The English Civil War

Upon Elizabeth’s death in 1603, she was succeeded by James I, the son of Elizabeth’s cousin, Mary Stuart, also known as Mary Queen of Scots.

The advent of James I to the throne led to an agreement between England and Scotland that, although they would retain separate parliaments, they would have the same monarchy, the first act of unity between the two peoples.

However, the old squabbles between Catholic and Protestants caused serious problems, especially in England.

In 1605 AD, a Catholic plot to blow up the Protestant dominated English Parliament was foiled at the last minute when one of the conspirators, Guy Fawkes, was arrested while setting the charges.

(Above) Guy Fawkes and his fellow conspirators were tortured and hanged. The so-called Gunpowder Plot is celebrated to the present day with displays of fireworks and a bonfire, known by various names such as Guy Fawkes Night, Fireworks or Bonfire Night.

The growing rift between Catholics, Protestants and hardline Protestants, known as Puritans, combined with the efforts by the tyrant Charles I to rule without Parliament between 1629 to 1640 led to the third English Civil War (1642-1651).

The Royalists were known as the Cavaliers, led by King Charles I, and the Parliamentarians became known as the Roundheads, led eventually by the enigmatic and able leader Oliver Cromwell.

The situation erupted into war when the Roundheads declared war on the Cavaliers and much of the country was laid waste in the ensuing battles and campaigns.

Eventually however the Roundheads managed to win, thanks largely to the skill and generalship of Cromwell.

The Civil War ended with a Parliamentary victory at the Battle of Worcester in September 1651 AD.

(Above) The tyrant king Charles I who was defeated by the parliamentary forces, led by Oliver Cromwell. Charles schemed with foreign powers to import foreign mercenaries and was executed for treason. 

The defeat of the Royalists led to the execution of King Charles I and the exile of his son Charles, the heir to the throne.

The English monarchy was abolished, and Cromwell, a dominating personality, established the English Commonwealth, which included all of Scotland and Ireland.

The Commonwealth also expanded overseas, seizing territories from Spain.

Cromwell was offered the crown but refused, accepting the republican title of Lord Protector instead.

(Above) The enigmatic Parliamentarian-Roundhead leader Oliver Cromwell. A military genius, Cromwell fought for the right of Parliament to govern the kingdom of England. He built the New Model Army, along with Sir Thomas Fairfax, and conquered the whole of the British Isles.

Cromwell died in 1658 AD and immediately the republican English Commonwealth collapsed.

The next few years were a period of confusion about what to do next, until finally the son of the executed tyrant Charles I was invited back from exile and summoned to the throne in 1660, in what became known as the Restoration.

Cromwell’s body was dug up, hung in public and beheaded.

The period after the Restoration saw a further flowering of English culture, producing famous writers such as Samuel Pepys, John Milton and John Bunyan.

(Above) The Great Fire of London, 1666 AD. The raging inferno consumed two-thirds of the city. The Tower of London is visible to the right of the painting. Britain’s foremost architect, Sir Christopher Wren, then rebuilt large areas of the city.

In 1666 AD a devastating fire in the English capital of London destroyed two-thirds of the city.

Once of the greatest architects of history, Sir Christopher Wren, then undertook the task of rebuilding London, creating magnificent structures such as St. Paul’s Cathedral.

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