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Was it the weaknesses of the Royalists or the strengths of their opponents that best explains the outcome of the First Civil War by 1646

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The most important factor determining the outcome of the War was Charles’s lack of initiative and strategy to firstly win the battle of Edgehill, and destroy Parliament and Essex’s army while they were in “their darkest hour” and then march on London. Charles had advantages at this early stage in the war with control of the vital port of Bristol “there appeared to be little to prevent the king from linking up his northern and western armies with his own at Oxford”-Anderson

This hesitation and capitulation by the King, Rupert and Digby at the early stages of the war historians suggest cost the war. There is Evidence to support this claim “although the Royalist cavalry were victorious in routing their opponents their inability to regroup and rejoin the battle allowed the Parliamentarian foot to retreat in good order and had Ruperts cavalry been as strong in discipline and tactics as they were in attack Edgehill might have been an outright victory for thing king”-Anderson.

There is primary evidence from Rev Adoniram Bitfield who was at Edgehill who said” A few of our wagons were burned and plundered by the enemy’s horse who wheeled about our rear”. These suggest that Rupert’s cavalry went chasing after loot and plunder rather than regrouping and fighting. “As it seemed his troops were undisciplined and thought more of plunder than of king”- I Roots.

This was a vital strategic mistake as regrouped I Roots argues that the Royalists could have defeated the Parliamentarians which would have laid the road to London open as Essex would have been defeated, this was the Kings best chance of a successful outcome to the War. Seel argues that “The road to London lay open to Charles but instead of ordering an immediate decent on the capital he decided to set up a garrison at Oxford, this proved to be a vital strategic error”. This lack of strategy and decisiveness was disastrous as London stayed Parliamentarian for the duration of the war.

A swift advance on London might have resulted in a Royalist victory but the king, perhaps shaken by the first battle he had witnessed moved too hesitantly, taking time out to capture Oxford before advancing on London. However Barret argues differently suggesting that if the Royalist army did reach London the Turnham Green band of men defending London would have most likely defeated it. This statement one views critically as Anderson, Seel and Hudson collectively argue that if the Royalists lay siege to the city it would have most likely have fallen.

The possession of London significant as it was the centre for propaganda, and the economic and commercial hub of the nation and therefore hugely wealthy, 70 percent of all custom duties were contributed by London, the trained bands of London lifting the siege of Gloucester in 1643 and most importantly with a population of about 400,000 roughly one tenth of the total population of England- London was a war winning resource base.

The possession of London by the Royalists would have proved a great advantage if the war had lasted for more than four years What was so fundamental about the Royalists failures in 1624 was that they allowed Parliament to survive and to utilise the resources at its disposal. In the long run these were greatly superior to their own”-Anderson However that was not the only factor determining the success of the Parliamentarians. It is argued from many that leadership on both sides determined the outcome of the war as poor leadership dissipated the Royalists early advantages.

The four main leaders were Charles, Rupert, Cromwell and Fairfax. Charles was the absolute leader of the Royalists that in theory should have allowed him to easily lead without conflict and with authority, but historians argue that this did not happen. Decisive leadership was needed to organise and control the hierarchical structure, which is needed to fight a war. On the Royalist side there was conflict between Rupert and Digby both of who manoeuvred against each other and advised the king differently.

Anderson comments, “Charles failed to control the conflicting aims and ambitions of his commanders and advisors”, and “A hesitant king failed to develop an affective administration or to control his commanders inadequately so to that the Royalist war effort became fragmented”. Charles though brave and tactical in battle he was no leader. Charles’s competent advisors like Rupert who had vast military experience abroad in the Thirty Years War bombarded him with advice that he frequently ignored G Ford argues this. Naseby was lost as a result of the failure of the king to accept the arguments of the most capable soldiers (Rupert) in the Royalist council of war” Before the battle Digby advised soldiers to be sent North to fight for the northern territories and Rupert advised the king to send them south and fight in the West Country. It can be argued that Charles wrongly split his forces into two therefore the result being at Naseby the Royalist force was of 7,500 men against a motivated 14,000 men of the New Model Army.

There was also military hesitation by the king caused by Parliamentarian garrisons of towns Plymouth, Hull and Gloucester within Royalist territory that created fear of resistance from these towns escalating, capturing surrounding territory the consequence of this was hesitation to move troops away to link up the Royalist forces at Oxford and probably destroyed the king best chance of outright victory. It cannot be said entirely that these military mistakes made by the king were entirely his responsibility although History conveys this.

More damaging was the king’s inability to keep unity within the Royalist ranks over the ultimate objectives of warfare. Edward Hyde sought for a peace while Charles, Rupert and Digby aimed for total military victory. The Royalists had an advantage of a unified command and a clear strategy at the start of the war with a visible leader while Parliament had a clear disadvantage of none of this, but it can be argued that this advantage was thrown away by Charles’s poor leadership and the Parliamentarians disadvantage minimised by the leadership and diplomacy of Pym.

Parliament contained different factions which had conflicting ideologies of the way that war should be waged. Pym was able to bring a degree of unity by skilfully manoeuvring. Pym orchestrated the involvement of the Scots against the Royalists by agreeing to semi Presbyterianism. This could have been disastrous to the unity to those who wanted peace by bringing in this third party but Pym once again held the flimsy coalition together. Pym blocked a peace initiative on the basis that given Parliaments weakness the only terms the king would agree would be surrender.

Finally Charles sealed parliaments unity by writing the Irish Cessation and raising once again the most damaging allegation of popery after private letters to the catholic Irish rebels were found at Charles baggage train at Naseby. This was an epic propaganda disaster for Charles and inspired the already military motivated Parliament to press on. Pym’s contribution cannot be ignored “When Pym died he had steered the Parliamentary cause through its most difficult period”- Anderson. Also from Pym Parliament had acquired an ally, providing 21,500 men vital in the victory at Marston Moor in 1644. Pyms role had at least the basic material for success”-Anderson. Steele comments, “Pym was instrumental in containing the growing religious factions within Parliament” and “it can be seen he accomplished much”. It cannot be dismissed that the factor of resource gathering was as strongly responsible for the outcome of the war or even stronger as the other factors, and many historians agree stoutly such as Barret, Steele, and Hutton. The Parliamentarians held superior resource gathering territory compared to their enemies.

Not only did they control London (see page 1), which gave them a massive advantage in tax collecting, but they also controlled most of the southeast, which today, that single region is suggested to be the 8th richest area in the world! When war broke the navy declared to side with Parliament. This was an advantage as supplies could be brought in from abroad but it also hindered the Royalist trade of those harbours in Royalist hands. “As a result Edward Hyde the Chancellor raised no more than about £97,000 compared with average peacetime yearly income of £500,000”-Barret.

The control of the navy halted the Royalists to some extent from bringing in troops and supplies. Parliament also controlled all of the major ports other than Newcastle and Bristol, this brought in superior revenue also as this is where most of Britain’s trade was carried out allowing the excise tax and the customs tax to be introduced early on in the war allowing vast collections of money to be collected which in turn was used to supply the troops in the field. At the start of the conflict Parliament and the Royalists had very different ways of collecting and utilising resources.

Seel argues “Parliament took more drastic action, while Charles relied on more traditional forms such as selling of titles and donations, Parliament increased taxes through excise, sequestration and introducing the Monthly assessment . ” Early on Charles relied heavily on voluntary contributions from friends such as the Earl of Worcester who donated around £300,000 before the war was over inevitably these sources diminished, a prolonged conflict forced him to seek other ways of paying for it.

Parliament held the most effective source of income such as the proceeds of customs, and the Monthly assessment. “The monthly assessment met vast success in rich counties such as Kent and Sussex yielded enormous amounts Kent alone yielding £100,000 in 1645-6)-Stroud. Both parties used sequestration to also raise resources. It is argued that Parliament raised over a million pounds a year, which Historians argue, towered over the Royalists figure which was raised more “locally and haphazardly”-Stroud.

This more local approach caused another factor of Localism for Charles by Royalist troops “plundering local communities regardless of their loyalties”-Anderson. There seemed to be a lack of organisation with Royalist forces, as money raised seemed to stay in that area and than spent there rather than being collected and distributed from Oxford. This created serious problems sustaining armies. Localism during the final stages of the war helped erode the Royalist war effort. “In 1645-6, the collapse of the Kings forces owed much to this lack of resources”-Stroud.

It is suggested that the war was a battle of attrition; the side that sustained itself, and an efficient and successful army for the longest (Parliament) won as the other collapsed under the strain of a lack of resources. December 1644 the self-denying ordinance was introduced by Parliament. The Ordinance admitted faults and proposed a separation of military and political functions. Therefore this would create a new army run by military men; this greatly contrasted with the king’s policy of appointing by status.

The army created was named The New Model Army, with Lieutenant of Horse Oliver Cromwell. Cromwell who had a respect for equality within; hired his troops who were godly, and had to know what to fight for. “Appointing from these factors created a highly effective fighting force”-Anderson. “By 1644 Cromwell had proved himself not only a born cavalry man but also a splendid military advisor. ” . This army was successful fighting a decisive victory at Naseby. This continued through Dorset, defeating Hopton in the South West.

It success was caused by Cromwell and Fairfax’s leadership but also by moral which was high as it was”battle hardened and religiously inspired”-Hudson but also it received regular pay and uniforms, historians argue that this was the basis of the future British army. I Roots argues that “The new model army seemed the sole ray of light breaking through clouds heavy with disaster for Parliament”. To conclude Parliaments victory resulted from a combination of contingent and conditional factors, although to some extent some hold more importance then others.

Firstly it is clear that Parliamentary control of London provided a huge advantage through a reservoir for resources and men, so through the hesitation of Charles and the clear failures made by the Royalists in 1642-3 to grasp it while Parliament was “in its darkest hour” was hugely important to the outcome of the War. The superior utilising of resources by Parliament with the high tax gathering territories, the navy, and occupation of most ports put Parliament in a more dominant position as time went on the Royalists dwindling resources caused a shortfall of a successful cohesive fighting force.

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