Last Updated 08 May 2020

The main reason for the defeat of the royalist

Category business
Essay type Research
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The leadership of Charles I was an important factor in the defeat of the royalist cause. Charles was indecisive by nature, and the decisions he did make were often poor.

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. After Edgehill, Charles made the crucial error of retreating back to Oxford rather than pushing forward to London. He also divided royalist councils by choosing leaders who quarrelled, such as Rupert and Digby, whose conflicting advice contributed to a great defeat at Naseby. The Cessation Treaty, an alliance between the royalists and the Irish rebels, again proved Charles to be a poor decision maker. This reinforced the impression that Charles favoured Catholics, turning what was a political conflict into a religious one, which in turn provided parliamentary troops an added fervour in the field. However, the real damage to the royalist cause had been done far before the first battle. The legacy of Charles, the fear of a return to personal rule mobilised people into battle.

However, it is unfair to suggest that Charles was fully responsible for all royalist failures. Despite having poorer resources to begin with, the royalists seemed to have the upper hand towards the middle of the war, winning many battles such as Adwalton Moor, and Roundway Down, and the successful siege of Bristol. The road to London appeared to be open. However, they failed to capitalise on early victories, at the fault of the poor military leadership. The divided nature of the royalist councils, for example the relationship between Rupert and Digby lead to a lack of coordination of their forces. The royalists were limited in their alliances, and the Cessation Treaty failed to supply the royalists with enough troops, again weakening their cause. The inability to raise sufficient funding for the war, due to the smaller tax base of the royalists, meant they failed to create a disciplined fighting force, which, when against the New Modal Army in the later years of the war, proved disastrous.

Parliamentary strengths were a huge factor in the defeat of the royalist cause. Parliament’s superior resources were instrumental in enabling them to create a powerful fighting force. Having control of the two main armouries in Hull and London from the beginning meant the royalists had to race to catch up. As an industrial centre, it also gave them access to necessary supplies, such as clothing and shoes. However this initial advantage failed to show itself in the field, the start of the war being relatively indecisive, the royalists gaining the advantage towards 1643. Parliament’s control of key cities, especially London, brought in extortionate amounts of money through direct tax on land. Having control of the capital also provided the Parliamentarians with the means to effectively spread their propaganda. London was the centre of the British printing industry, which allowed the parliamentarians to mass produce pamphlets and leaflets. The comparatively large population of the cities held by the parliamentarians also meant that they had more people to call upon to fight, again improving the parliamentary cause.

However, these resources would have gone to waste if not diploid by strong leaders on the parliamentarian side. Leaders such as Pym, who’s weekly/monthly assessment raised vast sums of money. Under the assessment, Parliament was able to raise £520,000 a year from London alone.

Pym was also important in that he unified Parliament. Different factions were already starting to form within Parliament. Pym’s ability to persuade Parliament to form an alliance with the Scottish in 1643 with the Solemn League and Covenant was a great feat, and proved to be beneficial to the war effort, sending 21,000 men in return for Presbyterian policies being introduced. Cromwell was also important in dealing with the growing factionalism. By making parliament pass the Self-Denying Ordinance, he ensured those who were unsure of the war effort, such as Manchester, were separated from battle. It stated that all no one could be both an MP and hold any military commands or civil offices, therefore separating the politics from battle. There were a few exceptions, including Cromwell himself, however ignoring this blatant hypocrisy it proved to ensure not only a more zealous fighting force, but also a more organised government.

Cromwell’s leadership also brought about the creation of the New Model Army in 1645. This unified the various regional parliamentary armies, which allowed them to find and destroy royalist armies. This army was better trained, better paid, and better equipped, creating a strong, disciplined, fighting force. The NMA was also a meritocracy, a very revolutionary concept for the time. The New Model Army proved effective, bringing about decisive victories for Parliament, perhaps even winning them the war. An example of this was the battle of Naseby, in which the Parliamentarians killed or captured 5,500 Royalists, losing only 200 men.

However, some decisive victories may not have been possible without the force of the Scottish troops. The battle of Marston Moor was one of the first decisive victories for the Parliamentarians, proving the Scottish to be zealous fighters, and gave the parliamentarians an enormous advantage numerically. With the help of the Scottish troops, the parliamentary boarders were pushed down from the north, giving them an even larger tax base, and spreading parliamentary influence.

The main reason for the defeat of the royalist cause therefore cannot be fully pinned on Charles, due to the complexity of the strengths and weaknesses of both sides. His role in the civil war was limited, and although the royalists had failed to capitalise on early victories, a stalemate would have continued to occur without the key reforms made by Parliament in late 1644

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