The English Civil War

at Hinchingbrooke

the Hart of Hinchingbrooke

oliver cromwell

edward montagu






The English Civil War

What were the causes of the Civil War?

Background: Charles I was son of King James. His queen was the Catholic Henrietta Maria, something which annoyed the Puritans. Charles believed in Divine Right - which meant he believed he was chosen by God and that therefore Parliament should do as he said.
Parliament, however, felt they represented the people and should have more control over running the country.

When Charles asked for more money they gave him only a fraction of what he asked for - so he dismissed them. Calling a third Parliament in 1628 he again failed to get enough money from them. He closed Parliament and it remained closed for eleven years. For money he charged fines and taxes on the people.

In 1637 he needed to create an army against the Scots so he had to call a Parliament to raise the money to pay them.
They met in 1640 and before they would give him money they gave him a list of complaints, called "The Grand Remonstrance." Charles agreed to many limits on his powers but this was too much.
He tried to arrest the leading MPs and although he failed, a mob gathered and marched on the palace to demonstrate their anger. Charles was forced to move to Nottingham to raise his own army there, while his wife escaped to Holland.

The main question now was "who should rule the country?"

Would it be the Royalists, known as Cavaliers, represented by the House of Lords, the Court, who were usually Roman Catholics or Church of England and supported King Charles.
Or would it be the Parliament side, known as Roundheads, represented by the House of Commons, who were usually Puritans, merchants or members of the navy, eventually led by its General Oliver Cromwell.

Each side had an army of only about 70,000 men and although there were many small skirmishes there were only three great battles; the Battle of Edgehill (1642), Naseby (1645) and Worcester.

Oliver Cromwell was brought in to train troops in East Anglia and in 1644-5 Parliament created what was called The New Model Army, a well organised, equipped and disciplined army under the command of Fairfax.
Fairfax and Cromwell together defeated Charles at Naseby at which the king's army was almost wiped out; Charles surrendered to the Scots, who in turn gave him to Parliament.

In December 1648 soldiers surrounded Parliament, keeping Charles' supporters out and on January 30th 1649 King Charles I was executed.

Parliament was now in control of the Republic of England. Oliver Cromwell, commander in chief of the army, abolished the House of Lords and, when the House of Commons started arguing, he took control as Lord Protector.

The Puritans took advantage of the situation and enforced strict rules against Sunday activities, closing down theatres, maypole dancing and even Christmas Day, while destroying stained glass windows in churches because they were too decorative.

Cromwell's later campaigns in Ireland, the massacres of Drogheda and Wexford, crushed Catholic Ireland - and arguably caused the continuing unrest in Ireland even today. With Charles (Bonny Prince Charlie) calling on his support from those who had supported his Scots grandfather, the Stuart King James, Cromwell nevertheless savagely defeated the Scots too. In 1651 the Royalist army was surrounded and destroyed in Worcester. After several narrow escapes Charles II escaped to France.

Cromwell died in 1658 and soon a new Parliament asked Charles' son to return and become the new king. Charles II was brought back from France by Edward Montagu and his return is recorded in detail by Samuel Pepys.

Cromwell had diminished the absolute power of the King, been tolerant towards Jews and some other minority groups, resisted some extremists, took better care of the mentally ill, improved the prisons and registered all births and deaths. However his brutality in Ireland and the execution of the King would always count against him.


Divide one whole page into four boxes - 2 columns and two rows plus headings like this:


Now read the page above again and place the facts in the boxes. You decide whether a fact about Charles shows him in a good light or a bad light. Remember the same facts may show, for example, Parliament as bad and Charles as good.

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