The end of Charles I


Charles in defeat

bullet The complete military defeat of Charles soon followed the Battle of Newark. The last remnants of his army were destroyed at the Battle of Langport (10 July 1645). In September, Bristol was stormed and Montrose's Scottish uprising finally defeated. During the Winter and Spring of 1645-46, the royalists of Devon and Cornwall were crushed.
bullet With all his military options closed, Charles turned to political maneuvering. Charles decided that his best hopes lay in setting off Parliament against the Scots.

Newark was held by the King's forces to the very end. This coin was produced while the city was besieged.

5 May 1646, on the strength of verbal assurances that his personal safety and conscience would be respected, Charles surrendered to the Scottish army camped at Newark.


Presbyterians and Independents

bullet As if to confirm Charles' hopes for internal divisions, the Scots army with their royal captive moved to the more defensible location of Newcastle. The House of Commons responded with a curt resolution (19 May) that they had "no further use" for the Scots army and that it should leave the country.

Alexander Henderson (1583-1646)
The effort to convert Charles proved the death of him - he died 19 August 1646

Charles encouraged the Scots' fond belief that he might embrace Presbyterianism by asking for religious instruction from the dour minister, Alexander Henderson. In fact, Charles was determined never to swear the Covenant and so disavow episcopacy.

bullet Charles dragged his heels  - refusing either to accept or rejects the proposals to limit his power and to establish Presbyterian church government. Meanwhile, the divisions deepened between the political Independents (who dominated the House of Commons and the New Model Army) and the political Presbyterians (who though outnumbered in the Commons, controlled the House of Lords and dominated London).
bullet One thing both Presbyterians and Independents wanted was for the Scots army to leave England. There was some haggling about what money was due to cover Scots military expenses, but agreement was finally reached and on 30 January 1647 the last Scottish troops marched out.
bullet Charles' utter refusal to take the Covenant convinced the Scots that they could not safely take them with him, so he was handed over to the English - "sold" as many Royalist propagandists were later to allege. In February, he was moved to Holmby (Holdenby) House in Northamptonshire.

Parliament continued to mint coins in Charles I's name:  this unite (value 20 shillings or 1) dates from 1645-46


Army Agitators

The political Presbyterians were eager to rid themselves of the New Model Army. The departure of the Scottish army had strengthened their hand in the House of Commons, where they now commanded a slim majority.
Late in February 1647, they proposed measures to disband much of the infantry and dispatch the rest to Ireland.

The attempt to disband the army provoked resentment among its anti-Presbyterian officers and outrage amongst the ordinary soldiers, who were to be sent packing without their large arrears of pay.

In April and May 1647, the angry soldiers appointed "Agitators" to represent them, demanded redress of their grievances and complained that the Members of Parliament were degenerating into tyrants.

Parliament responded late in May by pressing ahead with its plans to disband the infantry ASAP. The order provoked a general mutiny - one in which the Army's senior officers promptly joined. Most ordinary soldiers cared chiefly about bread and butter matters (especially backpay), but an influential minority of political activists - Levellers -  wanted to make England more democratic.

4 June 1647 - Cornet Joyce at the head of 500 soldiers seized custody of Charles I from Parliament's Commissioners and escorted him to Newmarket.


New Model Politics


Thomas Fairfax and Oliver Cromwell moved the army to Triploe Heath (north of London) and then to Royston in a gesture to overawe the House of Commons which was making moves to raise an army of Londoners loyal to the political Presbyterians.


The army also attacked the political Presbyterian leaders in the House - eleven members (the chief of whom was Denzil Holles) were to be suspended. On 25 June the army edged close to London by moving its headquarters to Uxbridge.

William Lenthall

A number of Presbyterian MPs had lost their nerve by mid July and were willing to surrender to the army's demands.  But many Londoners were not so timorous. A mob of them broke into the House of Commons (27 July) and compelled the House to stand up to the army.
Refusing to act under such duress, Sir William Lenthall (Speaker of the House of Commons) along with 57 Independent MPs stopped attending the House. Edward Montague, Earl of Manchester (Speaker of the House of Lords) and eight peers also absented themselves.

bullet Finally provoked into decisive action, the army marched on London. At the prospect of bloody invasion, the City's resistance collapsed. 6 August 1647 the army - c. 20,000 strong - marched triumphantly into London accompanied by the Independent MPs.
bullet Cromwell's clear willingness to use the army led some political Presbyterians to flee and their majority collapsed. Cromwell hoped to reach a compromise with Charles I - religious toleration for both episcopalians and sectaries in exchange for political reforms (as summarized in The Heads of the Proposals).
bullet Charles refused to accept or reject the settlement and secretly negotiated with the Scots. Levellers and radical army officers made it clear to Cromwell in debates at Putney (September 1647) that they wanted more rights for ordinary Englishmen.

Three of Charles' children - James, Henry and Elizabeth -
painted in 1647 looking as gloomy as their father's prospects.


The second Civil War

bullet 11 November 1647, Charles I fled his army guards and escaped to the Isle of Wight.
Charles was kept in Carisbrooke Castle. While he talked religious toleration and political compromise with the English, he secretly negotiated quite different terms with the Scots.

bullet Popular support for Charles I - or at least disgust with the Presbyterians and Independents - found expression in resistance to puritan ordinances to suppress traditional Christmas holiday celebrations on 25 December 1647.
bullet The Commons who were tired of Charles refusal to agree to any constitutional settlement, voted in January 1648 to cease all negotiations with the King.
bullet In April 1648, the Scots Parliament made its opposition evident by voting that England had broken the treaty with them; they demanded the immediate institution of Presbyterian government in the Church of England. In the same month, much of South Wales arose in revolt against Parliament. Riots soon erupted in favor of the King in Essex, Surrey and Kent (counties always previously loyal to Parliament) and the Navy mutinied.
bullet Attacked on two fronts, the army divided its forces: Fairfax moved to suppress the rebels in the south-east; Cromwell marched (via Wales) north against the Scots.

The Preston Campaign
(July - August 1648)

James Hamilton had assembled the Scottish army just north of the Border, which he crossed on 8 July 1648 to aid the Royalists who had been forced back to Carlisle by Colonel John Lambert's army. His army numbered about 10,000 strong and more were on their way, but the majority were raw recruits.

Lambert gradually fell back before the advancing Scots and waited for help from Cromwell. On July 11 Cromwell defeated the Welsh Royalists at Pembroke and began the long march northward. He reached Leicester on 1 August, and was soon joined at Doncaster by artillery from Hull.

By the time the Scots' army reached Preston (17 August), English and other reinforcements had doubled their numbers; even after being joined by Lambert, Cromwell had only about 9,000. However, he promptly attacked a small outlying English force and so forced Hamilton to withdraw south with 5,000 of his divided army. Cromwell pursued and attacked them at Winwick on 19 August. The sad remnants surrendered at Uttoxeter (25 August).


Fairfax's campaign in the South East
(May - August 1648)

While Cromwell's forces were in Wales and the North, Fairfax took care of the Royalist rebels of Kent and Essex, led by George Goring, Earl of Norwich. When Fairfax marched against them (31 May 1648) they withdrew to Maidstone. Fairfax attacked and took this town, and then proceeded to Rochester.

Norwich was too weak to fight Fairfax so he and about 3,000 Royalists marched towards London, hoping that the capital would declare for the King's cause. When the City's gates remained firmly closed, the rebels broke up in disorder, but a few hundred crossed the River Thames and headed north to Chelmsford in response to reports that Essex had risen in favor of Charles I.

On 9 June 1648  the local Essex Royalists and the remnants of Norwich's Kentish forces joined at Chelmsford. They then moved north to Colchester hoping to recruit more supporters for another march on London.

Fairfax crossed from Gravesend (11 July) and rode north to join 5,000 Parliamentary troops north of the River Thames in a rapid march on Colchester. The two armies clashed just outside Colchester (13 July) and the Royalists were forced to withdraw into the town. Fairfax tried and failed to take it by storm and was forced to lay siege to Colchester. Fairfax refused to allow civilians to leave the town and they were soon starving. News of Cromwell's victory at Preston (22 August) finally broke the defenders resolve, and on 28 August they surrendered to the Parliamentary troops.


Pride's Purge

bullet Charles I's instigation of the Second Civil War seemed to the army to be conclusive proof that he could never be trusted.

On 1 December 1648, army officers seized the King and took him as prisoner to Hurst Castle, - a fortification erected by Henry VIII on a promontory of the Hampshire Coast.

bullet When the political Presbyterians in the House of Commons voted (5 December) to continue negotiations with Charles, the army decided to exclude their opponents from Parliament.
bullet 6 December 1648, Colonel Thomas Pride and his soldiers stationed themselves outside Parliament and refused entry to 96 MPs. 39 were imprisoned.
bullet A week later the few remaining Members voted to put Charles on trial for his crimes.

Trial and execution


Charles was brought to Whitehall and the House of Commons passed an ordinance accusing him of plotting to enslave the English people. (An Ordinance that the last twelve peers sitting in the House of Lords unanimously rejected).


A High Court of Justice was appointed to try Charles and it began its sessions 8 January 1649. Charles resolutely refused to recognize its authority.


Despite the King's refusal to plead, the Court continued it proceedings and finally (27 January) gave sentence that "the said Charles Stuart, as a tyrant, traitor, murderer and a public enemy shall be put to death, by the severing his head from his body".

bullet Charles - showing more dignity in dying than in living - was executed 30 January 1649, convinced to the last of his own rectitude.

"I go from a corruptible to an incorruptible crown, where no disturbance can be, no disturbance in the world".

(Charles' words on the scaffold).


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