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Battle of Edgehill


The initial steps towards the end of the English monarchy took place on the 23rd of October, 1642. Edgehill saw The Parliamentarians and The Royalists come into armed conflict for the first time.


The Royalists (The Cavaliers)

Charles I believed firmly in the "Divine Right of Kings" - power he held was over and above any group of individuals, including Parliament. He ignored their wishes, their advice, neglected to summon them on a regular basis, and operated by absolute rule.

Especially disliked by Charles was the fact that Parliament had a say in determining the King of England's funding. Thus, Charles was held to account for everything, from favourites to household spending. If Parliament didn't like what it saw, the funds could be withheld.

A compromise could not be found. When the attempted arrest of five members of Parliament by Charles failed, the prospect of armed conflict became inevitable.

Charles left London and, upon raising his banner in Nottingham, the way was paved for The Civil War. Unlike Parliament - which could call upon military stores and raise funds by implementing duty upon goods - Charles was forced to depend solely on his followers for funding and resources. The faithful mortgaged their estates and pawned their jewels. These gentlemen, having been trained in battle tactics all their lives, were known as "The Royalists".

Charles' supporters were also called "Cavaliers". This term meant 'armed horsemen'.


Fiercely protective of its power, Parliament greatly resented the high-handedness of Charles I. The hopes for a peaceful settlement came to naught when Charles refused to allow Parliament to nominate his ministers and military officers.

Farmers and tradesmen made up the army for Parliament. Although money was available, and military weaponry was at hand, the troops were raw and untrained.

The name 'Roundhead' was given to the Parliamentarians by the Royalists. The forces of Parliament had short-hair, as opposed to the long wigs worn by their opponents.


The Battle of Edgehill

Determined to return to his capital city, Charles led his 14, 000 troops into Southern Warwickshire. Following alongside Charles' route was the Earl of Essex, the commander of the 15, 000 Parliamentarians.

Being convinced by his nephew, Prince Rupert, that having The Parliamentarians on his flank was dangerous, Charles deployed his troops at Edgehill.

The Earl opened fire first, a skirmish that lasted for an hour. Proper battle, however, was begun by Prince Rupert who lead a cavalry charge into Essex' troops. Greatly augmenting Rupert's forces was the planned defection of a group of Parliamentarians to the Royalists cavalry. This allowed the prince to cut a swath through his enemy's army, with some Parliamentarians fleeing from the expected rout.

While Rupert chased the Parliamentarians, Essex was able to bring in his reserves. With the Royalist Infantry in disarray, and being unsupported by their cavalry, there was the opportunity for Essex to inflict damage. Howver, time was not with Essex. The Royalists were able to quickly regroup and form a defensive line. By the time this was accomplished, their cavalry began to return. With darkness beginning to fall, Essex decided to disengage.

The Royalists lost about 500 men, while The Parliamentarians saw their forces depleted by about 1000. Of those 1000, many were from the planned defection.

The Battle of Edgehill was over, although neither could claim a clear victory.

For Charles, the road was open to re-enter London. Unfortunately, caution took over. By the time his troops reached the far outskirts of the capital, Essex had already reached the city and had a fresh army.

Article by "Tudor Rose"

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