting the King on trial, so the House of Lords was ignored. The purged House of Commons alone decided to put the King on trial and execute him.

Now that the King was dead, England was declared a republic. The monarchy was abolished, the House of Lords too, and the new Commonwealth was to be ruled by the Rump Parliament and a new body called The Council Of State. The members were to be chosen by Parliament and John Bradshaw, an English judge, was elected President. Cromwell and his supporters were now supreme, but their government was hardly democratic. They had got their way by military force and by excluding from power everyone who disagreed with them. If Charles I's England was a tyranny, Cromwell's was a dictatorship!

The Civil War was not yet quite over, however. There was still a lot of Royalist support in the country, especially in the north, and Royalists now considered Charles I's son, also called Charles, to be the rightful King. Scotland, still its own country with its own Parliament, proclaimed Charles King of Scots on 5 February 1649. Over the next two years, Charles did his best to win back his father's throne. This is known as The Third Civil War (1649-1651).

In the February of 1649, Charles, still in exile on the continent, appointed the loyal Scotsman James Graham, Marquess of Montrose, as his Captain-General in Scotland. Charles hoped that the Royalist champion would be able to muster troops for him in Europe and in Scotland. Montrose failed miserably, however. He was distrusted by the Scottish Parliament, as he did not believe Charles should bow to their demands, and when he landed in Scotland with an army, they fought him. In the April of 1650, the great warrior was defeated at The Battle Of Carbisdale, and two days later he was taken prisoner. The King abandoned him to his fate and he was executed by hanging in Edinburgh on the 21 May 1650.

Charles now agreed to all the Scots demands, having little other choice, and finally returned to Scotland in the June of 1650. Charles was now a great threat to the Commonwealth and Cromwell knew it. To try and prevent Charles invading from Scotland, Cromwell left Ireland, which he was securing for the Commonwealth, and personally led an army into Scotland. He defeated the Scots at The Battle of Dunbar, even though he was outnumbered, and went on to occupy most of southern Scotland. All was not yet lost for Charles, however. He was crowned King of Scots in the January of 1651, and despite the ongoing English occupation of Scotland, that summer he led an army of thousands over the border into England. Cromwell pursued, and the two sides met in The Battle Of Worcester on 3 September 1651. Charles suffered a crushing defeat and all he could do was run for his life! With the help of loyal supporters, he escaped capture and fled to France.

The Civil War was finally over and Parliament had won. For the next decade, England was a Commonwealth with Cromwell at its helm. It was only after Cromwell's death in 1658 that the Commonwealth collapsed. In 1660, Charles was invited to take back the throne, and England became a monarchy once again. However, it was a monarchy that was forever changed. Never again would a monarch have the power of Charles I and his predecessors.

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