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Was it Royalist weaknesses or their opponent's strengths that decided the outcome of the first civil war?

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Was it Royalist weaknesses or their opponent's strengths that decided the outcome of the first civil war? In the 1630's and 1640's Britain was divided by civil war. The British civil war forced fathers and sons, cousins, brothers and friends to choose sides and fight against the enemy which would often mean family members. The two sides (the Royalists, who fought for King Charles the second, and the Parliamentarians, who fought for parliament) both had strengths and weaknesses. It is these that decided the course of the war but it is commonly argued that the reason for the result was the Royalists inability to capitalise on an early advantage and parliaments growing strength. King Charles' army seized an early advantage in the first civil war. Large parts of the country such as South Wales and the South West were on the side of the King. In addition to this he soon gained control of most of northern England. The King, at this stage of the war had superior troops to those of Parliament and had greater resources despite Parliament controlling most trading centres and ports. Charles' initial plan to march on London was a sound one; however, in order for him to have achieved victory in this manner it was crucial that Charles capitalized quickly and decisively upon his early advantage. Unfortunately for him by allowing his army to be drawn into battle at Edgehill he missed the opportunity to do this. ...read more.


Parliament, however, didn't have the luxury of a clear target upon which to focus. Charles, although he did set up his winter quarters in Oxford, didn't have a set base and as such was a far harder target than Parliament's chambers in Westminster. Another factor backing up the point made earlier that Charles was unable to call in help from European aristocracy and Royals and that he was unable to trade as freely as he may have wished is this; The vast majority of the Navy had sided with Parliament as the crown was in arrears in paying the seamen's wages. Unwilling to fight for free the vast majority of the navy had decided to join Parliament. This factor is not greatly significant, however, as the civil war was largely fought on land and not at sea. The fighting that did take place at sea was largely ineffective. The Navy only stopped roughly one in seven of the King's ships from making port. One great weakness of the Royalists was their poorly structured command system. Prince Rupert and the Marquis of Newcastle, King Charles' main commanders, were often a law unto themselves, Prince Rupert especially. At Marston Moor Prince Rupert and Newcastle had been sent to raise the siege of York. When Rupert arrived and met with Newcastle he insisted that he had also had orders from the King not only to save York but to draw the Parliamentary forces in the area into battle. ...read more.


Clearly Parliament had the great advantage of controlling the south east and London. This gave them great resources which, if not immediately, would eventually be telling. This is obviously a Parliamentary strength and is compounded by a Royalist weakness. Charles' failure to attempt to end the war in its early stages, when he had the upper hand and Parliament was only beginning to put into action any plans they had was t6he result of poor communication between his generals and would eventually cause him to lose his head. Although these Royalist weaknesses and errors were fatal they did not ensure or guarantee a Parliamentary victory. Parliaments strength of resources grew as the war went on as did Parliaments military strength with the Scottish Alliance. At this stage of the war the result was still in question; however, with the formation of the New Model army a Royalist victory began to look less and less likely. Even at this stage, when Parliamentary victory looked inevitable it was not certain that it would come quickly. It was only Charles' error in being drawn to battle at Naseby and the re-emergence of the neutralists that brought about the collapse of Royalist forces within the year. Ultimately it was not Royalist weaknesses or parliamentary strengths which caused the first civil war to end as it did but a balance of the two. Parliament would not have been able to capitalise on their resources if the king had had similar resources and the same goes for their strong command structure, being at odds with the poor discipline of the King's troops. The Civil war ended as it did because of Parliamentary strength and Royalist weaknesses. ...read more.

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