20 battles that shaped Britain

From Culloden to the Crimea, Salamanca to the Somme, National Army Museum experts offer their opinions on the most significant land battles in British history

An illustration depicting the battle of Naseby, arguably one of the most significant land battles in British history. (Ann Ronan Pictures/Print Collector/Getty Images)

Cromwell ends monarchy’s supremacy for good

The battle of Naseby, Northamptonshire, 14 June 1645
Combatants: Parliamentarians against royalists
Outcome: Decisive parliamentarian victory
Naseby won the First English Civil War (1642–46) for parliament and ensured that, whatever happened subsequently, the monarch would never again be supreme in British politics. It was a victory secured by parliament’s radically different New Model Army, a national fighting force not tied to a region or locality, and a prototype of the British Army of today.

The battle was also a victory for the discipline that Oliver Cromwell instilled in his cavalry. Initially triumphant on the left, Prince Rupert’s royalist horsemen charged wildly off the battlefield in pursuit of their opponents. In contrast, Cromwell’s ‘Ironsides’, victorious on the opposite flank, rallied immediately and attacked the royalist infantry from behind. Although these had been getting the better of the parliamentarian foot soldiers, they now surrendered.

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