2 July 1644 Cromwell crushes the royalists at Marston Moor

Catastrophic defeat atomises Charles I’s influence in the north


Prince Rupert’s royalist troops were just settling down for supper when the battle of Marston Moor broke out. It was the summer of 1644, and on the moorland just outside York, Rupert’s army faced its Scottish and parliamentarian adversaries. Rain was coming; there was a hint of thunder. Hearing the parliamentarians singing psalms, Rupert thought his opponents would wait until morning. But moments later, the enemy cavalry charged.

Like all battles, Marston Moor was an exercise in bloody chaos. While the parliamentarian right and centre struggled to make headway, the cavalry on their left wing, under Lieutenant General Oliver Cromwell, carried all before them, twice charging and driving their enemies from the field. Even as darkness was falling, the moor was littered with corpses, while many of the royalist troops, ignoring their officers’ orders, fell back in confusion.

It was a royalist catastrophe. Almost at a stroke, they had lost control of the north; from this point, Charles I was merely postponing the inevitable. But for one man in particular, Marston Moor was a sign of divine approval.

“Truly England and the Church of God hath had a great favour from the Lord, in this great victory given unto us, such as the like never was since this war began,” wrote Oliver Cromwell afterwards. “The left wing, which I commanded, being our own horse, saving a few Scots in our rear, beat all the prince’s horse. God made them as stubble to our swords.” | Written by Dominic Sandbrook

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