The Buildup to the English Civil War

The English Civil War

The First English Civil War took place across England and the British Isles between 1642 and 1646.

The relationship between the King (Charles I) had become strained in the decade or so leading up to the beginning of the First English Civil war. in between the years of 1629 and 1640, King Charles I didn’t summon Parliament once, and introduced many religious and financial taxation policies that were controversial and unpopular among the people of England and the political elite.

When the King tried to introduce a new prayer book into Scotland, which did away with the less ornate forms of worship in favour of more Catholic-like forms of prayer, many of the Scottish people rebelled against the King, defeating him and forcing him from Scotland. The King lost a great number of troops and a lot of support during this war, as many English people sympathised with the Scottish and were opposed to the re-introduction of Catholicism into England. Although the fighting came to an awkward truce in the middle of 1639, the King was well aware that war would break out again and called a Parliament for the first time in a decade.

However, this Parliament did not rule in the Kings favour, and refused him the money to raise an army until their concerns were addressed. The king dissolved this Parliament in less than a month. This would become known in history as the Short Parliament. Following the re-outbreak of War in Scotland, and the subsequent defeat of the King, Charles I was forced to summon a second Parliament, Known as the long Parliament.

The assembled Parliament was almost unanimous in their anger at Charles’ failure to summon Parliament, and his non-Parliamentary taxation and religious changes. Over the next several months, the Long Parliament set about destroying and dismantling Charles’ structure for his Personal rule, and implementing changes that allowed them to regulate and control what was happening in the country, so as not to let the King do as he pleased again.

However, the parliament soon began to split in two, with some members believing that the measures to restrict the King’s powers had gone far enough, and others believing that the measures should be increased. The King, feeling that support was returning to him, seized the initiative and entered  Parliament with a contingent of soldiers, intending to arrest five MPs who he had deemed traitors. However, this plan went badly wrong, as the MPs that he intended to arrest managed to escape, and the public was outraged at what the King had done. Fearing for his life. the King fled from London.

In April of 1642, the King attempted to enter the City of Hull via Beverly Gate, but was stopped and obstructed by Sir John Hotham and the city’s Garrison. This is Commonly seen as the first act of the English Civil war.

[www.britpolitics.co.uk/the-english-civil-war]


Parliamentarians (Roundheads)

The Parliamentarians were the soldiers and supporters of Parliament during the English Civil War. They believed that the regulations against the King should continue to be introduced, so he could not rule without Parliament again. Many supporters of Parliament were so-called “Puritans” who feared that the King was attempting to re-introduce Catholicism to England. Parliament was careful to display itself as the more “English” faction, an image that served them well across England, but lost them support in the more Celtic areas of Britain. Parliament’s relationship with Scotland at the start of the war also lost them the support of many Englishmen. However, when the Parliament/Scotland allegiance broke down, this changed many people’ opinions about Parliament.

[www.bbc.co.uk/history/british/civil_war_revolution/choosingsides_01.shtml]


Royalists (Cavaliers)

The Royalists were the soldiers and supporters of the King during the English Civil war. Many of the lords and other Gentry were on the side of the King, as they likely felt personally loyal to him, and he was the only guarantee of the continued existence as a hierarchy. Whilst these gentry managed to raise sizeable armies to help him fight Parliament, his recruiting of “foreign” soldiers lost him a great amount of support in England, especially when he drafted troops in from Ireland (a mainly Catholic Country) which only galvanized the Puritan’s theory that he was attempting to re-introduce Catholicism. As the King’s efforts to recruit “foreign” soldiers by any means necessary became more widely known, it seemed to many people that Charles intended to subjugate Britain should he win the war. Many of those who initially supported the King defected to the Parliamentarians, ultimately leading to the Royalists defeat at Oxford in 1646.


References

BRITOLOGY (n.d.) The English Civil War – Facts and Events [online] Available from: http://www.britpolitics.co.uk/the-english-civil-war [Accessed: 2nd October 2016]

Dr. Stoyle, M. (2011) BBC – History – British History in depth: Choosing Sides in the English Civil War [online] Available from: http://www.bbc.co.uk/history/british/civil_war_revolution/choosingsides_01.shtml [Accessed: 2nd October 2016].

Parliament.uk (n.d.) The Personal Rule of Charles I [Online] Available from: http://www.parliament.uk/about/living-heritage/evolutionofparliament/parliamentaryauthority/civilwar/overview/personal-rule/ [Accessed: 3rd October 2016].

Parliament.uk (n.d.) The Long Parliament [online] Available from: http://www.parliament.uk/about/living-heritage/evolutionofparliament/parliamentaryauthority/civilwar/overview/longparliament/ [Accessed: 3rd October 2016].

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