Chuck 1 and Ollie

King Charles I and Oliver Cromwell

Horrible Histories: English Civil War with Bob Hale

King Charles I

Charles I was king of England, Scotland and Ireland, whose conflicts with parliament led to civil war and his eventual execution.


Charles I was born in Fife on 19 November 1600, the second son of James VI of Scotland and Anne of Denmark. On the death of Elizabeth I in 1603 James became king of England and Ireland. Charles's popular older brother Henry, whom he adored, died in 1612 leaving Charles as heir, and in 1625 he became king. Three months after his accession he married Henrietta Maria of France. They had a happy marriage and left five surviving children.


Charles's reign began with an unpopular friendship with George Villiers, Duke of Buckingham, who used his influence against the wishes of other nobility. Buckingham was assassinated in 1628. There was ongoing tension with parliament over money - made worse by the costs of war abroad. In addition, Charles favoured a High Anglican form of worship, and his wife was Catholic - both made many of his subjects suspicious, particularly the Puritans. Charles dissolved parliament three times between 1625 and 1629. In 1629, he dismissed parliament and resolved to rule alone. This forced him to raise revenue by non-parliamentary means which made him increasingly unpopular. At the same time, there was a crackdown on Puritans and Catholics and many emigrated to the American colonies.


Unrest in Scotland - because Charles attempted to force a new prayer book on the country - put an end to his personal rule. He was forced to call parliament to obtain funds to fight the Scots. In November 1641, tensions were raised even further with disagreements over who should command an army to suppress an uprising in Ireland. Charles attempted to have five members of parliament arrested and in August 1642, raised the royal standard at Nottingham. Civil war began.


The Royalists were defeated in 1645-1646 by a combination of parliament's alliance with the Scots and the formation of the New Model Army. In 1646, Charles surrendered to the Scots, who handed him over to parliament. He escaped to the Isle of Wight in 1647 and encouraged discontented Scots to invade. This 'Second Civil War' was over within a year with another royalist defeat by Parliamentarian general Oliver Cromwell. Convinced that there would never be peace while the king lived, a rump of radical MPs, including Cromwell, put him on trial for treason. He was found guilty and executed on 30 January 1649 outside the Banqueting House on Whitehall, London.

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Oliver Cromwell

English soldier and statesman who helped make England a republic and then ruled as lord protector from 1653 to 1658.


Oliver Cromwell was born on 25 April 1599 in Huntingdon, Cambridgeshire into a family of minor gentry and studied at Cambridge University. He became member of parliament for Huntingdon in the parliament of 1628 - 1629. In the 1630s Cromwell experienced a religious crisis and became convinced that he would be guided to carry out God's purpose. He began to make his name as a radical Puritan when, in 1640, he was elected to represent Cambridge, first in the Short Parliament and then in the Long Parliament.


Civil war broke out between Charles I and parliament in 1642. Although Cromwell lacked military experience, he created and led a superb force of cavalry, the 'Ironsides', and rose from the rank of captain to that of lieutenant-general in three years. He convinced parliament to establish a professional army - the New Model Army - which won the decisive victory over the king's forces at Naseby (1645). The king's alliance with the Scots and his subsequent defeat in the Second Civil War convinced Cromwell that the king must be brought to justice. He was a prime mover in the trial and execution of Charles I in 1649 and subsequently sought to win conservative support for the new republic by suppressing radial elements in the army. Cromwell became army commander and lord lieutenant of Ireland, where he crushed resistance with the massacres of the garrisons at Drogheda and Wexford (1649).


Cromwell then defeated the supporters of the king's son Charles II at Dunbar (1650) and Worcester (1651), effectively ending the civil war. In 1653, frustrated with lack of progress, he dissolved the rump of the Long Parliament and, after the failure of his Puritan convention (popularly known as Barebones Parliament) made himself lord protector. In 1657, he refused the offer of the crown. At home Lord Protector Cromwell reorganised the national church, established Puritanism, readmitted Jews into Britain and presided over a certain degree of religious tolerance. Abroad, he ended the war with Portugal (1653) and Holland (1654) and allied with France against Spain, defeating the Spanish at the Battle of the Dunes (1658). Cromwell died on 3 September 1658 in London. After the Restoration his body was dug up and hanged.


Cromwell's son Richard was named as his successor and was lord protector of England from September 1658 to May 1659. He could not reconcile various political, military and religious factions and soon lost the support of the army on which his power depended. He was forced to abdicate and after the restoration of the monarchy in 1660 he fled to Paris. He returned to England in 1680 and lived quietly under an assumed name until his death in 1712.

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