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English Civil War

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Maps of territory held by Royalists (red) and Parliamentarians (green) during the English Civil War (1642–1645).

English Civil War happened in the middle 17th century. The term covers a period between 1642 and 1651 in England, Scotland and Ireland. Some people consider all this fighting to be one big war, while others think it should be seen as several different wars that were linked. Some of these wars and conflicts have been given their own names, such as:

  • The First English Civil War
  • The Second English Civil War
  • The Third Civil War

A civil war is a war where the sides involved in the fighting are both from the same country. In the period of the English Civil War, the King ruled England, Scotland and Ireland, but the fighting that took place in each of these countries broke out at different times and for several different reasons. The Protestant Reformation had encouraged new ideas and struggles.

The reasons for the fighting were mostly to do with power, money and religion:

  • King Charles I of England married a French princess, who was a Catholic. Some of the British people at the time did not like this. Charles I upset the people even more by trying to make the country more Catholic.
  • When the members of Parliament refused to do what Charles wanted, he broke up the Parliament and tried to rule without them.
  • Charles tried to raise extra taxes without asking Parliament.
  • Charles sent his friend, the Earl of Strafford, to rule Ireland. When Strafford was accused of cruelty, Charles tried to protect him from being punished.
  • The Parliament refused to give Charles money to attack the rebels in Ireland.

After a few years of quarreling, the members of Parliament raised an army to fight against the King. The King moved out of London and took the royal court to Oxford, where he had more loyal followers than in London. The first war was fought between King Charles's army and the army of Parliament. King Charles's army soldiers were called "Cavaliers", and the army of Parliament's soldiers were called "Roundheads". Parliament won the first war, and King Charles was put in prison, but he escaped and a second war broke out. Parliament won the second war also, and they put King Charles on trial because they did not want any more fighting. He was found guilty of treason and was executed by having his head cut off. This did not stop the fighting, however.

During the war, a new leader had been found by Parliament, a man called Oliver Cromwell, who was very good at leading an army and also had ideas about how to rule the country. Not everyone liked him, but he was the strongest leader and in time he became the ruler of the whole country. Cromwell took the title of "Lord Protector" rather than King, because he did not think the country needed another king. His government was called "the Protectorate". In the meantime, King Charles I's eldest son, the Prince of Wales, had left Britain and set up his own royal court in Holland, calling himself King Charles II of England. He came back to fight another battle against the army of Parliament. His father, King Charles I, had been born in Scotland, and Scots who were loyal to the royal family were among his most important supporters. The Third Civil War (1649 - 1651) was fought between supporters of King Charles II and supporters of the Rump Parliament. The Civil War ended when Parliament won the Battle of Worcester on 3 September 1651. Charles II had to disguise himself in order to escape.

Oliver Cromwell ruled the country until he died in 1658. Cromwell's son, Richard, took over as Lord Protector. However, he was not as tough as his Father. The People begged King Charles's son to come back. Charles II came back from Holland and become King of Britain again, with the support of the people.