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The Second Civil War

King Charles I walks to his execution - Painting by Ernest Crofts

The Second Civil War. — As conditions of a settlement the Parliament demanded the control of the army, the punishment of the King's chief supporters and the establishment of Presbyterianism. The King refused these terms, and the Scots handed him over to the Parliament and returned to their own country.

Then the army intervened. The war being over, Parliament wished to send part of the army to Ireland and disband another part. Before allowing themselves to be dispersed, the soldiers wanted payment of their outstanding wages. The soldiers also demanded a guarantee of indemnity against prosecution for actions carried out under orders during the war and provision for war widows and orphans.

The Independents amongst them demanded "liberty of conscience", or freedom of religion (at least for non-Catholics). They encouraged the various sects which rejected state-regulated worship in favour of free congregations of believers. This brought them into dispute with the Presbyterians who preferred a more rigid, state controlled church. The Independents were also more inclined to favour legal and political reform and moves towards greater democracy.

Unable to obtain satisfaction, the army took the King into their custody and tried to reach an understanding with him. They offered freedom of conscience and merciful treatment of his friends, but they also demanded democratic changes which would have further reduced the power of the Crown.

Convinced that neither army nor Parliament could stand without his support, Charles would not come to an agreement with either, but negotiated with the Scots a treaty known as the Engagement, by which they were to restore him to power and he was to establish Presbyterianism in England for three years.

There followed the second Civil War in 1648 which in effect was a series of scattered and futile rebellions. A Scottish invading army was totally destroyed by Cromwell in the Battle of Preston. Through these events the faction amongst the army which maintained that negotiation with the King was useless and that he should be tried and punished for his part in the civil wars became dominant. The military chiefs purged the House of Commons and a remnant of 60 or 70 members, the so-called Rump, passed a bill creating a High Court of Justice to try the King.

When the Lords rejected this, they passed it once more with a declaration that the agreement of the Lords was unnecessary.

Brought before the High Court, Charles refused to acknowledge its jurisdiction and, on a second and third appearance, reiterated his refusal. He was nevertheless condemned.

On 30th  Jan 1649  Charles I was executed in front of the Banqueting House at Whitehall, London.


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