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English civil war

The Second Civil War and Its Aftermath

The king was delivered (1647) by the Scots into the hands of Parliament, but the Presbyterian rule in that body had thoroughly alienated the army. The army resisted Parliament's proposal to disband it by capturing the king from the parliamentary party and marching on London. Army discontent gradually became more radical (see Levelers), and the desire grew to dispose of the king altogether.

Refusing to accept the army council's proposals for peace (the Heads of the Proposals), Charles escaped in Nov., 1647, and took refuge on the Isle of Wight, where he negotiated simultaneously with Parliament and the Scots. In Dec., 1647, he concluded an agreement with the Scots known as the Engagement, by which he agreed to accept Presbyterianism in return for military support. In the spring of 1648, the second civil war began. Uprisings in Wales, Kent, and Essex were all suppressed by the parliamentary forces, and Cromwell defeated the Scots at Preston (Aug. 17, 1648). Charles's hopes of aid from France or Ireland proved vain, and the war was quickly over.

Parliament again tried to reach some agreement with the king, but the army, now completely under Cromwell's domination, disposed of its enemies in Parliament by Pride's Purge (Dec., 1648; see under Pride, Thomas). The legislative remnant known as the Rump Parliament erected a high court of justice, which tried the king for treason and found him guilty. Charles was beheaded on Jan. 30, 1649, and the republic known as the Commonwealth was set up, governed by the Rump Parliament (without the House of Lords) and by an executive council of state.

Charles I's son Charles II was recognized as king in parts of Ireland and in Scotland but was forced to flee to the Continent after his defeat at Worcester (1651). The years of the interregnum, under the Commonwealth to 1653 and the Protectorate after that, are largely the story of Oliver Cromwell's personal rule, which was marked by strict military administration and enforcement of the Puritan moral code. After his death and the short-lived rule of his son, Richard Cromwell, the Commonwealth was revived for a brief and chaotic period. It ended in 1660 with the Restoration of Charles II. Although some of the changes brought about by the war were swept away (e.g., in the restoration of Anglicanism as the state church), the settlement of the contest between the king and Parliament was permanently assured in the Glorious Revolution of 1688.

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

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