The English Civil War
The Second Civil War
The King was greeted surprisingly well by the people of England on his way to London in February 1647. The country had suffered during four years of war, and there was a new belief among the citizens that it was time for a swift conclusion. The Long Parliament agreed that Cromwell’s New Model Army should be disbanded, the majority of their pay to come from fines laid against the Royalist gentry. Cromwell was enraged that promises to his men had been broken. Adamantly opposed to any plans to disband his troops, Cromwell led them to capture the King as he was travelling to the city, and then held him captive at Hampton Court.
A series of debates ensued. While later historians have pointed in particular to events held at Putney Church between 28 October and 9 November 1647 as having paved the way for the now established democratic principle that no man should be bound to a system of government that he played no part in creating, the fate of the King remained unresolved. Later in November Charles escaped Hampton Court and set up a new home on the Isle of Wight. Buoyed by his newfound freedom and warmed by rumours of rekindled affection for him among the people, he made contact with his subjects in Scotland about renewing the military campaign against the Roundheads. A Scottish invasion, accompanied by risings in the north, saw Cromwell return to the field, and elements of dissent were brutally defeated. The King was returned to London where the Long Parliament had been growing increasingly concerned by the radicalism of Cromwell’s New Model Army. As negotiations between the King and parliament began to fall through, it was the army, not parliament, who took control. The Long Parliament was dismissed, aside from members approved by Cromwell and the military, a number estimated between 154 and 210. The so-called ‘Rump’ of the Long Parliament established a committee to try the King on the grounds of treason. As the trial ended, during which Charles had shown nothing but contempt, the decision was guilty. On 30 January 1649, forty-three years to the day after the execution of four of the Gunpowder Plotters, Charles was led to a scaffold erected outside the Banqueting House in the heart of Whitehall and beheaded, a mournful groan among the crowd taking the place of the usual cheer.