When explaining the English Civil Wars Facts for Kids, the following are important key points:
- The English Civil Wars were a series of armed conflicts fought between King Charles I and Parliament in the 17th century.
- Many families and communities from all sectors of society were dragged into the conflict, and many lost their lives.
- The wars’ outcome resulted in the execution of King Charles I, 11 years of republican rule, and Britain’s first national army.
- The wars changed the relationship between the monarch and Parliament.
Table of Contents
There were three civil wars between 1642 and 1651 in which armies loyal to King Charles I and Parliament fought each other.
They fought over how the three kingdoms of England, Scotland, and Ireland should get governed. They also disagreed about religious freedom.
Charles I was crowned King in 1625. Charles believed that he had the right to rule because God appointed him.
Parliament was essential in government already. Parliament raised taxes, made several laws, and gave money to the king.
Charles expected his MPs to do as he said. The lack of input from others caused MPs and others wanting a more inclusive government to be angry and frustrated.
More Causes: Religion and Economics
The Church of England was Protestant, but there were also many other churches that people could belong to. Many people still followed Catholicism which was considered dangerous.
The Puritans believed that the king was too tolerant of Catholics. They were afraid that Charles’ marriage to a Catholic princess would make the situation worse.
The king’s war with Spain ended in an expensive failure, which provoked outrage in Parliament, and MPs refused to vote for more money to go to the war.
The king had to find other ways to get money for the war. He did this by making people give him money through forced loans. If they didn’t want to, they would be put in prison.
The Petition of Rights got made to prevent the king from abusing his power. This document also stated that the king could not raise taxes without Parliament’s approval.
For 11 years, the king dismissed Parliament and did not call it back. This moment in England’s history became known as the Personal Rule.
The Scottish Invasion and the Irish Rebellion
Events came to a crisis when a Scottish army invaded northern England, which began the Bishops’ Wars.
Charles had changed religious practices in Scotland, including making everyone use a new Book of Common Prayer.
Charles needed to raise an army to defend his kingdom, so he called Parliament. MPs used this opportunity to argue for limiting the king’s power.
Charles dismissed the Short Parliament after three weeks.
The Scots did not go away. The king still needed money. So he called another Parliament, which was known as the Long Parliament.
The English were ruling Ireland, and there was a major rebellion against them. The king needed money to hire another army to fight the rebellion.
Charles rejected Parliament yet again in the Grand Remonstrance.
The king destroyed any remaining trust between the two sides when he entered Parliament with a group of armed men and attempted to arrest five MPs.
The five men got warned ahead of time, and they did not go there to get arrested. Charles then decided to find a military solution, and this meant war.
The Three Phases of the Wars
The First English Civil War (1642-1646)
The king could not accept Parliament’s conditions, and he accused them of high treason.
When Parliament gained control of the London army, Charles feared for his safety and left London. He then went to set up his court in York.
The Long Parliament issued the Nineteen Propositions, a document in which it defined its demands for limiting the king’s powers and handing most of them over to itself. Charles I rejected the document.
The declaration of war happened when the king lifted his flag at Nottingham.
The two groups of people were called the ‘Cavaliers’ (Royalists) and the ‘Roundheads’ (Parliamentarians). The name for the second group comes from some Puritans who cut their hair very short.
The opening conflict took place. The king’s troops clashed with the Parliamentarian army at Edgehill (Warwickshire). Despite this, the outcome was indecisive, with approximately 1,000 people dying.
The Parliament dominated most major harbors, and it also possessed the greatest arsenals and ran the Navy.
The professionalization of its army helped the Parliament’s war effort. Aristocratic commanders were removed.
Professional soldiers were hired to create a permanent, professional New Model Army with 22,000 men.
Oliver Cromwell was one of the officers of the new force, and he was skilled in combat and being knowledgeable in politics. As a result, he became a leader of the Parliamentarian movement.
The climax of the war was fought in Northamptonshire. The Parliamentarians won this battle, which turned out to be a significant victory.
The Second English Civil War (Feb-Aug 1648)
Charles refused to give up, so the Second Civil War began. The king’s fortunes would sink to new lows.
The king had fled to the north of England, but the Parliamentarians captured him.
He escaped from confinement.
The Scots then became his allies because they wanted to help him win the war.
The king had agreed to promote the Presbyterian Church in England.
Charles expected the Scots to invade England, and rebellions would break out. The king lost supporters who saw him as a fighter who wouldn’t give up.
At the Battle of Preston, the New Model Army defeated the Royalists, led by Oliver Cromwell.
Pride’s Purge and the Rump Parliament
This was the moment when the Parliamentarian army seized power. The leaders of the uprisings got executed, and the more radical MPs expelled the moderates from Parliament.
A small group of people opposed to the king formed a tiny parliament called the Rump Parliament.
The term “rump” usually refers to the back end of an animal. A “rump parliament” is a parliament that is smaller than the one before it.
Charles I was put on trial in London and found guilty of treason. He got executed.
The monarchy and the House of Lords were abolished in 1649, making England a republic. This event got referred to as the ‘English Revolution.’
Scotland did not see the monarchy abolished. Instead, Charles II of Scotland got established as king following his father’s death, King Charles I. The fighting was yet to get concluded.
The Third English Civil War or Anglo-Scottish War (1650-1651)
In 1642, the third English Civil War began when a rebellion by pro-Royalist forces in Ireland forced Parliament to deal with it.
Cromwell led 12,000 men of the New Model Army and harshly crushed the rebels.
Cromwell tried to attack Edinburgh multiple times, but each time he was unsuccessful. 3,000 Scots got killed, and 6,000 were taken prisoner after the battle. Edinburgh was captured on Christmas Eve.
The Scottish army was defeated at the Battle of Worcester, which ended the English Civil Wars.
Oliver Cromwell eventually became the head of the military state known as the ‘Commonwealth’ Republic.
Prince Charles escaped from the Battle of Worcester and hid in an oak tree in Shropshire.
He disguised himself as a servant of Jane Lane and escaped to France.
Some people say that as many as 1 in 4 adult men fought in the Civil War, and about 200,000 people died from the fighting or diseases.
The Interregnum was when there was no king or queen on the throne.
The Rump Parliament established the Commonwealth of England.
England’s new leaders had not agreed on a good way to govern the country.
Oliver Cromwell got rid of the old parliament and set up a new one. It was the Barebones Parliament because there weren’t many people in it, and it achieved nothing.
Cromwell got rid of Parliament and wrote a new rule book called the Instrument of Government.
A Lord Protector ruled England, Wales, Scotland, and Ireland with one government. This was known as the Protectorate.
The Protectorate’s government granted religious tolerance to all Protestant groups, but Catholicism got persecuted.
The government shut down all theatres, prohibited sports, urged people to dress plainly, and forbade Christmas activities.
When Cromwell died, most people were tired of the Protectorate. His son Richard could not control the Army or Parliament, and he got removed.
The King Returns
Parliament formed a Committee of Safety to protect the people, which led to the creation of a new Council of State.
Prince Charles realized that the time was right to proclaim the Declaration of Breda. The declaration promised a pardon for all crimes committed during and after the Civil War to those who recognized him as king.
Charles II was recognized as the lawful heir to Charles I and began working on a bill to restore the monarchy.
Consequences of the English Civil Wars
The English Civil Wars and the Interregnum ended the monarchy but only lasted for 11 years.
Oliver Cromwell led a military government that took over because people were frustrated. The government was held together mainly by Cromwell’s will and authority.
The new government was not able to satisfy the people that it was better than a monarchy. This is because the new government had a strict moral code, and there was a lot of political fighting.
The regime failed because it fell apart after Cromwell died.
The reigns of Charles II and James II saw a lot of tension between the monarch and Parliament. James II tried to have complete control and was eventually removed from power.
William III and Mary agreed to the Bill of Rights, which stated that the monarch could not suspend laws, raise taxes, or maintain a peacetime army without Parliament’s permission.
These measures were the beginning of the constitutional monarchy we have today. In this type of monarchy, Parliament has more power than the king or queen. However, these measures began with the Civil Wars.