Cavaliers & Roundheads

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Cavaliers & Roundheads
On 22nd August 1642, Charles raised his standard at Nottingham and called on his subjects to support him against Parliament. From that moment, ordinary people were forced to choose which side they were on. In the majority of cases this choice was made for them as they simply joined the army that reached their town or city first.

People who supported the King were called Royalists, however, they were known by their enemies as Cavaliers. Although “cavalier” simply means horseman, this was meant as an insult, as it was a reference to the Spanish Caballeros, who had a reputation for cruelty and brutality in the Dutch Wars. The Cavaliers were quite elegant for soldiers. They wore dashing uniforms that were based on the Court dress of the day; knee length leather boots, tunics and hats complete with plumes.
Drawing from a Pamphlet “The Cruel Practices Of Prince Rupert” 1643
large number of the nobility joined Charles’ army. At that time, upper class men were trained to ride horses from a young age; that gave Charles the advantage of having a very good cavalry. The King’s nephew, Prince Rupert, was put in charge of the cavalry. Although only twenty three, he had gained combat experience in the Dutch army. In England, he used a trick he had learned when fighting the Swedish; the cavalry charged at their enemy at full speed, with the horses in tight formation and just before impact the men fired their pistols.
Woodcut produced during the Civil War
eople who supported the radical MPs were known as Parliamentarians, however, they too had a nickname: Roundheads. This referred to their hair, which they chose to cut short in a time when long hair was the fashion. The London Apprentices, who had caused a lot of trouble during Stafford’s trial, wore their hair this way, as did the Puritan MPs, who wanted to show they were not vain. The Roundheads were not as well e

quipped as the Cavaliers and their clothing was much simpler. They wore a leather tunic, a metal helmet and later a metal breastplate.

After 1644, the New Model Army was raised. These soldiers also had a nickname: the ironsides, because they stood firm and decisive in battle. This was an amalgamation of three armies, numbering 22,000 men. Soldiers were paid around 10p per day: an impressive amount of money for the time. These soldiers were promoted based on merit rather than social standing. This meant that for the first time, working class men could rise up through the ranks to serve as officers. These soldiers were well trained and by the time they saw combat were well disciplined. Cromwell felt it was important that a man should know what he was fighting for, so he recruited men who were devoutly Puritan. The soldiers advanced into battle singing Psalms and firmly believing that God was on their side. As the Ironsides were mostly Puritan, religion remained an important factor throughout the war. Oliver Cromwell commanded the cavalry, while Thomas Fairfax was Commander-in-Chief.
Support for each side remained much the same throughout 1642 and 1643, but during 1644 and 1645 people began to change sides.

For the King

Catholics, most of the Nobles and Gentry, about half of all Members of Parliament, the poorer areas of the North and West.

For Parliament

Puritans, the more militant Members of Parliament, merchants, the richer areas of the South and East.

These maps show how Charles gradually lost control of England and Wales as the Parliamentarians gained more and more support.




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