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Ruler: Commonwealth
Reigned: 1649 - 1660
Denomination: AR Sixpence
Date of Issue: 1649
Obverse: Shield with St.George's Cross. "THE COMMONWEALTH OF ENGLAND". Mint-mark sun
Reverse: Shield with St.George's Cross on left, Shield with Irish harp on right. "GOD WITH VS. 1649" Above shields "VI"
Reference: Spink 3219, North 2726
Weight: 2.6 gms
Diameter: 26 mm


"English Civil War" was the general term for the armed conflict (1642-1649) between King Charles I and his supporters (Cavaliers), and the Parliamentarians (Roundheads), which ultimately led to the Commonwealth. The immediate cause of the war was Charles's attempt (1637) to impose the Anglican liturgy in Scotland. The Presbyterian Scots rioted, and in February 1638 they signed the Solemn League and Covenant in an attempt to protect the reformed religion. They also raised an army, and in 1640 occupied the northern counties of England. The Long Parliament, summoned by Charles to raise money in support of his war against the Scots, met on November 3th, 1640, and demanded reforms as the price for aid. The king's chief advisers, Thomas Wentworth, Earl of Strafford, and William Laud, Archbishop of Canterbury, were impeached and executed for treason. Parliament split over the Root and Branch Bill to abolish bishops in the Anglican church, over raising an army to quell a rebellion in Ireland, and only just managed to pass the Grand Remonstrance, (1641), a printed indictment of the king which would effectively give Parliament control over the choice of his ministers. This political quarrel escalated into armed conflict in 1642.

In August 1642 Charles gathered his army at Nottingham. The first battle, fought at Edgehill on October 23rd, was indecisive. In general, the king controlled the northwest of the country, while the southeast-including London-sided with Parliament.

In 1643 Parliament secured the support of the Scottish army in exchange for agreeing to make the churches of Ireland, Scotland and England conform "according to the word of God, and the examples of the best reformed churches". Meanwhile Cromwell was perfecting his regiment of cavalry, the Ironsides. With them he defeated the Royalists under Prince Rupert on July 2nd, 1644 at the crucial Battle of Marston Moor. The following year, the Scots suffered a setback when James Graham, Marquess of Montrose, rallied the Highland clans on behalf of King Charles. Cromwell, now second in command of Parliament's New Model Army, destroyed the Royalist forces at the Battle of Naseby (June 14th, 1645). In September the king's Highland partisans were overcome by the Scottish army and Montrose fled to the Continent. The first phase of the Civil War (also known as the First Civil War) ended in May 1646 when Charles surrendered to the Scots. They turned him over to Parliament in 1647. The king rejected Parliament's conditions for his return to power. Then Charles escaped to the Isle of Wight, from where he concluded an "Engagement" with the Scots who pledged to restore him to the throne if he promised to make Presbyterianism the official religion of both kingdoms. This provoked the second phase of the war (the Second Civil War), which began in 1648 with the army and Parliament fighting against Scotland and the king. A Scottish army invaded England, but was defeated at Preston, and other Royalist opposition was soon suppressed. Now firmly in control, the army set about purging Parliament of its Presbyterian members. The remaining Rump Parliament, as it was called, created a commission to try the king for treason. Found guilty, Charles was beheaded on January 30, 1649. The Rump Parliament then abolished the monarchy and the House of Lords, and declared England a Commonwealth.

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