The Battle of Marston Moor, which is located near York in northern England, was a decisive engagement in the English Civil War. The Royalist side was soundly defeated by a combined force of Scots Covenanters and Parliamentarians. It was a serious blow to the Royalist side, which more or less abandoned the northern part of the country thereafter.
Oliver Cromwell, at the time little-known, distinguished himself in this battle. He commanded the Ironsides Cavalry, and his leadership and the discipline of his troops were both acknowledged as key factors in the victory. From here, Cromwell’s star would only rise.
Cromwell and Fairfax had recruited their New Model Army in the early months of 1645, taking advantage of King Charles I’s hesitation in attacking them to consolidate and train.
At Naseby, on June 14, 1645, the decisive battle of the English Civil War was fought. The Parliamentarian forces, under Cromwell, outnumbered the Royalists by almost two to one, and also commanded a stronger position. As the battle drew on, many of the Royalist soldiers surrendered, while other withdrew in disarray. The King, soundly defeated, fled to Scotland.
At the direction of Cromwell, Colonel Thomas Pride took elements of their forces – his own Regiment of Foot and Nathaniel Rich’s Regiment of Horse – and they moved to control access to the Houses of Parliament. As the Members arrived, they were checked off against a list that Pride had been issued by Lord Grey of Groby.
Of the 489 sitting MPs, the purge sorted them thusly:
— 18 permanently absent before the purge.
— 45 barred from Parliament and imprisoned
— 186 barred from Parliament but not imprisoned
— 86 voluntarily absented themselves
— 83 allowed back into Parliament after formally dissenting from the decision to accept the King’s proposals
The remaining 71 members were supporters of the army from the outset. Those who remained in Parliament after the purge were known thereafter as members of the Rump Parliament (as opposed to the Long Parliament that had existed before then).
The Rump Parliament was what remained of the British Parliament after Colonel Pride had purged it a month earlier, leaving only those parliamentarians who supported the army.
On January 6, 1649, the Parliament appointed a total of 135 men to constitute a High Court for the trial of King Charles I for tyranny. A quorum was declated to be twenty of these appointees.
The trial of Charles I commenced shortly thereafter, and duly returned the guilty verdict it was intended to.
It is the decisive exclamation mark that ends the English Civil War. Never before had an English monarch been deposed, tried and convicted of high treason, and then executed. (To date, no other English monarch has suffered the same fate, either.) The decapitation of Charles the First made plain to the people of England and the courts of Europe that the winds of change were blowing in England.
Charles’ son, Charles II, would eventually be restored to the throne that was his by right of primogeniture, and in the interregnum that followed, England would be variously led by Parliament, by Lord-Protector Oliver Cromwell, and briefly, by Lord-Protector Richard Cromwell (Oliver’s less talented and determined son). The restored king was a damned sight more careful of Parliament, and the gradual decline of the power of the monarchy would only continue from this time onwards.
The final encounter of the English Civil War was a bruising and thorough defeat for King Charles the First and his allies. Although between them, the Royalist forces and their Scottish allies numbered about 16,000, Cromwell’s Parliamentarians had mustered nearly twice as many soldiers, and with such a massive numerical superiority, the outcome was never truly in doubt.
Cromwell took his time in the disposition of his forces, cutting off the King’s escape while wearing down his army. In a battle that lasted only a single day, the Parliamentarians surrounded the Royalists, driving them back within the walls of the city of Worcester, and capturing it shortly after nightfall. Few if any of the Royalists escaped, most being captured at the battle’s end or later that night, but the truly stunning result were the casualty lists: Cromwell lost only 200 of his 31,000, while 3000 Royalists were slain and more than 10,000 captured. The English Civil War was over, and Charles I would not long outlive it, although he did escape for a time.