England has seen many, many conflicts over the years, but the English Civil War stands out as a remarkable revolution. As of 1642, Parliamentary forces revolted against the monarchy, led by King Charles I – who, while he had a loyal following, was growing increasingly unpopular. The Parliamentarians were spearheaded by Oliver Cromwell, who would go on to become Lord Protector for five years.
A bloody and complex affair, it’s an extremely intriguing period to read up on. Here are some interesting facts about the English Civil War.
1. It was more than one conflict.
The English Civil War was, in fact, actually composite of three parts. They occurred from 1642 to 1651, with the first battle being King Charles’ fight against the English Parliament.
2. The second two conflicts were ‘reactions’.
The Second English Civil War took place as a result of King Charles failing to concede. This, of course, led to his second failure, and his execution. The Third Civil War, many concur, was Parliament’s way of implementing rule.
3. The King’s son staged a fascinating breakout.
King Charles’ children were imprisoned following his initial arrest. James (later King James II) was among those children – and he managed to escape from St James Palace under cover of ‘hide and seek’, wearing women’s clothing!
4. Oliver Cromwell was a stern force.
Cromwell was in charge of Parliament, and yes, the rumours are true – following Charles’ defeat, Cromwell did ban Christmas celebrations for over a decade. Thankfully, his reign didn’t last long, and celebrations were reinstated.
5. Civil war broke out as a result of squabbles over charge.
Crucially, while the conflicts broke out for various reasons, the English Civil War was a clash between royalists and parliamentarians. Essentially, people couldn’t agree on who should run the country!
6. Many men were military bound.
At the time of the English Civil War breaking out, around 20% of all adult men in England and Wales were fighting in the military.
7. Charles I made royal history.
That is, in the sense he was the first King of England to be executed! He was beheaded, publicly, on January 30th, 1649. The charge? Tyranny and murder.
8. Two clear sides to the battle.
Historians and those studying this period will know that the War was fought between the Cavaliers and the Roundheads. The Cavaliers were the kingsmen, and the Roundheads were the Parliamentarians.
9. The Roundheads’ name relates to armour.
The Roundheads get their collective name from their helmets, which were ‘lobster pot’ style. They covered the whole of their heads and necks. It became part of the uniform Cromwell finalised for them.
10. Cromwell died of natural causes.
Cromwell’s cause was ultimately victorious in the War, and while many despised the man, it was natural causes that eventually claimed his life. The Lord Protector would only remain in charge for five years before succumbing to malaria.
11. Cromwell’s son overturned the victory.
Richard Cromwell succeeded his father, and actually abdicated. As a result, this paved the way for the monarchy to return – and fittingly, King Charles II took the mantle. This period of time is called the ‘restoration’, and it applies to various pieces of art and music from the period, too!
12. The Roundheads annihilated the opposition.
It is thought that Cromwell’s men more than effectively wiped out the Cavaliers in battle. Specifically, at the Battle of Marston Moor, they reportedly killed more than 50% of those fighting for the other side.
13. The Civil War claimed many, many lives.
The Civil War was a bloody series of conflicts which claimed the lives of more than 250,000 people. It was, ironically, referred to as the ‘Glorious Revolution’ by some. It remains one of the most devastating periods of English history on record.
14. The eve of war
The Civil War officially started as a result of the battle standard, the royal emblem, being raised overhead at Nottingham Castle. This signified that conflict was underway.
15. Cromwell wasn’t the one who ‘won’ the war.
It’s a famous misconception that Oliver Cromwell himself effectively won the war for the Roundheads. In fact, it was Thomas Fairfax, who was largely in charge of the military, known as the New Model Army.
Do you know any interesting facts about the English Civil War? Share them in the comments below!