Monarchy to Republic: The Defeat of Charles I 1642-6

In this chapter:

  • the personality of Charles I
  • the policies of Charles I at war
  • the reasons for the defeat of the royalist cause

Topic Summary:

5 January 1642: Charles marched troops into Parliament in the hope of arresting the five men he regarded as his leading opponents. However, this failed and precipitated Charles' departure from London.

22 August 1642: Charles I officially declared war, and became the first (and last) monarch to declare war against his own parliament.

By 1646: Charles had been militarily defeated and his armies decimated.

Charles fled from Oxford and surrendered to the Scots. They prompty handed him back to the English Parliament who placed him under house arrest.

In 1648: Charles was returned to London under armed guard for his trial and execution.

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Charles's Personality:

In a time of Personal Monarchy, the personality of the monarchy was central and shaped policies. Charles's personality was the root of all his problems. In contrast with his outgoing father, James I, Charles I was described as:

  • Shy and hampered by a speech defect
  • Unapproachable
  • Uncommunicative
  • Brash - failed to explain his actions
  • Inferiority complex led to overstressed prerogative
  • No political shrewdness or flexibility - could not compromise
  • Couldn't take criticism  thought it was a deliberate attempt to undermine his prerogative
  • Did not have the political or social ability that would invite loyalty
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The Policies of Charles I at War:

Gathering a fighting force:

Charles as a leader was, initally, in a strong position. As King he naturally had greater political sway for those deciding their allegiance as he was the central recognised authority.

Charles called for support through commissions of array, a feudal call for troops from each county.

Charles I's policies of 1625 - 40:

Foreign Policy - Failed wars against Spain and France between 1625 and 1629

Religion - Allowed Laudians to dominate the church

Parliament - Three failed parliaments in the first four yearsof his reign

Personal Rule - Eleven years of ruling without Parliament

Finance - Exploited his prerogative forms of income to enable him to rule without parliament.

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Parliament's Call for Troops:

Rallying the Support:

Parliament's call for troops was on the novel basis of a Militia Ordinance, the first piece of legislation passed by Parliament without royal assent.

To counter the novelty of their position, Parliament through propoganda argued that Parliament as a respresentative of the people was a legitiamte authority, especially when the current monarchy relied too much on 'dubious' private advice rather than public advise from his Parliament.

Parliament's Financial Management of the War:

At Westminster, John Pym played a key role in laying the foundations of Parliament's wartime administration. After the outbreak of the war, Parliament combined executive authority with representative authority and developed methods for running the country without the King.

Weekly/montly assessments - Direct tax on income - mostly land
Sequestrations - Confistcation of Royalist lands
Compulsory Loans - Forces loand

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Parliament: Solemn League and Covenant + John Pym:

John Pym 1584 - 1643

While Pym was highly visable in the Parliaments of the 1620s, he was pre-eminent in the Commons of 1640 to 1642 so much so he was referred to as 'King Pym'. Pym emerged in the 1640 as most of the MPs of the 1620s had died. More importantly, the crisis mood of 1640-2 fitted with Pym's strengths - he continued to be the leading figure in the Commons.

Pym's Significance in Parliament:

Pym was vital in keeping Parliament together, despite the different factions within it - especially when persuading Parliament to accept a formal alliance (The Solemn League and Covenant) with the Scots in 1643.

The Solemn League and Covenant 1643:

A formal alliance between Parliament and the Scottish in return for the establishment of Presbyterianism in England. The Scots would also in turn, send 21,000 men to England to aid the Parliamentarian war effort.

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Parliament's Financial Management for the War

Parliament's Occupation of the City of London

PROGOPANDA: As the centre of printing, Parliament had a propoganda advantage.

FINANCE: Access to resources, especially City Loans.

MANPOWER: London was the homeplace of one tenth of the English population.

PORT: England's largest port.

INDUSTRY: England's cheif industrial centre - supplies clothes, weapons, shoes. etc

ADMINISTRATION: They have the houses and offices of Parilament.

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Royalist Defeats of the Civl Wars:

Royalist Defeats: 


  • October: Indecisive battle of Edgehill
  • November: Charles halted outsie Turham Green
  • September: Charles's advance on Newbury was halted - stalemate 


  • July 1644: Royalist defeat at Marston Moor


  • February: New-Model Army created
  • June: New Model Army defeats Royalists at Naseby
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Reasons for the Royalist Defeat 1642-6

Royalist Strengths:

  • Led by recognised lawful ruler
  • More support from aristocracy and higher gentry - financial reserves and military experience
  • Focussed strategic objective: the taking of London
  • Military from abroad - Princes Rupert and Maurice

Royalist Weaknesses:

  • Problems with the organisation of war effort
  • Charles I was a poor commander-in-chief
  • Areas under royalist control generally poorer
  • Clubmen - increassing failure of local communities to support royalists
  • Commissions of Array of dubious legality
  • Charles's willingness to use troops from Ireland reinforced the impression of Catholic favouritism.
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Pragmatic Factors to the Royalist Defeat:


  • The Royalists suffered from the limited range of its authority. Added to this problem was Charles's decision to set up a seperate council at Bristol that removed men as capable as Clarendon.


  • Charles and the Royalists proved indecisive through failing to follow their initial promising start to the war in both strategic temrs and taking advantage of the greater experience of his generals.


  • Charles used influential local men as lieutenant generals hoping to rally support in their local area. They weakened the Royalist war effort.
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  • In Royalist councils different views were put forward by individuals like Henrietta Maria and Edward Hyde. This led to incoherent policy.


  • In September 1643 Charles signed a truce with the Catholics Irish rebels who had rebelled against Protestant rule. Troops were brought over to help but proved ineffective - Charles's supporters were disturbed by his willingness to use Catholic support.


  • Charles's use of Rupert and Maurice left him open to attack.
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