In 1642, Charles I raised his royal standard flag in Nottingham. This flag was used to call troops to battle. King Charles had previously disbanded Parliament. Parliament was the legislative branch of England’s government. Besides disbanding Parliament, the king also raised taxes to pay for his war in Scotland. This action and the changes the king made to the Church of England caused him to be very unpopular with the people.
When Ireland and Scotland rebelled against the king in 1641, he was forced to recall Parliament. Parliament demanded the king surrender his royal power to Parliament. The scene was now set for a civil war when the king refused.
The first battle of the English Civil War was at Edge Hill. This battle resulted in neither side having a decisive victory. They both claimed to have won, but neither did. After a year of smaller battles in 1643, Oliver Cromwell created a new force which had an impact on the Civil War.
The Battle of Marston Moor
The second major battle of the English Civil War was the Battle of Marston Moor fought in 1644. July 2, 1644, the Battle of Marston Moor was fought. The battle took place seven miles to the west of York. When Cromwell’s men attacked, there was a thunderstorm and scattered rain.
King Charles’s Royalist army suffered a major defeat at the Battle of Marston Moor. The Royalist army faced the armies of Parliament and the Scots combined that were impossible to defeat. The result of this battle was the king lost control of northern England.
Events of The Battle of Marston Moor:
• The Parliamentarians and the Scottish formed an alliance early in 1644. This alliance created the Covenanter army. The Royalist army and the Parliamentarians had been fighting for two years.
• The Royalists held onto the city of York. The Covenanter army included the Parliamentarians and the Scottish. The Earl of Leven commanded the Covenanter army, and they began to move south into England. At about the same time, the Royalists commanded by the Marquess of Newcastle moved north. This was to prevent the Covenanter army from crossing the Tyne River. The Royalists were going north and the Covenanter army was going south. The Parliamentarians under the command of the Earl of Manchester advanced north. They planned to threaten the stronghold of York held by the Royalists. Newcastle and the Royalist army fell back in order to protect the city in late April
• On the July 2nd morning, the Allied commanders of the Scottish and the Parliamentarians surrounded the city of York. Leven was the commander-in-chief of the Allies. King Charles I sent his best general, Prince Rupert of the Rhine, to defend York. Hearing that Rupert was on his way with a force of 14,000, the Allied leaders abandoned the attack on the city. Instead they concentrated on Marston Moor to prevent Prince Rupert from reaching York. By crossing the River Ouse, Rupert was able to go around the flank of the Allies and arrive at York on July 1st.
• In 1644, Prince Rupert led the Royalist army into the city of York. Before this, the north of England seemed to side with Parliament and opposed the forced loans of the king. York was both a prosperous city and a major religious center. Because of this, controlling York was a big advantage. Rupert led the Royalist army into the city. The Parliamentarian army withdrew and headed in the direction of Tadcaster.
• On July 2nd, 1644, the commanders of the Royalist army marched after Parliament’s army to fight. They caught up to the Parliamentarian army at the moor near Long Marston. At the beginning of the fight, Prince Rupert’s Royalists were losing. This was because the Royalists had to fight on the moor and the Parliament army didn’t.
• The soldiers of Rupert’s army arrived for battle a few at a time. This was a serious advantage for Rupert and his army. Some of the army had arrived while others had not. Rupert’s army were outnumbered by 10,000 men. His 18,000 men faced 28,000 men of Parliament’s army. Since not all Rupert’s men weren’t there to fight, he was also unable to make any battle plans.
• Rupert had fewer foot soldiers to fight with than he expected. This was because the Royalist foot soldiers arrived in piecemeal. At that time, armies fought with their horse regiments on their flank.
• Rupert and the Royalist army had one advantage over the Parliament troops. The moor’s geography gave the Royalists a lot of protection. However, because the moor had many hedges and ditches, any attack could be very dangerous whether it was on horse or foot. The ditches provided defense for Rupert’s musketeers. His left flank was particularly defended by the ditches.
• Lord John Byron made a foolish move. Lord Byron commanded the Royalist army’s left flank at Marston Moor. He left his position that was defended well by the ditches and ordered an attack on the Parliamentarians commanded by Oliver Cromwell. This attack was not only a failure but it also made it possible for Cromwell to attack the left flank of the Royalists. However, Cromwell’s counter attack failed. Prince Rupert led the Royalist army to the left flank and forced Cromwell’s advance back.
• Parliamentarians were commanded by Sir Thomas Fairfax and Cromwell. They defeated the Royalists commanded by Lord George Goring. The Royalists were at first successful on the right flank. But Lord George couldn’t sustain his attack on the right flank. This caused him to be defeated by the Parliamentarians commanded by Sir Thomas Fairfax and Cromwell.
• The foot soldiers in the center of Rupert’s army were in total disorder. The Royalists were trapped having both flanks under attack. The Whitecoats of the Duke of Newcastle arrived late. When they finally arrived, the Royalists were being defeated. It only took one hour for Newcastle’s men to also be defeated.
• The influence of the Royalists in the north came to an end as a result of the Battle of Marston Moor. After the battle, some areas including Scarborough and Bolton held out. However, King Charles had basically lost the north after the battle of Marston Moor.
What led to the Royalists’ defeat?
• Although Rupert was a skilled commander, Byron was not. Byron left the security provided by the moor ditches. This action left the left flank of the Royalists open to attack. The Royalists were then caught between both flanks.
• Lord George Goring was brave, but lacking the skill of Thomas Fairfax.
• The biggest reason for the Royalists’ defeat was that too many of Rupert’s units were late arriving at the battlefield. Rupert was then not able to command all his units at the same time.
• Unlike the Royalists, Parliament’s army was well organized.
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Link will appear as Hanson, Marilee. "Battle of Marston Moor" https://englishhistory.net/stuarts/civil-war/battle-marston-moor/, April 21, 2017