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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
Cromwell and the New Model Army
The Second English Civil War
The Trial and Execution of Charles I
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

The Campaign in Scotland

After the execution of Charles I, his son, Charles II, arrived in Scotland (Spring of 1650) at invitation of the Scottish Presbyterians. The Scots proclaimed him king in a ceremony held in Edinburgh in May 1650.

Cromwell marched his army northwards in July 1650, and the two sides met at Dunbar on 3rd September. Although the victory was Cromwell's, the Scots mustered a second army at Stirling. Cromwell moved his army further north, to Perth, to stop the Scots recruiting men from the highlands. The Scots found themselves cut off from the north of the country and moved south into England. Cromwell's forces met up with the Scottish army at Worcester, in the Severn valley, where the Scots were finally defeated. Charles II escaped to France.

The Campaign in Ireland

Cromwell led the New Model Army into Ireland in August 1649. At Clonmel, Cromwell's troops met the only real resistance they had ever encountered, in a battle against Hugh O'Neill's forces. The New Model Army lost 2500 men in this battle.

In the settlement which followed Cromwell's overall victory, much of the land in the northern provinces was sold off to English landowners. Some land was awarded to the troops as compensation for lack of pay, but most of the troops immediately sold their land to the landowners for cash. This made the English landowners in the area even more powerful.

Many of the Irish peasants had been killed during the war with the English. Then, in 1653, 20000 Irish were shipped off to America to work on the plantations. The Irish population fell from one and a half million in 1641 to 850000 by 1652, of which 150000 were either English or Scottish settlers and all staunch protestants.

 

 

BRITAIN : ISLAND STATE TO EMPIRE

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17th Century England

The English Republic (1649 - 1660)

 

The Commonwealth (1649 - 1653)

Execution of Charles I

Execution of Charles I (German Print)

Once Charles I had been executed, the Rump Parliament took control of England. Rebellions had to be crushed in Ireland and Scotland.

 

Ireland

In Ireland, Cromwell's troops massacred the garrisons of all towns which refused to surrender. This meant that other towns quickly gave in to the occupying forces. When the fighting was over land was taken from the rebellious Catholic population and given to those Protestants who were loyal to England. In this way the fertile north-east of Ireland (which is still part of the United Kingdom today) came to be mostly Protestant, while the poorer parts of the west and south, (today the Republic of Ireland), remained Catholic.

 

Scotland

The Scots were furious with the English for the execution of their king, Charles I. They promptly crowned his son, Charles II, who led an invasion of England. Cromwell allowed them to come as far south as Worcester and then destroyed the Scots army. The young Charles II, after many adventures, managed to escape to Louis XIV's France.

 

The Rump Parliament

Cromwell abolished the House of Lords and only tolerated a handful of Puritan MPs, those who were friends of the army, in the House of Commons. There were many ideas about how England should be governed.

The Royalists simply wanted Charles II on the throne, to rule as had his father. General Harrison, a religious fanatic, preferred an assembly of 'Godly' men to run the country 'until Christ returned'. A group called the Levellers, led by John Lilburne, wanted to try something completely new. They wanted all men to have a vote to elect MPs to the Commons which would then rule the country. A movement which developed within the New Model Army, created a group called the Independents. This group demanded free elections and total religious toleration. Some people, called Diggers, even wanted to abolish private property and hold land communally.

Cromwell did not like any of these ideas. He just wanted England governed in a firm, Godly manner. It is said that he had no personal ambition or desire for power. He was, however, the only man able to control the army.

 

Cromwell's Government (1653-1658)

In 1653 even the remaining Rump Parliament was dismissed. For the next five years, England was effectively a military dictatorship called the 'Commonwealth' and was under Cromwell, 'The Lord Protector'. The country was divided up into military districts with a military commander in charge of each. Military rule was expensive and taxes went up. Cromwell was even offered the Crown, but he refused. He did, however, nominate his son, Richard, to succeed him as Protector upon his death.

 

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