English Civil War Facts for Kids

  • The English Civil Wars are traditionally considered to have begun in England in 1642.
  • The king raised an army against the wishes of Parliament.
  • He wanted to deal with a rebellion in Ireland, but Parliament did not want him to go.
  • The war concluded in 1651 when Charles II fled to France, and the hopes of the British monarchy vanished.

The English Civil War was a war that happened in England. It started over different religions and some other things. There were also wars happening in Scotland, Ireland, and Wales because of this conflict.

People thought back then that kings and queens had a right to rule over people. This rule is called “divine right.” It was established in the time of James I. He told the people that no one could tell them what to do, not even the Parliament.

Charles I

King James I was sick and died in 1625. His son Charles took over. He started strong but then got bored and stopped fighting a war in Europe.

Charles’s ideas made many English people angry. They thought that he was trying to rule without parliaments.

Money was a problem, especially because Charles had taken the money from Queen Elizabeth and King James. There were new taxes that made people, not like the king more.

Some Protestants believed that the king had a plan to bring back Catholicism and take away people’s liberties. Charles I was a Protestant, but his wife was Catholic. She always attended mass, and she took their children to mass, too.

Similar rumors about Catholicism were heard in Scotland. When Charles tried to bring a new prayer book there in 1637, he caused people to resist violently.

King Charles tried to crush Scotland by using force. That did not work, so he called England’s parliament to solve the issue. Once the parliament had started, they were angry at him for what he had done.

At first, the king had practically no supporters. But when the puritans in parliament started asking for more changes in church and religious traditions, Charles found himself leading a group of supporters.

Then, in 1641, Catholics in Ireland killed many Protestants who had come to live there. The rebellion in England caused panic. It made it hard for people to agree on a political compromise. This led to conflict between King Charles I and Parliament.

The Civil War

The civil war broke out in 1642. Some people were for the king, and some were for Parliament. The Civil War made friends, families, and communities separate.

There was not just one kind of person fighting for Parliament or the Royalists. Some people fought because they wanted to, and others didn’t want to but had to.

Some people saw the war as a way of achieving changes in politics, religion, and society. They included Levellers and Diggers. Many of them served in Parliamentarian armies.

Charles had many foot soldiers from Wales and Cornwall. Parliament also had a lot of foot soldiers in London.

Both sides were always short of money. They raised what they could by taxing, taking loans, and giving gifts. The King also got supplies on credit in Europe.

It was hard to tell friend from foe. People solved this problem by using signs. They might have put a piece of white paper in their hat or used a password. But even so, people often make mistakes, which sometimes lead to dire consequences.

The king might have won in 1643, but later the Parliamentarians agreed to help the Scots. The Scots helped beat the king’s army. The king lost control of the north of Britain.

The following year, Charles was defeated by the Parliament army at Naseby. He realized that he had lost, and he gave up.

The king did not want to give himself up to the Parliamentarians. He gave himself up to the Scots instead. The Scots then gave him back to their allies, the Parliamentarians.

The king was still determined not to compromise with his enemies. This led to more violence, known as the Second Civil War.

The king could not be in peace while he was alive. Some people who wanted to change the country read about what happened, and they thought that Charles was guilty of high treason. So they tried him, found him guilty, and killed him by beheading him.

A Republican Regime

After the king was executed, a new government was established for England. This government was based on the power of a group called the New Model Army.

The New Model Army was created in 1645 from three different Parliamentarian armies. They were a different kind of army than before because they had national soldiers and officers who were promoted based on their abilities rather than their blood. This army was important to England because it was the most powerful one in the country.

England was going to try and control Ireland again. England’s rulers sent a group of people with Oliver Cromwell to take Ireland back from their enemies. They succeeded after two years.

Oliver Cromwell was a man in Parliament. He led battles and won them. But he also helped in Ireland and Scotland for battles too.

Charles II was crowned King of Scotland then. In the fall, he invaded England with a Scottish army and lost to Cromwell at Worcester.

The young king had just escaped to France, but his Scottish subjects were left in a bad place. The Parliamentarians conquered all of Scotland.

Cromwell commanded the New Model Army. He wanted to end Parliament. They were mad because Parliament was not working for them and did not help the Commonwealth. Cromwell became Lord Protector and ruled until he died in 1658.

Over the next five years, he tried to get people to support a republican government. He had little success.

Cromwell died in 1658 and was succeeded as a protector by his son, Richard. But Richard could not do his job, so he gave up eight months later.

Charles II

After Cromwell resigned, the republic slowly fell apart. Charles II was invited to resume his father’s throne. He entered London in triumph in May 1660. The monarchy had been restored.

Charles II was a smart man, but he was very cynical. He only cared about himself and never cared about religious or political issues.

The king started his reign not very well. There was a plague in London, and then the Great Fire of London destroyed much of the city.

The Dutch attack in 1667 was one of the most humiliating military losses for England. But when King Charles died, it seemed like things would get better because his brother became king. But then he turned out to be Catholic, and then things went downhill again.

James II

James II had a son. This made it more difficult for Protestants because they were scared of his Catholic faith.

After that, a group of English Protestants asked William of Orange, married James II’s daughter, Mary, the Dutch Stadholder, for help.

William, who had long been waiting for this call, went to England with an army. James II ran to France a few weeks later, and William and Mary were crowned as joint monarchs.

William and Mary

Many people still supported James II. He had an army, and they landed in Ireland.

William now had his army to meet the challenge. He beat James in 1690 at the Battle of the Boyne. James then left to go back to France, so William had more time to unify his kingdom.

Mary died in 1694, so William became king. Many people were looking at how to continue the succession.

Because neither William II and James II had any children, Protestants were afraid that the throne would eventually go to someone who was Catholic. They thought it could be one of their sons or an heir from another family.

To avoid this danger, the Act of Settlement was created in 1701. This law told people that after the death of William and Anne, the throne would go back to James’ daughter’s descendants. Sophia became next in line to the English throne.

Queen Anne

In 1702, William died. Then Anne took his place. Five years later, the formal union of the kingdoms of England and Scotland was created because people wanted to have a Protestant succession in Scotland too.

England and Scotland became one country when Queen Anne died. The first king of the Hanoverians was George I.

Consequences

In the United Kingdom, kings and queens would never be supreme again in British politics. Even though the monarchy was restored in 1660 with Charles II, later kings had a different relationship with their parliaments than other European countries.

The absolute monarchy died with the king before. But, when King James tried to use an army for political control, he lost. Parliament had more power than the king and controlled the army.

These were the last wars fought on English soil. The war left a legacy that would last forever.

Ever since this time, people in the three kingdoms have had a distrust of standing armies. Ideas about religious tolerance and limitations on power started during the 1640s, and they still exist today.

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