Copyright © 2007 Dorling Kindersley
From 1642 to 1648 people in the British Isles were split by a war between King Charles I and Parliament. The king was said to be influenced by his wife, a French Catholic. He brought in unpopular taxes and tried to force his will on Parliament. This led to civil war.
Oliver Cromwell (1599–1658) was a farmer and Member of Parliament. In the English Civil War he proved himself to be a brilliant soldier. He and his armored troopers became known as Ironsides. He led a savage invasion of Catholic Ireland in 1649.
The forces of Parliament included many of the more extreme Protestants, called Puritans (also known as Roundheads, because of their short haircuts). The royalists were called Cavaliers (meaning “knights”). Their war ended with the capture of Charles I.
The leaders of the Parliamentary forces were mostly country landowners, squires, and merchants. Many of the poor people who fought for them wanted the land to be shared and equal rights for all. Cromwell crushed these Diggers and Levelers in 1649.
In 1649 a republic, or Commonwealth, was declared. There was now a Council of State instead of a king. However, the army was impatient for greater change, so in 1653 power was handed over to Oliver Cromwell, who was given the title “Lord Protector”. Cromwell died and under his son the Commonwealth soon collapsed. In 1660 the monarchy was restored, but with limited powers.