England- being the site of industrial revolution and subjected to several wars can be considered as more developed economically and politically. Alongside with these developments, people in England had established the Parliament as a response to the growing need of the people for an organized society apart from the ruling of the monarchy at the time. However, the decline in the power of the monarchy including that of King Charles and the rise in the power of the parliament were not without struggles.
The Battle of Edgehill characterized the classic battle for power between the Parliament and the monarchy (King Charles) in their bid to show who has the most political power in England. Characteristically, the Battle of Edgehill is a power struggle between the Parliament or democracy and King Charles and the monarchy. At the time when there is an increasing acceptance and power accorded to the Parliament, the question has been raised on who can appropriate and approve funds- the King or the Parliament.
This being the root cause of the Battle of Edgehill and the four (4) years that followed after an indecisive outcome of the war had been studied from the point of view of political scientists and sociologists. This paper on the other hand, seeks to provide an evaluation on the significance of the Battle of Edgehill on the power struggles of King Charles and the Parliament after the years that followed. It can be recalled that while the way was opened for King Charles’ troops, no victor emerged in the war.
The vagueness of the result then further pushed the power struggle and hence, put England at the theme of monarchy vs Parliament. Power Struggle: King Charles vs. The Parliament and the Battle of Edgehill The triggering factor in the Battle of Edgehill has been the conflict on who would determine the kind of rule that England would be governed with. According to the side of the Parliaments, it is they who should decide on this matter as they have the mandate of the people. On the other hand, the monarchy under King Charles claimed that it is the monarchy with the divine provision who should rule England on their discretion.
An important element in this disagreement is the discernment on who should appropriate funds and how to allocate them. For King Charles, the monarchy has the sole authority to use funds on their discretion; on the other hand, the parliament asserts that they have the right to deny and appropriate funds from the crown. Hence, the inability of the two opposing forces to reach an agreement precluded the Battle of Edgehill and the English Civil War. Prior to the start of the war, both sides had acknowledged and prepared for the inevitability of war.
King Charles took charge of the Royal Army with about 13,000 forces together with Prince Rupert of Rhine whereas, the Parliament headed by the Earl of Essex commanded about 14,000-15,000 military men. Before the war broke, England has been divided into areas that support the Parliament and the monarchy. For instance, Wales had been considered to be the territory of King Charles whereas Parliament has control of Essex and the Midlands. The predictability of the war made the two opposing sides prepare for it. On the side of King Charles, he handed out the Commissions of Array compelling the Lords of each county to prepare the royal army.
On the other hand, the Parliament signed the Militia Ordinance in order to command England’s trained military personnel. The process of accumulating all the needed armed men took a few months on both sides as it was not easy to assimilate the troops necessary for battle. After Charles secured the necessary weaponry for war, he moved to Shrewsbury in order to meet up with the troops coming from Wales. On the other hand, the Earl of Essex with directives coming from the Parliament assimilated a slightly large troop in Northampton and then went to Worcester.
Prior to the Battle of Edgehill, the strength of each force was tested in the Battle of Powick Bridge where the Royal Army defeated the Parliament army. En route to its success, King Charles planned to march towards the center of power in England- London in order to seize power and defeat the Parliament Army. En route to London, both troops were unaware as to the location of their enemies. On their way to London, the Royal Army of King Charles had an encounter with the Parliament Army at Banbury who then sought help from the Warwick Castle. By the evening of October 22, the Parliament Army went to rescue its troops in Kineton.
In October 23, 1642 by the orders of King Charles, the Royal Army trooped to Edgehill because of the threat of the Parliament Army. From there, the battle of Edgehill occurred. Scholars assert that the Royal Army was more trained, young and were predominantly gentlemen whereas the Parliament Army were experienced but are older and with less armory than the enemy(Evans, 2005). While the Royal Army was in place of the battle earlier than the Parliament Army, the Royal Army members are largely more inexperienced and when it came to foot battle, the Parliament army had the upper hand.
However, due to the tactical and strategy of scattering the Royal Army, the Essex or the Parliament Army succumbed and they withdrew from the battle. Both sides stayed and camped on Edgehill for the night. What is surprising about the battle is that King Charles had not expected that the battle would have so many casualties not only on their side but also on the other camp. The unwillingness of both sides to resume battle had made some scholars declare the battle to be a draw while others assert that it was the Royal Army under King Charles who won the fight.
However, King Charles was unable to patronize and seize the victory and improve his power position. Hence, the power struggle between the monarchy and the parliament went on for years. Analysis Inordinately, the Battle of Edgehill signalled the six year war that constituted the English Civil Wars from 1642-1648. However, it should be noted that the Battle of Edgehill was not a one-time spontaneous battle but a series of disagreements between the Parliament and the monarchy on who should rule England. Hence, the lack of resolution of the battle had pushed for more wars.
Consequently, it is not only the war that made the post Battle of Edgehill continues but rather the political power struggle that constituted after it had pushed for more wars in order to find resolution. Hence, the Battle of Edgehill had exposed more issues to be confronted leading for more civil wars in England. First, the power struggle between King Charles and the monarchy versus the Parliament and Oliver Cromwell (leader of the Parliamentary Army) stems from the very nature of the legitimacy of their rule. The question posited is that “who should rule England, the monarchy or the Parliament?
“. The long dominance of the monarchy in England ended in the Industrial Revolution when the Parliament was formed in response to the growing need of the people to be represented and reform the political and economic policies in the society. Add to this, the growing discontent on the rule of the monarchy and its inability to solve poverty and unemployment issues were still prevalent in the English Civil War. This was one of the primary issues why despite the century long rule of the monarchy, several states in England had supported the Parliament in their bid to out rule King Charles.
On the other hand, counties such as Wales were still loyal to the monarchy and supported King Charles. Hence, the question remained after the Battle of Edgehill. King Charles whose power emanates from the Divine Rights of Kings and hence, its primary supporters were the Catholic Church and the Pope. From this power, Parliament seeking to end his arbitrary practices and refuse to be given the financial resources had a temporary agreement until King Charles dissolved Parliament in 1629 in order to pursue his goals of religious orthodoxy- Catholicism for all of the people of England.
The end of the Battle of Edgehill did not end this power struggle. For instance, King Charles after the battle continued to dominate the west, southwest and north parts of England whereas the Parliament had Eas Anglia, Southeast and London as its territory. The division of the people and the question of who should rule them are therefore still prevalent after the Battle of Edgehill. Second, King Charles and the Parliament continued to rally people to support their sides even after the battle. Parliament retained the support of the army despite the seeming victory of King Charles in the post Battle of Edgehill era.
Hence, lacking the necessary resources to put up his own army, King Charles was in shambles particularly because Parliament was preparing for another civil war. For instance, the Parliament allied themselves with the Scottish Presbyterian in 1643, giving the Parliament the upper hand in terms of army and military power. Consequently, with the institution of the New Model Army, training that was lacking among the Parliamentary Army in the Battle of Edgehill was instituted in order to strengthen the Parliament troops.
Thus, the struggle of power continued with King Charles and the Parliament. Third, King Charles continued to struggle with the Parliament by aligning the monarchy with Scottish Army. By this time, King Charles still considers the monarchy as the stable force that counters the instability of the parliamentary. Consequently, King Charles saw the opportunity to gain back the power when the Parliament was divided by differences between Presbyterians and the Independents. However, the war waged by Charles against the Parliament failed with the victory of Cromwell in Preston by 1648.
Finally, the power struggle was ended by the Parliament when it sentenced King Charles to death in 1649 by beheading him in the Banqueting House in Whitehall, London. The decision by the Parliament rested on the premise that King Charles still holds power over some of the population in England and hence, it cannot effectively establish its power if he is still alive. However, the aspirations of the Parliament to end the Civil War by ending the life of King Charles did not succeed (Dix, 1992). England will go on for more wars concerning the power struggle between the monarchy and the Parliament.
Each of these entities asserts that they are the ones who are representing the stability of England by enforcing the constitutional and social rules. Additionally, the legacy that was left by King Charles was carried on by supporters of monarchy. On the other hand, the struggle for power by the Parliament continues. King Charles death marked the beginning of another round of struggle. For the period surrounding the trial, the most powerful theme is the exaltation of form over substance: The army and its Puritan allies believed they could not execute Charles without appearing to follow acceptable legal procedure (Roberts and Tincey, 2001).
The very idea of trying a king must have appalled English citizens. They were contemplating impeaching not just the constitutional head of government, but also a hereditary monarch, who, some believed, could heal with his touch. The Cromwellians tried to overcome objections by disposing of the King through the formal legal process of a trial. After Cromwell’s death, the power of the Parliament was weakened and the restoration of the monarchy was underway. However, problems concerning the emancipation of the Catholics as well as the Catholic succession had the Parliament’s disapproval again.
Hence, after James II fled, the Parliament seeking to reinstate the monarchy, declared William and Mary the King and Queen. From thereon, the Declaration of Rights that changed the power of the monarchy up to this day was declared. This change resulted to the delegation of power to the monarchy as merely symbolic in nature. This implies that legislative power and matters of the state would be the sole domain of the Parliament while the monarchy which once held power indiscriminately was relegated to the sidelines and became the head of state- a symbolic position that is relevant to the history of England.
Conclusion History reveals that conflict between the political concepts of monarchy and Parliamentarism or of a Republic is fairly common. This is true in the case of King Charles and the Parliament in the Battle of Edgehill. Prior to the Battle of Edgehill, King Charles had been exposed to several power struggles that led him to the abolition of the Parliament. These acts were deemed to be indiscriminate particularly when he increased the taxes of the people and entered into wars that England has no use of.
Hence, the rise in power of the Parliament was a direct result of the actions of Charles. After the Battle of Edgehill, the series of English Civil Wars follows. The same theme ensued: who holds the power to rule England? The answer was not resolved in the Battle of Edgewood and the years later would result to more casualties and wars and power struggles between the monarchy and the Parliament. However, the tactical alliance made by the Parliament secured its power over King Charles who succumbed to the Parliament.
The inability of King Charles and the Parliament to enter into a common ground has historically scarred the country- but this can be considered as a necessary struggle in order to define and redefine what England is now. First, the power struggle marked the decline of the monarchy and the Divine Power of Kings and the rise of republics ruled by the people and for the people. Second, the insistence of King Charles of religious orthodoxy was unwarranted and gained him more enemies than supporters. Third, it made leaders accountable for their actions.
While King Charles rested on his Divine Power, the people at the time were increasingly aware of their own power as well. The inability of the King to address poverty and unemployment decreased their legitimacy and claim to power. Fourth, the Parliament together with Enlightenment was able to educate and introduce the people to the concepts of freedom, democracy and rule of the people. While both parties had struggled for power, their goal was the same: to uphold England. However, the means by which they have accomplished this was a result of years of power struggles of which lives were sacrificed.
However, the resolution via the separation of monarchy as symbolic in nature (head of state) and the Parliament who would run the government was the good result of this political struggle. References Dix, P. (1992) The Ghosts of Edgehill, Leamington Spa, Peter Dix Press. Evans, R. (2005) The ‘Loyal Unknown Soldier’: Wales and the English Civil War Robin Evans Assesses the Contribution of the Welsh to the Troubles of 1642-49. History Review. 53(1): 23-29. Roberts, K and Tincey, J. (2001) Edgehill 1642 : first battle of the English Civil War, Oxford : Osprey Military.
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