The British Civil Wars
An at-a-glance guide to one of the most complicated conflicts in history
Q WHY DON’T WE CALL IT THE ENGLISH MORE? CIVIL WAR ANY
A Partly because there was more than one war and partly because many of the events of the wars took place outside England. There was conflict in Scotland as well as England, both countries invaded each other, and there was also a decade of fighting in Ireland.
Q WHAT WERE THE WARS ALL ABOUT?
A The first, from 1642-46, was caused by opposition to Charles’s methods of government, which were seen by many as autocratic and unconstitutional. There were further splits over religion, with the ‘high church’ Anglicanism that Charles wanted to impose alienating many of his Protestant subjects. The Royalists were eventually defeated in both England and Scotland. The second took place in 1648, when the Scots unsuccessfully invaded England on Charles’s behalf. Attitudes hardened after this and in January 1649, a minority of Parliamentarians secured Charles’s execution and the abolition of the monarchy. The third was fought after Charles’s heir, Charles II, also secured Scottish support. They invaded England in 1651, but were crushed by Cromwell at Worcester.
Q DID THE WARS REALLY PIT ‘BROTHER AGAINST BROTHER’?
A Although different branches of a family might choose different sides, loyalty to your was often immediate family in which a deciding factor were, side you chose. There Ralph however, exceptions. Buckinghamshire Verney of but supported parliament, his father, Sir Edmund, King and declared for the standard at died carrying his the Battle of Edgehill.
Q WHY AREN’T WE A REPUBLIC IF THE KING WAS DEFEATED?
A Virtually none of those who took up arms against the King in 1642 actually wanted a republic. The execution of Charles I and abolition of the monarchy in 1649 were carried out by a minority of Parliamentarians in response to what they saw as Charles’s treachery – little thought had been given to how the country would actually be ruled without a king. Cromwell was able to hold things together with the support of the army, but when he died in 1658, the country descended into anarchy and many saw the restoration of the monarchy as the only way to restore order.
Over 2,000 people, including civilians, were massacred when Cromwell’s troops stormed Drogheda in September 1649