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17th Century England Index

Introduction : Constitutional Government
James I and the Divine Right of Kings
Towards Civil War
The First English Civil War
The Second English Civil War
The Trial and Execution of Charles I
The English Republic (1649 - 1660)
Life in Cromwell's England
Charles II : "The Merry Monarch"
Whigs and Tories
James II and the Monmouth Rebellion (1685)
The "Glorious Revolution" of 1688
The Bill of Rights
John Locke and the "Treatises on Government"

History Chapters Main Index

Oliver Cromwell

Portrait of Oliver Cromwell by Robert Walker

 

Naseby

The battle of Naseby, Leicestershire, in June 1645 was the final disaster for the king's cause. The king's badly equipped troops were little match for the New Model Army. By early afternoon there was "not a horse or a man of the king's army to be seen except the prisoners".

Fighting continued until May 1646 when the king finally had to surrender to Parliament. The Civil War was over.

 

 

BRITAIN : ISLAND STATE TO EMPIRE

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17th Century England

Cromwell and the New Model Army

Cromwell was a gentleman farmer from Huntingdonshire. As a young man he had enjoyed hunting, hawking and gambling, but at Cambridge University he grew more serious. His Puritanism grew deeper and stricter year by year.

He entered Parliament as a critic of the king and, in 1642, became a captain of cavalry, showing great skill as a soldier.

By early 1645 Cromwell had forged the New Model Army. It was the first professional army in English history, consisting of 22,000 men, well armed and clothed. Infantrymen wore red tunics and cavalrymen brown leather coats. Because of their armour they came to be called "Ironsides". They were well paid, unlike other soldiers at that time. Discipline was tough: death was the penalty for threatening an officer or hitting a civilian, tongues were drilled for blasphemy and men were whipped for swearing. Drinking was forbidden and prayers were compulsory in the morning and evening.

 

Outside help

By the end of 1643 it had become clear to both sides that help from other countries would be necessary to win the war.

The obvious allies for the Parliamentary forces were the Presbyterian Scots. Their army had finally been paid off in 1640 but by then they had proved their military value.

The king was left with only Ireland to look for help. Even though he was tempted to seek assistance further afield, from France and Holland for example, this proved impossible. The Irish were hated and the English Puritans considered them murderous Catholic savages. Help from Ireland ruined the king's reputation and made no military difference anyway.

On the other hand, the Scots help to Parliament was decisive in eliminating the king's army in the north, at Marston Moor, in 1644. Once Parliament held the north there was little chance that the king could win.

The Battle of Marston Moor, 2 July 1644

The Battle of Marston Moor, 2 July 1644 by John Joseph Barker

 

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