Background Causes of the English Civil War
1625 (13th June)
King Charles I
married Henrietta Maria
, the daughter of Henry IV of France, at St Augustine’s Church, Canterbury, Kent. The marriage was not popular because she was a Catholic. It was agreed that Henrietta Maria could remain a Catholic but the children of the marriage would be raised as Protestants.
Parliament was unhappy with the behaviour of Charles’ chief minister, George Villiers, 1st Duke of Buckingham. Buckingham had led a failed mission to Cadiz and it now appeared that he was planning to help the French put down a Protestant Huguenot uprising. Parliament therefore moved to have Buckingham dismissed from office.
King Charles angered Parliament when he nominated Buckingham as Chancellor of Cambridge University.
Charles arrested Dudley Digges and Sir John Eliot and had them imprisoned for speaking against Buckingham. Parliament was very angry at this action by the king stating that there was freedom of speech in the House of Commons.
1626 (12th June)
Parliament protested to Charles about the behaviour of Buckingham calling for him to be removed from office. Charles refused to comply and resented Parliament’s interference with his choices. Rather than dismiss Buckingham Charles chose to dismiss parliament.
Charles sent a force led by Buckingham to aid the Protestant Huguenots who were being persecuted by the French King. Buckingham failed in his mission which made him even more unpopular.
Charles imposed a forced loan to raise money for the war in France.
Five Knights Case aka Darnell’s Case
Five knights, Thomas Darnell, John Corbet, Walter Earle, John Heveningham and Edmund Hampden challenged the King’s right to impose taxation independently of parliament. The court found in the King’s favour.
1628 (13th March)
Charles needed money to finance the war with France and Spain and reluctantly recalled Parliament.
1628 (14th April)
Charles re-issued the Thirty Nine Articles into the Church of England. This was seen as a move towards Rome and evidence of the King’s Catholic leanings.
1628 (7th June)
Petition of Right
Parliament formed a committee of grievances and prepared a Petition of Right which was presented to the King. The Petition was designed to protect subjects from any further taxation unauthorised by Parliament. Charles reluctantly signed the document.
1628 (late June)
Charles dismissed parliament and declared that he had the right to collect taxation without parliament’s assent.
1628 (23rd August)
George Villiers, 1st Duke of Buckingham, was stabbed to death by naval lieutenant John Felton. King Charles was very upset at the murder of his friend.
Charles re-opened parliament. He again, asserted his right to impose taxation independently of parliament.
1629 (2nd March)
There were outbursts in Parliament when the Petition of Right was debated and the doors were locked to keep royal guards out. The Speaker, who wanted to adjourn the proceedings, was held in his chair. Parliament passed three resolutions:
1.That they would condemn any move to change religion.
2. That they would condemn any taxation levied without Parliament’s authority.
3. That any merchant who paid ‘illegal’ taxes betrayed the liberty of England. Charles dismissed Parliament.
Charles arrested nine members of the House of Commons for offences against the state and three were imprisoned. This action by the King made him more unpopular. The King, defended his action by stating his belief in his own divine right saying that ‘Princes are not bound to give account of their actions, but to God alone.’ He then dissolved parliament.
1629 (after March)
Without parliament, Charles could not finance war with France or Spain and so made peace with both countries.
Charles appointed William Laud as Archbishop of Canterbury
. Laud was known to have Catholic leanings and Charles hoped that his appointment would help to stop the rise of the Puritans.
1633 (18th June)
Charles was crowned King of Scotland at Holyrood Abbey, Edinburgh. He upset many Scottish lords by insisting that his coronation follow Anglican tradition.
This was a tax traditionally paid by coastal towns in times of war to pay for the defence of the coast. In a bid to raise more money, Charles now imposed this tax on the whole country.
Charles ordered that the Book of Common Prayer be used in all Scottish churches. It was widely resisted by the Scottish clergy and people.
1637 (23rd July)
There were riots in Edinburgh against the use of the Book of Common Prayer.
In Scotland a National Covenant was formed which protested against any religious interference in Scotland by England. Those Bishops that had been installed in Scotland by Charles’ father, James I
John Hampden, challenged the King’s right to impose Ship Money but he lost the case and the court ruled that the King was the only authority that could impose such a tax.
1639 (26th January)
Charles I announced that he intended to raise an army against the Scots to enforce his aims on Scotland
First Bishop’s War
War broke out between Scotland and England over Charles’ move to impose his aims on Scotland.
First Bishop’s War
Thomas Wentworth led an army against the Scots but was defeated on the border.
First Bishop’s War
Charles made another attempt to land forces in Scotland but was unsuccessful. Wentworth told Charles that he needed money to raise a more efficient army and that he should recall Parliament.
1639 (5th June)
First Bishop’s War
English troops were forced to withdraw from Scotland.
1639 (11th June)
Pacification of Berwick
Without the means to beat the Scots, Charles was forced to agree a temporary truce with Scotland.
Charles recalled Thomas Wentworth from Ireland to advise him on how to proceed. Wentworth along with Archbishop Laud became Charles’s main advisers and supporters.
was elected Member of Parliament for Cambridge. He openly criticised Charles’ taxes and the level of corruption in the Church of England.
1640 (13th April)
Charles had summoned parliament in a bid to raise money to renew the war with Scotland. When the new parliament sat for the first time its members determined to force Charles to settle their grievances with his rule. In a bid to appease parliament, Charles agreed to abandon ‘ship money’ but parliament did not feel this went far enough.
1640 (5th May)
Charles dismissed parliament because they would not agree to his terms.
Charles was facing bankruptcy. He tried to raise a loan but was turned down by foreign countries and the City of London.
Charles seized a quantity of silver bullion from the mint in the Tower of London. He stated that he had taken it as a loan and would repay with interest.
1640 (3rd August)
Second Bishop’s War
The Scots, seeing how the short parliament had resisted Charles, prepared to invade England.
1640 (28th August)
Battle of Newburn
A Scottish force invaded England, defeated the English force and captured Northumberland and Durham.
Thomas Wentworth, now Earl of Strafford, set out for the Scottish border with a makeshift army. However, the army mutinied and the Scots seized English land. The Scots demanded a daily rate be paid until a satisfactory treaty was put in place.
1640 (26th October)
Treaty of Ripon
This treaty between Scotland and England allowed the Scots to stay in Durham and Northumberland until a final settlement was concluded.
1640 (3rd November)
Charles had no choice but to recall Parliament because he needed money to pay for an efficient army to defeat the Scots. However, once again, Parliament refused to grant him any money unless he agreed to their demands which included the provision that parliament should meet once every five years and the arrest of Strafford for treason. Charles had no choice but to comply.
1640 (11th November)
Thomas Wentworth, Earl of Strafford was impeached by Parliament.
1640 (7th December)
Parliament declared that ‘ship money’ was an illegal tax and should be abolished.
1640 (18th December)
Archbishop Laud was impeached by Parliament.
1641 (16th February)
This act allowed Parliament to be summoned without royal command at least once every three years.
1641 (22nd March)
Thomas Wentworth, Earl of Strafford, was tried for treason but the case collapsed.
1641 (20th April)
Determined to see Strafford executed, parliament passed a bill of attainder against Strafford which sentenced him to death.
1641 (12th May)
Thomas Wentworth, Earl of Strafford, was executed on Tower Hill.
1641 (5th July)
Parliament was very critical of the King’s handling of matters in both Ireland and Scotland and passed propositions that Parliament and not the King should be responsible for the country’s defence. Parliament also abolished the Court of Star Chamber, the Council of Wales, the Council of the North and the Court of High Commission.
1641 (22nd October)
A Catholic rebellion broke out in Ulster and quickly spread across the country. Many Protestant settlers were driven from their homes and the rebellion became war.
1641 (1st December)
This document, put together by Pym, listed all Parliament’s grievances against the King since his reign began.
1642 (4th January)
Charles instructed his attorney-general to issue a charge of treason against one peer and five members of the Commons including Pym and Hampden. When Parliament refused to recognise the charge, Charles sent a troop of horsemen to make the arrests. However, Parliament had been warned and the five men had fled. This move by Charles was extremely unpopular and across the country people declared themselves for Parliament and against Popery.
1642 (10th January)
Charles removed himself and his family from Whitehall to Hampton Court.
1642 (12th February)
Charles refused to pass control of the military to Parliament.
1642 (13th February)
Charles sent his wife Henrietta Maria and their younger children to the Continent for safety and to enlist Catholic support for his cause against Parliament. She was also to pawn the crown jewels to buy arms. Although both sides were now preparing for war, negotiations continued.
1642 (5th March)
This gave parliament control of the Militia, the only armed body in the country.
1642 (23rd April)
Charles tried to secure an arsenal of equipment left in Hull from his Scottish campaign. He was blocked by Sir John Hotham, who had parliamentary and naval support, and was forced to retire to York. Charles made his headquarters in York.
1642 (1st June)
The Nineteen Propositions were issued by Parliament in the hopes of reaching a settlement with the King. They called for a new constitution recognising their own supremacy; demanded that ministers and judges should be appointed by Parliament not by the King and also that all Church and military matters should come under the control of Parliament.
1642 (18th June)
Charles rejected the Nineteen Propositions.
1642 (2nd July)
The navy declared itself for Parliament and the Earl of Warwick was appointed Admiral of the Fleet.
1642 (12th July)
Parliament voted to raise an army. The Earl of Essex was voted as Captain-General
1642 (21st August)
Charles’s nephews, Princes Rupert and Maurice of the Rhine joined his army.
English Civil War Began
1642 (22nd August)
Charles raised his standard at Nottingham formally declaring war. However, both sides hoped that either war could be averted or that one decisive battle would put an end to the matter.
1642 (7th September)
The vital port and fortress of Portsmouth surrendered to Parliament after being captured by Sir William Waller.
1642 (23rd September)
Battle of Powick Bridge, Worcestershire
This skirmish between Royalist and Parliamentarian forces was the first clash of arms. The Royalist force, led by Prince Rupert were victorious.
1642 (23rd October)
Battle of Edgehill, Warwickshire
In the early afternoon, Charles sent his army down the hill to meet the Parliamentary army commanded by Essex. On the royalist right was Prince Rupert who broke Essex’s left flank. In the centre, reinforcements arrived and they managed to push forward putting the lives of the King’s sons, Charles and James, in danger. The battle was a stalemate with neither side able to advance.
1642 (12th November)
The Royalists led by Prince Rupert managed to surprise and capture Brentford.
1642 (13th November)
The Parliamentarians, led by Essex, blocked Prince Rupert’s route to London at Turnham Green. The Royalist commander decided to retire rather than fight.
1642 (29th November)
Charles moved his base to Oxford.
1643 (19th January)
Battle of Braddock Down, Cornwall
The Royalists led by Ralph Hopton were victorious over the Parliamentarians led by Ruthvin. The victory secured much of Cornwall for the Royalists.
1643 (1st February)
Negotiations to find a peace settlement began at Oxford but they proved unsuccessful.
1643 (19th March)
Battle of Hopton Heath, Staffordshire
The Royalists commanded by the Earl of Northampton were defeated by the Parliamentarians led by Sir John Gell and Sir William Brereton.
1643 (30th March)
Battle of Seacroft Moor, West Yorkshire
The Parliamentarians led by Sir Thomas Fairfax were defeated by a Royalist force led by George Goring.
1643 (14th April)
Siege of Reading, Berkshire
A Parliamentary force led by the Earl of Essex placed the Royalist town of Reading under siege. The town held for 11 days before surrendering.
1643 (16th May)
Battle of Stratton, Cornwall
The Royalists led by Ralph Hopton attacked and defeated a Parliamentarian force led by the Earl of Stamford. The Royalist victory secured Cornwall for the King.
1643 (18th June)
Battle of Chalgrove Field, Oxfordshire
This was a small battle between the Parliamentarians led by Essex and the Royalists led by Prince Rupert. The Royalists were victorious.
1643 (30th June)
Battle of Adwalton Moor, West Yorkshire
The Royalist commander, William Cavendish, decided to try and enclose the Parliamentarian army led by Fairfax in Bradford. Fairfax, decided to fight but was beaten by the Royalists.
1643 (1st July)
This was a body appointed by Parliament to discuss reforming the Anglican Church.
1643 (5th July)
Battle of Lansdown Hill
The Parliamentarians led by William Waller positioned themselves on Lansdown Hill. They attacked the Royalists led by Ralph Hopton. Despite repeated cavalry attacks the Royalists held their position and the Parliamentarians were forced to retire.
1643 (13th July)
Battle of Roundaway Down, Wiltshire
The Royalists led by Lord Wilmot charged the Parliamentary cavalry forcing them to flee. Wilmot then turned his attention to the Parliamentary infantry who stood firm until a force led by Hopton attacked them from behind. Caught between two Royalist armies the majority of Parliamentarian soldiers simply fled from the battlefield giving the Royalists victory.
1643 (26th July)
Prince Rupert took Bristol for the Royalists.
1643 (10th August)
The Royalists lay siege to Gloucester and dug a tunnel but had to abandon it due to heavy rain.
1643 (2nd September)
Siege of Hull
Royalist forces led by the Earl of Newcastle lay siege to Hull.
1643 (4th September)
Prince Maurice took Exeter for the Royalists.
1643 (5th September)
A Parliamentarian force led by the Earl of Essex broke the siege of Gloucester.
1643 (15th September)
Siege of Plymouth
Royalist forces imposed a land blockade around Plymouth. However, the port was able to receive supplies by sea.
1643 (20th September)
First Battle of Newbury, Berkshire
The Parliamentarians led by Essex were marching to Newbury, a town sympathetic to the Parliamentarians, to rest. Unfortunately, Prince Rupert had already reached Newbury and so Essex was forced to fight. He moved the Parliamentarians before daybreak and secured the ‘Round Hill’, just south of Newbury. The surrounding countryside was criss-crossed with lanes and hedgerows which offered excellent cover for the foot soldiers but was quite unsuitable for horse. The battle was won by the Parliamentarians.
1643 (25th September)
Solemn League and Covenant
This document swore to preserve the Church of Scotland and to reform the religion of England and Ireland ‘according to the word of God and the example of the best reformed churches’ and to protect ‘the rights and liberties of parliaments’.
1643 (early October)
Dartmouth fell to the Royalists commanded by Prince Maurice. Plymouth was now the only major town in the West Country to hold out against Royalist forces.
1643 (11th October)
Battle of Winceby, Lincolnshire
This was a very short battle which lasted around half an hour and saw the Royalists defeated by a Parliamentarian force.
1643 (5th November)
The Royalist army captured Mount Batten, a promontory overlooking Plymouth Sound. They hoped to use the location to position cannon and stop ships relieving Plymouth. In practice this had little effect.
1643 (12th October)
Siege of Hull
The Earl of Newcastle was forced to abandon the siege of Hull.
1643 (3rd December)
Battle of Freedom Fields, Plymouth
Royalist forces led by Charles I, attempted to take Plymouth while the tide was low. However, the Royalists were repulsed and the incoming tide forced them to retreat to Freedom Fields where they were defeated by the Parliamentarians. Although it remained under siege, Plymouth held out until the end of the First Civil War in 1646.
1644 (19th January)
A Scottish force crossed the border into England.
1644 (22nd January)
Charles I opened the Oxford Parliament.
1644 (25th January)
Battle of Nantwich, Cheshire
This battle was a resounding victory for the Parliamentarians, led by Sir Thomas Fairfax, over the Royalists led by Lord Byron. The victory broke the Royalist control of Cheshire.
Charles appointed Prince Rupert as President of Wales.
1644 (12th March)
The trial of Archbishop Laud began in London.
1644 (29th March)
Battle of Cheriton, Hampshire
The Parliamentarians, led by William Waller and the Royalists led by Ralph Hopton were marching on Winchester. The Parliamentarian victory halted the Royalist advance.
1644 (29th June)
Battle of Cropredy Bridge, Oxfordshire
This was an indecisive battle fought between the Parliamentarians led by William Waller and the Royalists led by King Charles.
1644 (2nd July)
Battle of Marston Moor, Yorkshire
This was the largest single battle of the English Civil War involving 45,000 men. Although the Royalists led by Prince Rupert were outnumbered, they decided to fight. They were defeated by a Parliamentarian force led by the Earl of Leven. For the first time since the Civil War had began Rupert’s cavalry were beaten by a Parliamentarian cavalry charge.
1644 (21st August)
Battle of Lostwithiel, Cornwall
This battle saw the Royalists led by Charles I defeat the Parliamentarians led by the Earl of Essex.
1644 (18th September)
Battle of Montgomery, Wales
Prince Rupert’s force were weakened following the Battle of Marston Moor. The Parliamentarians took advantage of this and attacked Prince Rupert at Montgomery in Wales securing a victory which gave them control of Wales.
1644 (27th October)
Second Battle of Newbury, Berkshire
The Royalists were sandwiched between two Parliamentarian forces but each time the Parliamentarians made some gain they were beaten back by the Royalists. The battle, which lasted all day, ended in a draw.
1645 (4th January)
Parliament agreed that a Presbyterian Directory of Worship should replace the Book of Common Prayer.
1645 (10th January)
Archbishop Laud was executed by beheading on Tower Hill.
1645 (29th January)
Peace negotiations between the King, Parliament and Scotland were held at Uxbridge but failed to find common ground and the war continued.
1645 (17th February)
New Model Army
Parliament ordered the creation of a army whose structure was to be based on ability rather than class and position. Regular drills ensured that the army was professional and very competent.
1645 (3rd April)
Self Denying Ordinance
This bill stated that no member of Parliament could hold a position of command in the army or navy
1645 (14th June)
Battle of Naseby, Northamptonshire
The Parliamentarians broke their siege on Oxford and forced the Royalists into battle. Initially the Royalists took up a defensive stance but later the order to attack was given. The battle lasted just three hours and saw the death of most of the Royalist foot soldiers. It was a decisive victory for Parliament. Charles fled the battlefield as soon as it was apparent that he had lost both the battle and the war.
1645 (10th July)
Battle of Langport, Somerset
The Royalist army commanded by George Goring was defeated by the New Model Army led by Thomas Fairfax.
1645 (11th September)
Bristol fell to the New Model Army.
1645 (24th September)
Battle of Rowton Heath, Cheshire
This battle saw the remnants of the Royalist cavalry defeated by the Parliamentarians.
1646 (16th February)
Battle of Torrington, Devon
Thomas Fairfax defeated the remains of the Western Royalist army.
1646 (21st March)
Battle of Stow on the Wold, Gloucestershire
This was the last battle of the Civil War and saw the final defeat of the Royalist army.
1646 (3rd May)
The New Model Army lay siege to the Royalist capital of Oxford where Charles was resident. However, Charles managed to escape dressed as a servant and fled to Scotland.
1646 (5th May)
Charles I surrendered to the Scots at Newark and they took him north to Newcastle.
1646 (24th June)
Oxford, Charles I’s capital surrendered to Parliament.
1647 (30th January)
After negotiations with the English parliament the Scots handed Charles over to parliament. He was imprisoned in Holdenby House, Northamptonshire.
1647 (3rd June)
George Joyce, an officer of the New Model Army, seized King Charles and took him to Newmarket. He was then transferred first to Oatlands and then to Hampton Court.
Cromwell spoke to Charles and believed that he was willing to try to find a settlement. He asked Henry Ireton to draft a proposed settlement. Although Cromwell was happy with the planned settlement others, particularly the group known as the Levellers, were not.
1647 (28th October)
These were a series of debates held by different Parliamentarian forces to try to decide on a new constitution. Unfortunately it was impossible to find agreement between the different factions.
1647 (11th November)
Charles I escaped imprisonment and fled to Carisbrooke Castle, Isle of Wight.
1647 (25th December)
Large crowds gathered in Canterbury to protest against Parliament’s order that Christmas Day should be seen as an ordinary day. They shut shops, decorated the streets with holly and demanded a church service be held for Christmas.
1647 (26th December)
King Charles made a deal with Scotland whereby the Scots would invade England and help him to retake the throne. In return Charles agreed to change the religion of England to Presbyterianism.
Second English Civil War
War broke out again when John Poyer, former parliamentary soldier and Governor of Pembroke Castle refused to hand over his command to Fairfax. Like many others, he was dissatisfied with the disorder and lack of stability over the last two years.
1648 (late March)
John Poyer, Governor of Pembroke Castle, declared himself for the King.
John Poyer was joined by soldiers with grievances against the New Model Army and others who wanted the monarchy restored.
1648 (8th May)
Battle of St Fagans, Cardiff, Wales
This was a battle between the New Model Army and an army of former Parliamentarians who had defected to the Royalists. The Royalists were easily defeated and many were killed or taken prisoner.
1648 (21st May)
The people of Kent rose for Charles. Royalists took control of the castles of Walmer, Deal and Sandown.
1648 (late May)
The navy declared itself for the King. Charles’s son, Charles, heir to the throne, took command of the navy.
1648 (1st June)
General Fairfax, commander of the New Model Army, marched on Kent. Locals fled to their homes while some Royalist leaders fled to Essex to raise support there.
1648 (5th June)
Colonel Nathaniel Rich of the New Model Army arrived in Dover and prevented Royalists from taking the castle.
1648 (12th June)
Fairfax had marched to Essex to put down rebellions there. The Royalists retreated to Colchester which Fairfax placed under siege.
1648 (8th July)
The Scots invaded England as agreed with Charles.
1648 (11th July)
Pembroke Castle, Wales, fell to Cromwell.
1648 (15th July)
Colonel Rich came under fire from a force of Royalists warships that arrived off the coast of Deal.
1648 (16th July)
A force of mercenaries arrived in ships from Flanders (Belgium). However, they soon left when the Royalists were unable to pay them.
1648 (31st July)
The Scots took Appleby Castle, Cumbria.
Oliver Cromwell prepared to march north against the Scots.
1648 (13th August)
A Royalist force of around 800 managed to land at Deal in Kent. They marched on the Parliamentarians but were given away by a defector and were defeated.
1648 (17th – 19th August)
Battle of Preston, Lancashire
This was a key battle between a combined Royalist and Scots army led by the Duke of Hamilton and the Parliamentarians led by Oliver Cromwell. The decisive Parliamentarian victory signalled the end for the Royalists.
1648 (23rd August)
News reached Deal Castle that the Royalists had been defeated at Preston.
1648 (25th August)
Deal Castle surrendered to Parliament.
1648 (28th August)
The Royalists in Colchester surrendered to Fairfax after learning of Parliament’s victory at Preston. Charles Lucas and George Lisle, Royalist leaders, were shot.
1648 (5th September)
Sandown Castle surrendered to Parliament.
1648 (27th November)
Parliament removed Robert Hammond from the role of Governor of the Isle of Wight.
1648 (5th December)
Although Parliament voted to negotiate with Charles, Cromwell and the army refused to negotiate.
1648 (6th December)
Colonel Thomas Pride forcibly removed all members of Parliament that did not support the army and Cromwell.
Charles was moved to Hurst Castle and then to Windsor Castle
1649 (6th January)
This parliament was formed from those members that had not been expelled by Thomas Pride in December. All were army loyalists and voted to give parliament the right to make new Acts of Parliament without the king’s approval. They also indicted Charles on a charge of treason.
1649 (20th January)
King Charles was tried for treason by a High Court of Justice specially set up for the trial. Many members of parliament secretly objected to the trial and stayed away.
1649 (26th January)
The court found Charles guilty of using his power for personal interest rather than the good of the country and sentenced him to death.
1649 (30th January)
King Charles I was executed by beheading, outside the Banqueting House of Whitehall Palace, London. He was buried in St George’s Chapel, Windsor.
1649 (9th March)
The Duke of Hamilton, the Earl of Holland and Lord Capel were executed by beheading.
1649 (24th March)
Pontefract Castle finally surrendered to Parliament.
1649 (25th April)
John Poyer, leader of the Pembroke revolt was executed.
First published 2016; updated and re-published December 06 2021 @ 11:20 am – Updated –