The Bri­tish Civil Wars

An at-a-glance guide to one of the most com­pli­cated con­flicts in his­tory

History Revealed - - COVER STORY CIVIL WAR -

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

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