In the middle of the 17th century, a revolution took place in England. Thanks to this revolution, England soon experienced an industrial revolution and firmly embarked on the capitalist path of development.
The conflict between the legislative and executive powers (parliament and the king) turned into a war, and religious forces - Anglicans and Catholics with Puritans - clashed among themselves. During the revolution, an element of national struggle was also noted - the British, Scots, Irish and Welsh pursued their interests.
We know about the English Revolution mainly from a few history lessons and fiction novels. It is not surprising that those events appear before us as a series of myths. It is worth debunking them and better understanding the fateful events for England.
The revolution happened by accident. This delusion has a long history. It appeared because when the monarchy was restored in 1660, many of those who made that revolution remained alive. They began to spread the opinion that the war was an accident and there were no guilty ones, that everything happened by itself. However, this is not true. The latest archival data showed that the aristocrats, opponents of Charles I, especially the associates of the Earl of Warwick, were preparing to use military force as early as the summer of 1640. For this, there was an unspoken agreement with the Scottish army and regiments of the British militia were bribed, which were mobilized to pacify the Scots. The Warwick group had a military strategy in the event of the king's refusal to convene parliament. Four regiments of Yorkshire militia were to join the Scots and advance on London. This became the backdrop for the first two years of the Long Parliament, convened by Charles I in November 1640. The king needed money to fight the Scots. Karl knew he was surrounded by traitors. And that is why it was not possible to overcome the constitutional impasse in 1640. For each side, the stakes were very high. Charles showed himself ready to risk starting a civil war as early as May 1640, when he used Spanish troops against his own subjects. And in January 1642, the king tried to arrest five deputies. But in the end, Parliament won the decisive battle, forcing the monarch to comply. The ensuing struggle turned out to be much longer and bloodier than the parties expected. But this war was not accidental.
The cavaliers were aristocrats, and the roundheads were small landowners. Royalists were called "Cavaliers", while parliamentary supporters were nicknamed "roundheads". This was facilitated by their short haircut. It was believed that the small nobility and the middle class took the side of Parliament, and the nobility supported the king. In reality, in order to challenge the power of the monarch, Parliament had to have a significant number of noble supporters. Historians consider this revolt "noble". The old nobility, who served in the government and at court, opposed the king. These aristocrats had confidence in their unshakable position in any scenario. Classical royalists were generally from families with no ties to the court or government. These could be the descendants of the suddenly rich nouveau riche who received titles in the last century. Both sides were more or less equally supported by the rest of society. On both sides, the ground forces represented the lower classes. They did not particularly go into ideology, they were mainly interested in the big money promised for support. And when the funds ran out, the soldiers were held back by force. But the story continued. Both sides gradually drove the nobility out of their armies throughout the war. By 1649, only 8% of senior officers in the army of Parliament had graduated from the university, the name being able to at least approximately be considered a noble. If you look at the Royalist field officers, three-quarters of them did not have their own coat of arms. In other words, they did not even represent the local government class, let alone the central government.
The massacres in Ireland in 1641 were a unilateral action. The Irish Riot of 1641 began as an attempt by local Catholics to defend their interests and restore the right to lands given to Protestants from England and Scotland. However, there was a terrible bloodshed on religious grounds. This is one of the defining moments in the history of Ireland. However, the true story is highly controversial. Historians emphasize the ferocity of Catholics who attacked Protestants and the suffering of those people. The basis of this view is the testimony of the survivors. When Protestant settlers fled Dublin, many of them testified about their negative experiences. And today Trinity College holds over 8,000 documents on this topic. The body of evidence suggests that the narrative was dominated by Protestant testimony. And on the part of the Catholics, there was practically no testimony or evidence left. There can be no doubt that the Protestant settlers went through a terrible traumatic experience. But in the first weeks of the uprising, there were comparatively few killings. The vicious circle of violence was triggered by the violent and indiscriminate retaliatory attacks by the colonial government in November-December 1641. The target was the entire Catholic population of Ireland. There were cases of lynching, mass executions and the destruction of entire communities. This blatant violence sparked a backlash, events developing in a spiral, turning into a full-scale religious war. The account of the suffering of Protestants at the hands of savage Catholics plays a key role in the religious history of Britain. And today this version finds a lot of confirmation in the north of Ireland. However, this does not explain what actually happened in the first six months after the start of the riot. It was not a one-sided massacre, there was a real war with all the ensuing horrors for both sides.
Few people were affected by the revolution. It is estimated that 10-20 percent of men in England and Wales fought in the Civil War. It was estimated that the number of deaths to population was higher than during the First World War. Probably about 85 thousand people, mostly men, died in the battle. Indirect losses were counted up to 130 thousand people. These people died as a result of diseases accompanying the troops. The fighting did not take place in all areas of the country, but they all took part in the recruitment of troops and their deployment. And the "payment" for this was the brought diseases and the forced maintenance of the army, usually without payment. National taxation was harder than ever. Pre-war rates have increased 10 times. And the revolution affected even the lowest strata, who were so poor that they could not pay taxes - excise taxes on consumer goods increased. Governance in many regions has collapsed, again affecting the poorest. Fertility has dropped by 10 percent since 1650, returning to 20 years ago. The population began to decline. The situation was also worsened by crop failures and disruptions in trade. Thus, we can talk about the powerful social, economic and cultural consequences of the revolution. The masses of the people took part in it, preventing the state from extracting resources from its population. The civil war brought about a demographic disruption. This was a severe blow for the country.
The conflict was low-key and gentlemanly. Sometimes it is believed that the Civil War was a civilized conflict in which aristocrats fought with restraint and even reluctance. The commanders on both sides did try to adhere to the military codes and rules of war proposed by the king and Parliament. However, there was no question of disgust for this occupation. The military fought as best they could to win glory. When necessary, there was no doubt about crushing the enemy brutally. The Civil War was a conflict of major battles and incessant harsh skirmishes, raids, sieges and assaults. And although the scale of hostilities and atrocities was not as great as in Europe during the recent Thirty Years' War of 1618-1648, historians consider the English and Welsh experience in this matter to be close. For example, in December 1643, Royalist troops entered the village of Bartomley in Cheshire. A group of 20 local residents, including women, hid in the tower of the church of St. Bertolino. The soldiers entered the church and forced the locals to come down. For this, the seats and the wooden floor were set on fire. Residents were offered pardon, but in practice 12 men were executed on the spot. After an armistice at the end of the summer of 1643, the king with the Irish Catholic rebels who controlled most of their island, the authorities tried to transfer troops there by ships. Parliament has taken a tough stance against the "Irish Royalists". Any of their followers and national associations were severely persecuted. The execution, murder, wounding or mutilation of women traveling with the rebels became commonplace. So it is wrong to consider those events to be gentlemen's deeds. It was a real war, in which the parties forgot about honor and blood flowed like a river.
Cromwell won the war for parliament. Although Oliver Cromwell was an important figure in the war, Fairfax became the general who led the troops of Parliament to victory. It was he who was the commander-in-chief of the "Army of the new model", based on democratic principles. He formed this army, trained it and developed a strategy of warfare. Cromwell led the cavalry. Parliament was forced to create such an army, as its own original army was destroyed and dispersed. Even those who were clearly unfit to serve had to be called up. As a result, Fairfax had to trust, in fact, robbers in military uniform. One of the general's most important decisions was the appointment of officers based on merit, not social status. Fairfax had to engage in real political struggles in the House of Commons and Lords to get it. But his army turned out to be really professional. In June 1465, Fairfax and his Redesigned Army overtook the king near Naseby, Northamptonshire. The Army of Parliament won a decisive and crushing victory. The general battle plan belonged to Cromwell, but it was Fairfax who, right in the middle of the battle, took the responsibility to change it. The Royalists believed that they were opposed, albeit more numerous, but a bunch of rabble. And when it became clear that the new army, assembled by Fairfax, was disciplined and well-organized, the cavaliers fled. Fairfax did not know how to use military successes for political ends, he just knew how to fight. As a result, his army laid siege to Oxford, capturing the temporary royal capital. Interestingly, everything was done very decently, in contrast to the royalists, who became famous for their looting and robberies. The Fairfax army was so disciplined and controlled that it is difficult to find evidence of death and destruction from it in the peaceful countryside. Fairfax faded into the background, thinking more about the army, not politics. He did not accept the laurels of the winner, and the myth arose that the war was won by Cromwell - a much brighter historical figure.
Only the British took part in the Civil War. Local historians for the past few decades have been interested in representing the civil war as an internal affair of the country. In practice, many people from outside the British Isles took part in the revolution. The most famous are relatives of the king, Henrietta Maria, his French wife, who led the royalist army in the north in 1643, and two nephews of Charles I, Prince Rupert and Prince Maurice. Both of them were half German. Dozens of foreign experts in military equipment, artillery and fortification participated in the armies of royalists and parliamentarians. For a long time England did not fight inside itself, its gentlemen gradually lost their military skills. Most of the foreign soldiers were French. Protestants from France and the Netherlands also fought, who opposed the king who supported the Catholics. People from outside Western Europe also took part in the revolution. One of the most famous foreign mercenaries was the Croat, Captain Carlo Phantom. He fought against the king. When the mercenary was asked what he was doing here, he replied: "I am not fighting for your cause, but for money and beautiful women." But this is not the most striking example. In one exotic cavalry regiment, soldiers from Egypt, Mesopotamia and Ethiopia served. When the Army of the new model was first formed, there were several foreigners in it. But the parliamentarians reveled in the thought that this army was completely English. By the end of the war, three regiments of French cavalry fought for the king. This fact was widely used by the Parliament for propaganda purposes. People were taught that "outsiders" had a strong influence on the war, which was not true, if only because of the number.
For parliamentarians, the war was religious in nature. It is tempting to think that Parliament has decided to start a war to protect religious freedoms. It is easy to believe in this, because there is plenty of evidence of such motivation being whipped up within the walls of this legislature. Many Puritans really believed that they would be the Lord's instruments in this Civil War. It is tempting to perceive Cromwell as a godly warrior given his rhetoric imbued with religion. However, it is worth taking a close look at the general's motives and it will immediately become clear what was behind them. In his speech from 1655, analyzing the war, Cromwell said: "Religion was not a thing that was disputed in the first place. However, God directed us to this issue and allowed us to solve it, showing what is most important for us." Historians consider this statement to be erroneous or a slip of the tongue, but I think the general was honest. It was God, not people, who was able to take religious reform beyond the Civil War. The clergy could not force people to ignite a revolution just for the sake of religious ideas. So both parliamentarians and Puritans, like Cromwell, were very careful in pointing to religion as a pretext for war. Instead, it was justified by the need to preserve the freedoms granted by law and attacked by Charles I. These people did not consider it legal to fight for their faith with the sword, since the only weapon can only be spiritual. But it was considered permissible to speak openly against the violator of the land law, having gathered an army. But along with political freedoms and rights, the revolution also affected religion. The English Reformation was carried out with the help of parliamentary laws. Wales opposed the king. The idea that the Welsh were among the most ardent Royalists usually surprises people. Historical memory is refracted by the more modern traditions of leftist radical politics. Many historians working under the shadow of this image have honored Welsh parliamentarians and Republicans as representatives of the country's true views throughout time. But there was no hotter of royalist sentiment during the Civil War than Wales.The region has even been nicknamed the "Royal Infantry Manger". The propaganda of the time called Wales a fanatical devotee of Charles I. One pamphlet noted that the king's appearance was made by the men of North Wales by a herd of geese who were driven by a drover.
Wales saw itself as a territory with a special relationship with the crown. They believed that they could stop the bloodshed. An important part of this support was Charles I's defense of conservative Protestantism, which was presented to the locals as the reincarnation of their own ancient religion. The parliamentarians also announced a more radical version. So the Welsh became passionate defenders of the type of church they liked with a monarch at its head. Only a few cities had little parliamentary support, such as Wrexham and Cardiff. But these votes belonged to a minority. For Charles, Wales was a reliable source of money and troops; here, if necessary, a foothold could be deployed for the introduction of troops into Ireland.
Parliament wanted to enter into an alliance with Scotland. There is a theory that in the middle of the 17th century the English Parliament tried to integrate Scotland into Great Britain. In fact, the British tried to avoid this alliance for many years, reluctantly concluding it in the end. In the 1640s, the Scots themselves called upon the British for an alliance, since they believed that a successful future for both countries lay only in the form of a federation. The British Parliament opposed this for two important reasons. The Scots could prevent the strict separation of church and state with the superiority of the former. The British also did not want their neighbors' parliament to be able to veto their own policies. In exchange for the support of the Scots during the wars, Parliament promised a federal union and a united church. However, after the abolition of the monarchy in England and Ireland and after the execution of Charles I in 1649, the Scots were declared their independence and the right to decide their own destiny on their own. But the Scots refused to accept this, voting to support Charles II as King of England, Scotland and Ireland. And then there was the Battle of Worcester in 1651, when Cromwell defeated the Scots. Then the British had to make a choice: they could withdraw the army or capture Scotland and stop the constant attacks on their country. As a result, it was decided to get rid of the threat by uniting England and Scotland. This was a necessary measure. The British went to it without enthusiasm, considering it a reasonable necessity.