The English Civil War

You don’t have to know anything about the English Civil War to enjoy The Cavaliers Series, but here’s an brief explanation for those who are interested.

The Civil War (as I’m going to call it from now on, with apologies to any American readers who might find that a bit confusing), was one of the subjects I studied in detail as part of my History degree at Oxford, so I could quite easily go on about its nuances for pages, but I’ll try to keep it simple.

In essence, the war was fought in the mid seventeenth century, between the Royalists (otherwise known as the Cavaliers), who supported and were led by the King, and the Parliamentarians (or Roundheads), lead by Oliver Cromwell, who wanted to overthrow him.

Like any war, the origins and causes are pretty complicated (oh dear, the essays I’ve had to write on that!). There were however two main ones.

Firstly, the extent to which the King of England (Charles I at the time) was able to rule as an absolute monarch, as opposed to one who worked with Parliament.

Secondly, religion. England was Protestant at the time, and many people were worried that the king, who had a Catholic wife, was going to make Catholicism the state religion.

The war lasted 9 years, from 1642-1651. The King was driven out of London, and set up a new capital in Oxford, with his court living in the University buildings. It ended in decisive victory for the parliamentarians, who executed King Charles and ran England and Scotland as a Republic, under Oliver Cromwell, for 11 years. After Cromwell’s death, King Charles’ son, Charles II reclaimed the Crown and was made King.

Even at the time, the two sides tended to be stereotyped: Cavaliers as aristocratic, long haired and fancily dress, and high church veering towards Catholic; Roundheads as middle class, plainly dressed with shaved heads (hence the name), and Puritan. These images have persisted over the centuries. Like most stereotypes, they have some basis in truth, but aren’t always accurate. That said, this description was certainly true of the leaders of both sides, and it’s something I’ve ran with in my series.

If you’d like more detail, whilst I’m always nervous about recommending Wikipedia as a source, these pages are pretty good:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/English_Civil_War

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Charles_I_of_England

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Oliver_Cromwell

These two are a bit more hit and miss, but helpful for giving a basic idea about the two sides:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cavalier

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Roundhead

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