The battle of Naseby: what happened?
The first outing of parliament's New Model Army irrevocably neutered the royalist cause in the first Civil War…
With dense fog hanging over Naseby in Northamptonshire, the opposing armies of King Charles I and his disgruntled parliament struggled to see each other across the battlefield. It was 14 June 1645, three years into the Civil War, and so far neither had managed to inflict a decisive defeat on the other. Naseby was where that would change: within three hours, Charles’s chances of reasserting his authority had all but evaporated.
Relations between monarch and parliament had broken down in January 1642, when Charles, maintaining his divine rights as king, stormed the House of Commons to arrest five MPs for treason. The men weren’t there, and Charles left unsatisfied and with parliament set against him. Within six months, both factions had raised their standards and were in open warfare.
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The prelude to this particular clash came in May 1645 with the royalist sacking of Leicester, after which Sir Thomas Fairfax and Oliver Cromwell were swiftly ordered to bring the king to battle. In the fighting that followed, the royalists suffered devastating losses – nearly 1,000 dead or wounded and 5,000 captured. Parliamentary losses were around 400.
Blame for the defeat is often laid at the door of the Earl of Carnwath, who grabbed the bridle of Charles’s horse to stop the king from charging into the fray to rally his men. Some of the royalist troops saw this as a sign to retreat, and they abandoned their positions.
Charles wasn’t able to muster an army as strong again and within a year parliament had snuffed out all organised royalist resistance. The ling went on the run trying to rally support, until he was finally handed over to parliamentary forces in January 1647.
This article was first published in the June 2018 edition of BBC History Revealed
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