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"The Main Reason for the Defeat of the Royalist Cause in the First Civil War was the
Leadership of Charles I" Assess the Validity of this View.
In 1642 Charles I, declared war on his country The First English Civil War lasted four years,
caused by the kings notoriously high taxes. Historians such as Miller and Schama, debate whether the
victory of Parliament was down to their strengths and successes, or the poor leadership of the king.
Parliaments strengths allowed them to take control of London and increase their chances of victory,
however Charles' inability to take advantage of certain military situations lead to Parliaments garrison
of the capital.
Charles I's personality was a major factor in how he controlled the royalists war effort. He was a
'poor war leader' according to Farr and had a certain trait of indecisiveness. Charles' failure to march his
northern royalist army south in 1643, stopped a royalist attack on London that had the potential to be a
success. In the early stages of the war, the king also failed to take advantage of Royalist strengths.
Charles I's catholic wife, Henrietta Maria also swayed Charles I's decision making regarding the military
tactics of the war causing him to sign a truce with Irish Catholic rebels to aid his cause. However, this
dwindled support in England and made victory less likely for the Royalists. Charles' poor war efforts
leads historian Cust to state "the king was unable to provide the strong leadership that was needed."
The Individuals that surrounded Charles at this time also affected his leadership. Charles
provoked differences within the Royalist councils as he employed his nephews, Prince Rupert and
Prince Maurice. Again the influence of figures such as Henrietta Maria and Edward Hyde caused
divisions within the councils and caused support for the monarchy to diminish. Charles' reliance on
foreign aid during the civil war also affected the Royalists cause, as Charles' negotiated with France
and the pope. This involvement with Catholics was a great mistake made by the king as England was a
protestant nation with a great dislike for Catholicism since the reign of Elizabeth I. Parliament was also
able to use their knowledge of the negotiations to their advantage producing antiroyalist propaganda
to aid their objective.
"The Royalists weaknesses and mistakes were matched by Parliaments growing strengths." according
to Farr. The Strengths of Parliament were mainly due to their financial management of the war. John
Pym laid foundations of Parliament's wartime administration, making them able to fund their war
against monarchy. Pym, a parliamentary MP, also helped keep Parliament united despite the factions
between the 'peace' and 'war' parties.
Parliaments control of London also gave Parliament many advantages over the Royalist
collective. The increase in manpower and access to the countries capital, supplied Parliaments needs
for the war. The access to industry, ports and the central government also increased their resources
and Propaganda output, strengthening their cause, and increasing their chance of winning the civil war.
For Hill, a Marxist historian, Puritanism provided the driving force for change, because of it's emphasis
on hard work and individualism suited the rising gentry, who were getting richer as the crown got poorer.
Parliaments control of the navy also gave them the ability to supply it's army without Charles
getting hold of supplies, again strengthening their position and weakening their opponent. The New
Model Army, created in 1645 by generals such as Lambert and Cromwell, made parliament powerful in
comparison to the small Royalist Armies that Charles controlled.
In Conclusion, the main reason for the defeat of the royalist cause in the first civil war wasn't
the poor leadership of the King, but rather the strengths of his opposition. The main advantage Charles
had over Parliament was his title, and yet Parliament still overpowered him The Calendar of State
Popers wrote in 166445, stated that "if we fight him 100 times and beat him 99 he's king still, but if he
beats us but once, or the last time, we shall be hanged." thus acknowledging the kings power and
influence. This also highlights that regardless of Charles weaknesses and poor leadership, he would still
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Parliaments strengths, in particular their organisation and control of
London strengthened their position in such a way that with the aid of their new model, they were able to
crush the Royalists in June, at Oxford. Disregarding Farr's statement, Parliament's successes outweigh
Charles' leadership during the civil war.…read more