1642-1649: From Civil War to Revolution


1642: What motivated men to take sides ?

Royalists - North and West of England, less advanced economically, poorer parts of country. 

Parliament - London and South-East, East-Anglia, wealthiest parts of the country. 

However this explanation, although true to some degree, is now regarded as too simplified. 

Out of 42 English counties in 1642: 

  • 22 accepted parliament's Militia Ordinance 
  • 11 accepted King's Commissions of Array 
  • 7 avoided making any choice at all 

Most aristocracy and some gentry sided with the King. 

Most gentry who took sides sided with parliament. 

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The problem of neutralism

  • 22 counties drew up 'neutrality' agreements - to stop fighting in their own counties. 
  • The vast majority of the political nation tried to avoid taking sides in the war. 
  • If anything, neutralism grew as the war progressed. 

By 1645, local gentry in 10 counties formed clubmen associations. The clubmen aimed at using military force to keep both royalist and parliamentarian armies out of their counties. 

So why did men take sides? 

Royalists - Feared that parliament's attacks on the king in 1640-42 would lead to widespread social revolution, a general breakdown in authority and eventually anarchy. They felt that the established church must be defended, they feared the religious radicalism that had been unleashed by Pym in 1641-42. 

Parliamentarians - Feared that the King, misled by evil advisers, had been making a conscious attempt to destroy parliament and English liberties. Also, they were committed to reducing or abolisihing the bishop's power. Puritan's especially those wanting a Presbyterian-style church, supported Parliament. 

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How did each side finance the war?

Both sides occasionally resorted to sequestration (confiscation of opponents' property) and plunder (stealing of goods and valuables). 

Parliament's methods, drawn up by John Pym in 1643, were far superior in the long term; a key factor in parliamentary victory. 

But these methods would also have a key effect on attitudes after the war. 


  • Charles was often reliant on gifts from wealthy royalists. 
  • The royalists eventually copied parliamentary methods, but were less successful since by 1644 they controlled very little of the country and were unable to collect finance. 
  • They often had to rely on free quarter; the taking of goods, horses etc. with a promise that ownsers would be compensated after the war. 

This made royalist armys deeply unpopular with political nation on both sides!

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How did each side finance the war?


  • 1643 onwards: 
  • The monthly assessment: a direct tax on income and wealth, particularly land
  • The excise tax: a tax on a range of goods, including beer and wine. 

By the late 1640s, the Monthly Assessment alone was collecting £90,000 per month. 

A key reason why some gentry eventually supported parliament was that the parliamentary army, being better and more reguarly paid, was far less likely to plunder. 

There is little doubt that Parliament's financial organisation was far better. However, by 1645, there was growing discontent among even parliamentary supporters about the crushing taxation that the political nation was now paying. 

Parliament set up county committees to supervise collection of taxation. These were given wide-ranging powers, and were often made up of men not connected with the county itself, of men of lower social status. Gradually, the county committees became hated, especially since the local gentry saw them as 'social upstarts'. 

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What consequences did Parliament's better financia

While it greatly contributed to Parliamentary victory, it also had negative effects on parliament. 

By 1646, the vast majority of the Political Nation on both sides were desperate to end the crushing taxation of the war. 

Also, they were deeply concerned at how the County Committees had destroyed the local independence of the gentry. There was especially growing concern at the low social status of some County Committee members. 

This meant that by 1646, with Charles now defeated, the Political Nation was desperate for a speedy settlement that would restore normality. 

It also meant that the Political Nation, even those who had supported Parliament, were desperate to disband the New Model Army as soon as possible. 

By 1646, fears of growing religious and political radicalism in the New Model army made it even more vital that it be disbanded quickly, without paying the soldiers their pay arrears if necessary. This would have disastrous consequences for parliament mid-1647. 

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Was parliamentary victory always inevitable?

Factors that allowed parliament to win: 

  • Greater finances / more efficient collection of finance
  • Control of London and SE England, the wealthiest part of the country 
  • London was the centre of printing, which gave Parliament an advantage in producing propaganda. 
  • London was the economic centre of the country and the largest port; this meant that parliament had greater access to resources and finance. 
  • Control of navy; this prevented Charles recieving supplies from Ireland and mainland Europe. 
  • Alliance with Scots Covenanters 
  • Weaknesses in royalist leadership 

Parlimentary victory became more likely as the war dragged on, but it was not inevitable until 1645. 

June 1645: King's main army destoryed at Naesby. 

But: as late as early 1645, it was still possible that Charles could win a 'war of attrition'.

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The search for allies

Royalist attempts

  • Sept 1643: Charles signed the Cessation with the Irish rebels. In return for granting toleration for Catholics in Ireland, Irish troops would come to England to fight on royalist side. 
  • A propaganda disaster for Charles when this was made public as it suggested Charles was sympathetic towards Catholicism. Also, the Irish troops were of little use to him since they arrived in small groups. 

Parliamentary attempts 

  • Sept 1643: Parliament signed an alliance with the Scots Covenanters. The Scots would provide an army of 21,000 men, in return for a state presbyterian church settlement in England after the war. The Westminster Assembly was set up to discuss the future church settlement. 
  • Pym also established the committee of both kingdoms to coordinate finance and the fighting of the war. 
  • In fact, the Scots alliance was a mixed blessing; some MPs and many in the parliamentary army were unhappy at a full presbyterian settlement being imposed, and this would cause even more divisions later.
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Civil war in Scotland

Not all Scottish nobles were Covenanters; many were deeply unhappy with the idea of rebellion against the King. 

One Scottish noble, The Earl of Montrose, led royalist forces in Scotland against the Covenanters and won a number of battles in 1644 and 1645. 

However, Charles failed to support Montrose with extra men or resources. 

Sept 1645: Battle of Philiphaugh: a Covenanter army crushed Montrose's remaining forces, ending Charles' military hopes in Scotland. 

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Civil war in Ireland

  • With the outbreak of the Irish rebellion in summer 1641, civil war began in Ireland, made far more complicated by religion. 
  • The war in Ireland was particularly brutal; about 41% of the population died. 
  • 1642: Catholic rebels formed the confederation, and would now be known as the confederates. 
  • Their opponents were the Protestants of Ulster and those living around Dublin, commanded by the Earl of Ormond. Ormond declared his loyalty to the king, making matters even more complicated. 
  • 1643: Parliament sent a Scottish army to crush the rebellion, but by the end of 1643, the Confederates still controlled Ireland apart from Ulster and Dublin. 
  • Sept 1643: Ormond agreed a 1 year truce (the Cessation) this allowed irish troops (Catholic and Protestant) to come to England to fight for the King. These Irish troops had little impact in England, and probably reinforced parliamentary propaganda that accused Charles of sympathy to Catholicism. 
  • March 1646: Ormond signed a peace with the Confederates. 
  • Sept 1646: A confederate army defeated a Scots Covenanter army at Benburb. 
  • This meant that by 1646, the Catholic Irish were unwilling to give any further support to Charles, which destroyed Charles' hopes of bringing more Irish troops to England. 
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Charles' leadership

No doubt that Charles was a poor war leader; his war council was constantly split between: 

  • Henrietta Maria / Lord Digby: aimed at all-out military victory at any cost 
  • Edward Hyde / Lord Falkland: wanted a compromise settlement. 

The two main military leaders, Digby and Prince Rupert hated each other. Charles allowed these quarrels to develop and obstruct the war effort. 

An example of Charles' poor leadership: 

  • Oct 1642: Battle of Edgehill 
  • After the Battle of Edgehill, Charles wasted a superb opportunity to take London after the Parliamentary army retreated. Despite the advice of his commanders, Charles was indecisive and by the time the royalist army finally marched on London, it was too late. They were stopped by the London "trained bands" (a highly trained parliamentary force). 
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Pym's leadership

Parliamentary leadership was just as split for most of the war.  By 1643: 

  • "Peace" group: wanted a compromise settlement, unhappy at seeing king defeated and humiliated. 
  • "War" group: felt that the king must be defeated in war and have strict conditions imposed on him. One of Pym's achievements had been to heal these splits in parliament. 
  • Dec 1643: Death of Pym now deprived parliament of clear leadership. Split became even more intense. 
  • 1644: Battle of Marston Moor: Parliamentary victory now meant King had lost control of Nothern England. 
  • Charles' defeat now seemed to be a matter of time. 

However, among the 'war' party in parliament, a growing feeling that the war was being lost through incompetent military leadership. Military leaders had been chosen for their social status. The parliamentary group made mistakes at  Lostwithiel and Newbury in 1644. 

End of 1644: Peace negotiations at Uxbridge failed because Charles was hoping to win the 'war of attrition'

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1645: Events leading to parliamentary victory

Winter 1644/1645: The splits in parliament finally broke out into open quarrels, especially between Manchester and Cromwell. 

In fact, most MPs now realised it was necessary to defeat the king to make him see reason. 

Feb 1645: New Model Army Ordinance

  • All MPs to give up their military commands
  • To get rid of incompetent commanders such as Manchester and Essex
  • Cromwell was exempted from this, and was appointed commander of the cavalry. 

Finally there was now a general determination among MPs to end the war. 

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The key factor in parliamentary victory

June 1645: Battle of Naesby: Charles' main field army destroyed. In fact, royalists were outnumbered by nearly 2 to 1 at Naesby. 

Parliamentary victory was now inevitable. 

May 1646: Charles surrendered to the Scots 

He realised that there was already growing disillusionment among the Scots about Parliament's delays in setting up a national Presbyterian church settlement in England. 

In fact, Charles was also aware that now that the war was over, the splits in Parliament had not only emerged again, but also grown even more intensive and bitter. 

The greatest concern among most MPs was the rumours of growing religious and political radicalism in the New Model Army by 1646. 

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The search for a settlement 1646-47

Mid-1646: Scots handed Charles over to Parliament. He was now kept in comfortable 'captivity'. 

July 1646: Charles presented with the Newcastle Propositions

  • Similar to original 19 propositions in 1642
  • Triennial parliaments
  • Parliament to nominate King's chief ministers 
  • Parliament to control 'militia' for 20 years
  • Presbyterian church settlement: Anglicanism abolished, no toleration for other religious groups. 
  • 58 royalists to be exempted from a general pardon. 
  • The majority of Mps and the vast majority of the 'political nation' were now desperate for a permanent settlement that would ensure a return to normality and traditional government.
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The search for a settlement 1646-47

  • There was growing fear of society disintegrating under the strain of war
  • Hatred of wartime taxation and County Committees
  • Above all, growing fears of religious / political radicalism in the New Model Army
  • There were overwhelming demands from both MPs and the gentry to disband the army as soon as possible. 

At the time it was thought that a permanent settlement was inevitable in 1646-47; Charles would have little choice. 

Also, all sides wanted to retun the King to the centre of government. 

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The role of the king in 1646-47

Charles had no intention of giving up any powers / prerogatives

He saw all his enemies as traitors - Scots, Political Presbyterians, the Army 

He felt that he had lost the war because he had given up divine powers in 1641-42; his God given duty was to recover them by any means possible. 

Charles knew that his enemies were deeply divided; he would now proceed to play off each side against the others. By 1648, this would cost him his life and would lead to the abolition of the monarchy. 

His attitude to the Newcastle Propositions: "how to make a handsome denying answer is the difficulty" 

Throughout 1647-48, as the Army rebelled against Parliament, then the Army became split amongst itself, and the Scots Covenanters became increasingly concerned about events, Charles seemed to be proved right. 

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How did religious radicalism develop in the NMA?

Radical Protestant groups had existed in England since the late C16 (ever since England became protestant). 

1640s: breakdown of religious censorship as quarrel between king and parliament resulted in collapse of authority. 

Therefore the breakdown of traditional controls allowed radical groups to expand without fear of prosecution. 

It was possibly inevitable that these groups would gain a foothold in the Army. 

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Beliefs of the NMA

The majority of the new model army were more interested in pay arrears and a general idemnity against prosecution for actions while taken while in military service. 

But in the cavalry, men were better educated, more literate: 

  • A growing feeling among many men that their lives had been fundamentally changed by their experience in the army. 
  • The New Model Army had defeated the king in battle; surely a judgement of God. 
  • There were growing criticisms of the king, "against whom the Lord hath witnessed". 
  • Some began to see themselves as "God's instrument" - An "army of saints". 
  • This was strongly encouraged in regular prayer meetings and discussions by radical preachers in the Army. 
  • By allowing men to freely discuss and debate religious beliefs, was the army attacking the traditional religious hierarchy, and therefore society itself? 
  • Was the army encouraging "democracy" in religion? 
  • If ordinary men began to demand their own form of worship, wouldn't they eventually demand to be given a say in government? 
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Beliefs of the NMA

"Independent" beliefs began to grow among the soldiers. 

They were prepared to accept a national church, but each congregation should decide on its own form of worship. 

Also, there should be freedom of worship for those of "tender consciences". 

Probably only a minority of soliders had these beliefs, but they were a highly influential minority. 

Cromwell became increasingly seen as the spokesman of the Independents and the religious sects. 

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The reaction of MPs

The majority of MPs were horrified at developments in the army. - Any form of religious liberty would lead to chaos. 

1646: Thomas Edwardes, a Presbyterian minister, produced the book "Gangraena" 

"Gangraena" is made up of a series of "eye-witness accounts" about religious extremism in the Army. 

Most of the stories are grossly exaggerated, consisting of second-or third- hand accounts, with the most common allegation being sexual immorality. 

In fact, it is one of the most useful documents for revealing the fears of the majority of MPs and the vast majority of the Political Nation. 

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Cromwell's role

Cromwell's role in this period is complicated; but this is why Cromwell is such a difficult personality to understand. 

By 1645: Cromwell was increasingly attacked in Parliament for his promotion of soldiers with radical religious views. 

Cromwell cannot be pigeonholed into any particular religious group. He had been described as an independent, a baptist, a fifth monarchist and a seeker by various historians. 

In fact, Cromwell was simply an old-style "puritan". He believed that "godliness" could be found in all the religious radical roups; this is why he believed so passionately in some form of religious liberty. 

Also he believed that there should be a campaign to make England a "Godly" Nation through a "reformation of manners".

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Cromwell's role

What horrified many MPs most was his policy of promotion by merit rather than social status: in MPs' eyes, Cromwell was attacking the social hierarchy. 

By 1646: majority of officers in the NMA were gentry, but there were a growing number from humble backgrounds. 

On the one hand, he was a social and political conservative, who wanted a return to traditional forms of government, i.e. that the King should be at the centre of government. 

On the other hand, he wanted some form of religious liberty for the radical religious groups and to eventually create a "godly" nation, even if the vast majority of the population were unwilling. 

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What divisions had emerged in parliament by 1646?

The old "peace" and "war" parties had disappeared; after all, the war had been won. However, new divisions had emerged that were much more bitter. 

"Political Presbyterians" - Majority Group 

  • Wanted a speedy settlement with the King 
  • Wanted a national Presbyterian church settlement, no toleration 
  • Increasingly feared the growing radicalism in the Army 
  • Aimed to disband the Army ASAP and return to normality
  • Were willing to work with the Scots Covenanters to impose a Presbyterian religious settlement if necessary. 

"Political Independents" - Minority Group

  • Wanted strict conditions imposed on the King
  • Were prepared to accept a state Church, but there should be some liberty of worship outside of the national Chruch. 
  • Close links with the army, since only the army could guarantee their demands 
  • Distrust of the Scots Covenanters. 
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The Levellers and Political Radicalism

  • Originally based in London - John Lilburne, Richard Overton 
  • 1645-46: produced the pamphlets "England's birthright justified", "A remonstrance of many thousand citizens"
  • Existing forms of government should be swept away and replaced by a more democratic system with a much wider franchise. 
  • By 1647, The Levellers were calling their institution "The agreement of the people" - their own plan for a settlement
  • A belief that all men were born equal; constant references to "free-born Englishmen". 

It was not just a coincidence that most Levellers were also religious radicals 

It men were used to democracy in religion, then it was a small jump to become a political radical. 

By 1647: The growth of religious radicalism in the New Model Army now made it increasingly difficult to gain a quick settlement. But it was not inevitable that the army would mutiny against parliament and draw up their own plans for a settlement. 

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Why did the NMA emerge as a political force by mid

  • Much of the blame lies with the Political Presbyterian MPs, especially their main leader, Denzil Holles. 
  • They seem to have assumed that they could disband the New Model Army without pay arrears or an idemnity, "pack" the remnants with more reliable Presbyterian officers and send it to Ireland. 
  • Whilst this was certainly what the majority of the "political nation" wanted, it was an insult to the honour of the army. 

Early 1647: Several petitions were sent by the army to parliament. 

  • Vast majority of demands were material; pay arrears, a general indemnity, pensions for widows, demands to be given a choice whether to go to Ireland. 
  • Some mention "the liberty of the subject", but very low on the list of priorities, and very vague. 
  • The infantry were owed 18 weeks pay, calvary 43 weeks. Overall, the army were owed £3m in pay arrears. 
  • The army would have settled for less; about £200,000. - Could have easily been funded by parliament and army would have disbanded = settlement? 
  • Overall this did not seem like an army about to explode into revolutionary action!
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The reaction of the political presbyterians

March 1647: Parliament issued the "Declaration of Dislike" condemned all army petitions as treason, offered no pay arrears and ordered the New Model Army to disband at once. 

No idemnity was offered, and the Political Presbyterians now began attempts to raise a new army, led by "Presbyterian" officersm more supportive to parliament. 

Most historians agree that while there had been growing radicalism in the Army, the Political Presbyterians had overreacted to the moderate demands of the army - possibly due to hysterical pamphlets like "Gangraena". 

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The politicisation of NMA

April 1647: election of "Agitators" (spokesmen) in most regiments of the Army. 

May 1647: MPs now panicked; they voted to disband the army with 8 weeks pay arrears. 

By then it was too late; The army felt that its honour had been insulted, especially since many soliders already thought that they were an "army of saints". 

The attack by the Political Presbyterians on the honour of the army now rapidly turned it into a political force. 

May 1647: The Army issued the "Solemn Engagement": the Army refused to disband until its grievances were listened to. 

June 1647: Election of an Army General Council, composed of senior officers and agitators 

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The politicisation of NMA

June 1647: The "Declaration of the Army" set out its political demands: 

  • Called for regular parliaments, more representation of the peole, religious liberty for those of "tender consciences". 
  • Called for punishment of the Political Presbyterian leaders
  • Several references to "free-born englishmen" (leveller influence??)

June 1647: A small group of soldiers, seized the King at Holdenby house and brought him to Army headquarters at Newmarket. 

July 1647: Army occupied London, Political Presbyterian leaders fled

The army had now emerged as the dominant political force

This also now made a final settlement even more difficult

Was Charles' predictions that his enemies would fall out among themselves becoming true? 

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Cromwell's role

Cromwell was torn between his two instincts: 

  • A natural political "conservative"; as a member of the gentry, he had no wish to see any major changes to society, and was deeply concerned about radicalism in the Army going out of control 
  • His religious radicalism: his wish to see religious liberty established, and his belief that the army was an "instrument of God". 

While Cromwell was deeply sympathetic to the soldier's demands, he felt that unless he took control of events, radicalism would spiral out of control. This is why he agreed to the capture of the King, and why he left Parliament to be with the Army in this period. 

By this point, Thomas Fairfax was beginning to withdraw from events; he had always been a non-political soldier, and was increasingly unhappy at the army becoming politicised. 

Cromwell and his son-in-law Henry Ireton, now became seen as the mainspokesmen of the Army. 

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The "heads of the proposals" (June 1647)

These were drawn up by Ireton, already the best political thinker in the Army. 

  • Parliament would nominate the King's advisers for 10 years. 
  • Bishops would remain in the national Church, but would lose their power to force attendance at church, ie. Anglican Church would remain the state church but there would be freedom of worship. 
  • 7 royalists would be exempted from general pardon 
  • Biennial parliaments 
  • Some Leveller grievances would be redressed

Charles would remain at the heart of government, the Anglican Church would reamin - overall, a more lenient settlement than the Newcastle Propositions. 

They reveal Ireton and Cromwell's desire to return to traditional forms of government. 

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The "heads of the proposals" (June 1647)

Historians have often criticised Charles for not accepting the "heads of the proposals" 

He failed to realise that only the Army could enforce a settlement. 

He begun negotiations with the Army, but had no more intention of accepting their proposals than Parliament's. 

He was convinced that all his enemies were men of few principles. He was astonished that Ireton and Cromwell had made no personal demands, and was suspected that they wanted peerages. 

Therefore he began to play off each side against the other. 

It was Charles' betrayal of the Army in the late 1647/ early 1648 which would cost him his life. 

Charles continued to believe that he had more power than he actually had. 

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Splits in the army in late 1647

  • The influence of the Levellers 
  • "The case of the army truly stated"
  • "The agreement of the people"
  • The Putney debates 

The events within the army in late 1647 made a settlement even more unlikely 

July 1647: The New Model Army had occupied London 

October 1647: Many of the junior officers / ordinary soliders were becoming disillusioned with the lack of progress in coming to a final settlement. 

  • Junior officers - wanted a wide range of reforms
  • Rank and file - still wanted pay arrears, indemnity

By the late 1647, there was a growing suspicion among thes groups that Cromwell and Ireton were pursuing selfish motives, i.e. they were about to "sell out" the army. 

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splits in the army in late 1647

  • These feelings were now exploited by the Levellers, whose main power base was in London 
  • Levellers and Leveller propaganda now began to infiltrate the lower ranks of the army. 
  • October 1647: Election of new agitators in some army regiments; almost certainly mainly Levellers. 
  • Oct 1647: Levellers / Leveller agitators produced the "case of the army truly stated" 
  • An attack on the Army "Grandees" for not pushing for radical political reforms
  • "all free-born englishmen over 21 should vote"
  • "all power is orginally....in the whole body of the people" (calling for a democracy) 
  • Fairfax was already unhappy at growing radicalism in the Army, and had aleady begun to withdraw from political events. This meant that Cromwell and Ireton were left to deal with the splits in the army. 
  • Cromwell and Ireton were increasingly concerned about the demands of some agitators and their Leveller allies. Both men were members of the gentry, with no wish to see society upturned
  • However, attempting to crush Leveller influence in the Army might provoke a mutiny against the senior officers. Also, both men realised that splits in the Army played into the hands of their enemies
  • It convinced Charles even more that his enemies were falling apart. 
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"The agreement of the people" October 1647

This was the Levellers "blueprint" for a future settlement 

  • All men born equal, government based on people's consent
  • Biennial parliaments, wide-ranging extention of franchise
  • Complete freedom of worship 
  • No mention of role of King or House of Lords; therefore implicitly arguing for a democratic republic 

Levellers now began a campaign in the army to have the "agreement" accepted as the plan for a future settlement. 

Cromwell and Ireton had little choice but to hold meeting of "Grandees" and agitators to debate whether to accept it or not. Obviously, an increasing fear of army mutiny. 

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The Putney Debates (Oct-Nov 1647)

  • Held in Putney Church, with General Council of senior offices (grandees) and agitators present. 
  • Cromwell was desperate to maintain army unity. 
  • Cromwell had no intention of accepting the "agreement", but his comments in the Putney Debates tend to be diplomatic, emphasising that both sides could find common ground. 
  • In fact, Cromwell spoke little; Ireton was left on his own to defend the grandees against the agitators. 
  • Most of the debates revolve around arguements between Ireton and the agitators on the franchise; Ireton argued that it must be based on ownership of property.
  • Some Levellers pushed for full adult male franchise; with others arguing that men recieving charity or servants living witht their masters should be excluded. 
  • This reveals a key weakness of Levellers: They were unable to agree on a common programme

The opposing views of grandees and agitators could not be reconciled. 

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The Putney Debates (Oct-Nov 1647)

The Putney Debates were brought to an end by two factors: 

  • Cromwell's realisation that little more was gained by the debates
  • 11 November 1647: Charles escaped from army control 

The levellers now demanded a general "rendezvous" of the entire army to vote on whether to accept the "agreement"

Cromwell allowed a rendezvous, but at three seperate venues for different regiments, ensuring that unreliable regiments were split up. 

15 November 1647: Mutiny? 

  • At the rendezvous at Ware, some soliders turned up wearing copies of the "agreement" in their hatbands, shouting slogans
  • Cromwell had the ringleaders arrested, and one as executed by firing squad. 
  • This reveals the limits of Leveller influence in the army. The soliders' professionalism and obedience to army authority came first.
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The second civil war (1648)

  • November 1647: Charles escaped from Army custody and went to the Isle of Wight. 
  • 24 December 1647: Political Presbyterian MPs presented Charles with the four bills - similar to the Newcastle Propositions - Immediately rejected by Charles. 
  • 26 December 1647: Charles signed the "Enagagement" with the Scots Covenanters. 
  • Introduce Presybterianism as the English national church for 3 years
  • After 3 years, a general debate on a future national church
  • Charles provided with an army of 20,000 
  • No religious liberty
  • Scots' support was generally half-hearted; many realised that Charles' promises were worthless. It would now be difficult for Charles to appeal to his English supporters as a defender of the Anglican Church. 
  • 3 January 1648: Parliament pass "vote of no addresses"; all negotiations with the King were to be broken off. 
  • Charles had temporarily reunited Parliament and the army against him. 
  • The majority of MPs were horrified by the King's actions; they also knew that Charles was planning a series of royalist risings. But Charles was probably also aware that even if he was defeated, MPs would have to restart negotiations; after all most MPs could not see any settlement in which the King was not at the centre. 
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Why was there no negotiated settlement in 1646-47?

The terms offered to Charles were unacceptable to him: 

  • He was not prepared to give up any more prerogative rights
  • He felt that he had made enough concessions in 1641, he was "haunted by the ghost of Strafford", he didn't want to betray his friends and followers. 
  • He had already decided on martyrdom (already decided to die). 

Charles was aware that there was growing resentment throughout the nation at "parliamentary tyranny":

  • Hatred of monthly assessment / excise taxes 
  • Hatred of County Committees 
  • Hatred of the army 

There was very little agreement among the victors of 1646 about peace terms:

  • A fully presbyterian church would have pleased most MPs as well as the Scots Covenanters, but not the Political Independent MPs or the Army. 
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Events of the second civil war (1648)

Charles had now signed the "engagement" with the Scots Covenanters:

  • Charles refused to take the covenant personally
  • Charles seemed to have the better of the bargain - now gets an army
  • Only 3 years of Presbyterian before a "free debate"
  • Independents, anabaptists would be suppressed 

Charles now seemed to be cut off from political and military realities! 

  • He could only see the divisions in his enemies 
  • Many Covenanters were unhappy that he had refused to sign the Covenant, so Scots army not enthusiastic
  • New Model Army discipline had now been reasserted 
  • Most of the "political nation" wanted a settlement; they did not necessarily support the King's actions
  • Many of the royalist risings in 1648 were anti-parliament and anti-army rather than royalist
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events of the second civil war (1648)

May-June 1648: revolts in Wales, Kent, Essex and Dorset against the Army; easily crushed

July 1648: Scots army invaded N.England

August 1648: Battle of Preston - despite being heavily outnumbered (2:1), the New Model Army, led by Cromwell and Lambert, crushed a Scots Covenanter army. 

This now ended the Second Civil War

August 1648: Vote of No Addresses was overturned in Parliament - MPs were aware that fear and hatred of the NMA, high taxation, County Committees and religious radicalism were far more important that distrust of the King. 

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events of the second civil war (1648)

Sept 1648: Parliament began negotiating with the King at Newport (I of W). Usually called the Newport Treaty or Newport Negotiations. 

  • Evidence suggests that they might have been edging towards agreement 
  • Negotiations were along the lines of the Newcastle Propositions
  • But Charles refused to abandon the Prayer Book for a "directory of worship" - Presbyterian version of prayer book. 
  • Charles also made comments about not being bound to a "mock treaty"; was he planning to decieve them again? 
  • There is no doubt that Holles and the Political Presbyterian MPs represented the wishes of the gentry; they were desperate for peace. 
  • Many prominent Political Independent MPs were now prepared to deal with the king; they were becoming concerned about rumours od wild radicalism in the Army. 
  • Therefore, superficially, the prospects of a settlement looked closer than ever. 

But: For Cromwell and Ireton, this was now the moment of truth. Until this point, they had been committed to a monarchial settlement. Now, attitudes changed.

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The English Revolution 1648-49

  • Army leaders now began to support some of the views of ordinary soldiers and more importantly, Leveller ideas. 
  • Republicanism now became a serious political solution 
  • Cromwell: "Thou shalt not suffer a hypocrite to reign"
  • 1 May 1648: "Godly Prayer Meeting" of Army at Windsor, just before marching north to deal with Scots.
  • Charles referred to as "Charles Stuart, that man of blood" (No longer refering to him as King but just as an ordinary man)
  • A promise made to "bring him to account for his crimes"
  • At first, Cromwell didn't play a big part in this since he was involved in the fighting of the second Civil War. 
  • Fairfax was unwilling to become more politically involved 

Second Civil War was particularly unpleasant; many accounts of "war crimes", executions without trial etc. 

The main instigator of events over the next few months would be Ireton. 

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1648-49: The Regicide and English Revolution


  • 26 Dec 1647: Charles I concludes the Engagement with the Scots 


  • 3 Jan: The Vote of No Addresses is passed in Parliament 
  • March-July: Various risings, directed mostly at Parliamentary and Army "tyranny", occur. 
  • 29 April: The "Godly Prayer Meeting" of the Army at Windsor 
  • 17-19 Aug: Scots army destroyed at the Battle of Preston 
  • 24 Aug: Parliament repeals the Vote of No Addresses 
  • 18 September-27 Nov: The Newport Negotiations (Newport treaty) concluded between parliament and the King. 
  • 20 Nov: The "remonstrance of the army" is presented to parliament; it demands that the King be brought to justice. 
  • 5 December: The Commons vote by 129 to 83 to conclude negotiations with the King, i.e the Army's remonstrance is rejected.
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1648-49: The Regicide and English Revolution


  • 6 Dec: Pride's purge takes place; Colonel Thomas Pride, with 1000 NMA soldiers, surrounds the Parliament buildings. Of the 507 MPs, 45 were arrested, 186 were "secluded", 86 withdrew in protest and approx 80 heard rumours of what was happening and stayed away. A "RUMP" of only 71 MPs would now be left to bring the king to justice. 
  • 14 Dec - 15 Jan: The Army Grandees agree to a fresh debate on a new draft of "The agreement of the people" (Leveller Plan) (The Whitehall debates). 


  • 6 Jan: The Rump Parliament establishes a high court of justice to try the King for high treason against the people of England 
  • 30 Jan: Charles is executed
  • March: The act abolishing monarchy and the House of Lords is passed
  • May: Rump Parliament declared England to be a commonwealth. A Leveller rising at Burford is put down. 
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What was the attitude of most MPs by late 1648?

  • The "conservative" case for a compromise was strengthened. Although the rebellions were ineffective, they revealed popular hatred of parliament's attempts to reform religion, the local gentry's resentment against parliament's increasing demands in taxation, interference in local government, etc. 
  • This is why the Political Presbyterians in parliament took the lead in restarting negotiations with the King, even though Charles had said privately that he would not feel bound by any "mock" treaty. 
  • This also explains why the Vote of No Addresses was repealed and why the NMA's "remonstrance" was rejected. 
  • Even some Political Independent MPs agreed to restart negotiations; many were now concerned rumours of wild radicalism in the NMA about bringing the King to justice. 
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The army and "providence" by late 1648

  • It was at this point that the politicisation of the NMA reached its logical conclusion. 
  • Charles' negotiations with the Scots, his secret Enagagement, his willingness to see a new war and a foreign invasion inflicted on his English subjects were, in the eyes of the NMA, final proof that he could not be trusted. 
  • Therefore, it was pointless to negotiate, since Charles could not be relied on to maintain any agreement. 
  • More importantly, they claimed that he had also forfeited his right to be regarded as God's anointed; by rejecting God's verdict in the first Civil War, he had rejected God himself, destroyed his own divine status, and should be brought to justice for his crimes like any ordinary man. 
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The army and "providence" by late 1648

There was a widespread belief in divine providence, especially among religious radicals. This was the belief that God directed human behaviour, deeds and actions according to his will and intention. 

  • At the Windsor "Godly prayer meeting", Charles was declared a "man of blood" to be held account for his crimes. The NMA obviously felt that they had revealed the Will of God. 
  • In particular, Cromwell was guided by the belief in providence all his life; before any momentous decision, he would be paralysed by inactivity, until a sign of some kind showed him the way God wanted him to go. This is especially true of the decision to put the King on trial. Charles was in conflict with the will of God and it was the duty of his servants to bring Charles to justice. 
  • Cromwell was not in London during Prides' purge. Almost certainly deliberate as he agonised over what to do with Charles in the days immediately after the Purge. Cromwell probably spoke personally to Charles - possibly to persuade him to abdicate in favour of his second son (James Duke of York) or third son (Henry Duke of Gloucester). However, Charles refused to listen to any proposals. 
  • This was the sign that Cromwell was waiting for. Since Charles continued to fight God's will, he deserved to die. Cromwell: "we will cut his head off with the crown on it"
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The NMA's "remonstrance" (November 1648)

  • This was drawn up by Ireton, who played the leading part in bringing King to trial. 
  • However, even Ireton was unsure about exactly what to do with the King if he was put on trial. There was no mention of the abolition of the monarchy 
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Pride's purge (6 December 1648)

  • With the rejection of the Army's remonstance and the restart of Parliament's negotiations with the King at newport, the Army acted. 
  • After the purge, only 71 MPs were left to carry out the will of the Army. This works out at only 15% of the House of Commons. Most of these had strong, usually radical, religious views. 
  • Even at this point, it was unclear what would happen next; although Cromwell arrived in London on 7 December and gave his support for the Purge, he still tried to persuade the King to make concessions. 
  • With the King's refusal, Cromwell interpreted this as a Providential sign he had been waiting for, and now pushed for a public trial with all speed. Charles must now be found guilty and executed in public. Imprisonment would leave him free to plot. 
  • However, even as late as the end of December, the Rump MPs and the Army officers were still unsure about what to do next after Charles was dead. 
  • It was two months after the King's execution that the step was finally taken to abolish the monarchy and establish the republican Commonwealth. 
  • It seems that the main reason for the abolition of the monarchy was the lack of a suitable replacement for Charles; there was simply no safe candidate for the throne. Even Cromwell was still discussing a possible restoration of the monarchy as late as 1652.
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The trial

  • On 1 January, The Rump established a High Court of Justice to try the King. The House of Lords objected, but the Rump simply declared itself able to pass laws without them.
  • To hear the case, 135 commissioners were appointed; only 68 turned up. 
  • The Court President, Bradshaw, wore a bullet-proof hat throughout the hearing. 
  • After a week, with Charles refusing to recognise the court, he was sentenced to death for "divers high crimes and treason". 
  • Only 59 commissioners signed the death warrant; possibly, some were forced to sign by Cromwell and Ireton. 
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The "English Revolution"

  • Unlike most other revolutions, there was no hint of any mass popular enthusiasm for the English Revolution of 1648-49. 
  • There was no popular rejoicing on 30 January 1649; in fact Charles I was more popular at the moment of his death than at any other time in the 1640s. 
  • Also, the day before Pride's Purge, a majority of MPs voted that negotiations with the King should continue. 
  • One of the key features of the English Revolution is that it was carried out by a minority, whos deicion to become regicides was taken at a very late stage. 
  • Cromwell and Ireton had both been fully committed to a monarchial settlement only a year before, but by late 1648, felt that there was no alternative but to execute the King and abolish the monarchy. 
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Why was the King executed?

Obviously much of the blame lies with Charles himself. Also, the emergence of radicals, especially in the Army, was a major factor. 


  • This was the distrust of the King, and the lack of any alternative settlement. 
  • Charles would never agree to any kind of settlement. Charles' recent alliance with the Scots and his use of a Scots army against his English subjects was vital in persuading some that, on purely practical grounds alone, an agreement with Charles was now impossible and that they must look for an alternative type of settlement. 


  • To the Army, victory in the Civil War had been decided by God's judgement. 
  • By restarting the war, Charles had mocked God's judgement. Therefore Charles was a "man of blood". 
  • Therefore it was religious zeal that led to Charles being executed. This is what drove men like Cromwell, a social and political conservative, to become a revolutionary. 
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Radical groups in the late 1640s

During the late 1640s and early 1650s there was an explosion of new radical groups, demanding revolutionary changes. Men of property had a horror of events ending in a "world turned upside down". Might not an attack on the established political / religious order and hierarchy lead to the overturning of the existing social order. 

Traditionally, historians used to agree that the ideas of the radical groups represented a powerful challenge to the old social and political order. However, this view is no longer accepted. In fact, it is now agreed that the ideas of the radicals had a negative impact on the English Revolution. If anything, the radical groups were more important for the fear that they generated among the Political Nation. This ensured that the republican governments of the 1650s would mainly be of a "conservative" nature. 

They convinced the Political Nation that there would be a revolution and that a settlement had to be drawn up. 

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The Levellers

This was the most important group to appear during the English Revolution. From 1645 onwards, John Lilburne, John Wildman, William Walwyn and Richard Overton began to publish a stream of pamphlets. 

In the summer and autumn of 1647, the Levellers collaborated with militant army agitators in producing "The case of the army truly stated" and the first "agreement of the people". 

They played a major part in the Putney debates and Cromwell and Ireton had to act very carefully in this period, because there was a fear that ignoring the Levellers might lead to an army mutiny. 

However, Cromwell seems to have been aware that ordinary soliders support for the Levellers tended to increase or decrease depending on whether they got paid or not. 

Cromwell seems to have been aware that it was fear of the Levellers that was dangerous, since their ideas made the ordinary gentry so paranoid about social revolution that they were more likely to demand that Parliament 

When an army mutiny finally happened at Ware in November 1647, it was easily crushed; a sure sign that the Levellers' impact was rather exaggerated in reality. 

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The Levellers

14 Dec 1648-13 Jan 1649: The Whitehall Debates - Another series of discussions took place between Levellers / army radicals and "Grandees", known as the Whitehall debates. 

  • Ireton and Cromwell probably allowed these debates to take place because they wanted to ensure army unity as the trial of the King was about to take place. 
  • The Levellers probably hoped that the Rump Parliament would accept the new "agreemebt of the people", dissolve itself and new, more democratic elections held. 
  • When it was obvious that the Rump would not carry out major reforms, the Levellers felt betrayed. The Levellers' anger was mainly directed against Cromwell, and more pamphlets were issued. 
  • Feb 1469: "England's New Chains Discovered" and "The Hunting of the Foxes" were produced by the Levellers. Lilburne and Overton were arrested and send to the Tower, but still managed to issue a third "agreement of the people". 
  • April / May 1649: Increasing discontent in the Army, mainly over arrears of pay again. Leveller-inspired mutinies in the army took place, the most serious at Burford, but all were easily crushed
  • After this, little was heard from the Levellers again. The rump parliament ensured that the army receieved regular pay, which reduced the threat of unrest in the Army.
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What was the "Leveller Cause"?

There was never a programme on which all Levellers agreed, but the most common arguments are: 

  • The existing political establishment should be swept away and a new one, "agreed by the people", should replace it. 
  • The new constitution should be based on the belief that all men were equal and that government was based on the consent of the people. 
  • The House of Commons should be the supreme legislature and it should always represent the will of the people. There should be frequent elections, a redistribution of seats and a wider franchise. 
  • Complete religious toleration 
  • There should be complete reform of the legal and judicial system 

This was the most comprehensive and radical programme to appear during the English Revolution. 

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The Diggers ("True Levellers")

These were the followers of Gerald Winstanley, who attempted to set up communities that cultivated the land in common, i.e. No private ownership of land. 

The first Digger commune was set up in April 1649 at St George's Hill near Walton in Surrey. 

In August 1649, they were chased out by hostile property owners. They moved to Cobham in Surrey, but were chased out again by 1650. 

Other Digger communities in Iver, the Midlands and S.E. England were quickly destroyed by local opposition. 

Horrified the political nation. 

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The Fifth Monarchists

This group were the most powerful of the Milenarian groups, and in the early years of the Republic, posed a real threat to the state. 

  • The Fifth Monarchists were inspired by the Book of Daniel in the Old Testament. 
  • They believed that there would be four great earthly monarchies, with the fourth monarchy being the reign on the antichrist, after which "king Jesus", The Fifth Monarch, would return and bring about the end of the world. 
  • The Fifth Monarchists were influential in the Army, and the leading figure was Colonel Thomas Harrison. 
  • Harrison was one of the most vocal senior officers in demanding the death of the King and the establishment of a "Godly" nation, to make way for the return of "King Jesus". 
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How much effect did radical groups have?

The levellers: 

  • Apart from a brief period in summer / autumn 1647, the Levellers' influence on the NMA was slight. Many soldiers who supported the Levellers were more concerned about recieving their back pay. When soldiers were paid, Leveller influence died down. 
  • The Levellers themselves rarely agreed on social / economic reforms. The great mass of the people probably gave little support to the Levellers. 

The Diggers: 

  • A small, insignificant minority of people. 

The Fifth Monarchists: 

  • This group certainly influenced the Army's demand to try the King and execute him; they would have even greater influence in 1653. 
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Cromwell's opinion of the radical groups

  • Cromwell genuinely desired a wide measure of religious toleration, and generally wished to see toleration for all Protestants who did not disturb the public peace. 
  • Cromwell also rightly guessed that the fear of Levellers was greatly exaggerated. 
  • Cromwell was also a member of the gentry, and therefore a social and political "conservative", who wished to preserve the hierarchy of society. 
  • This is probably why Cromwell was keen to persecute the Levellers; The fear they created among the gentry made his aim of achieving religious liberty even more difficult, since the gentry would view all religious radicals as dangerous revolutionaries. 
  • This is also why throughout this period, Cromwell was in a dilemma. He wanted religious liberty and some reform, but the "political nation" exaggerated the threat of radicals and viewed any form of toleration as leading to chaos and anarchy. 

It was the fear of these radical goroups that was important. None of them achieved more than temporary, local popularity. 

The most important group were the Levellers, but in many ways their influence was negative; fear of Levellers probably encouraged the growth of "Conservativism" throughout this period. This meant that the English Political Nation became even more desperate for a return to traditional forms of government.

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