​The Battle of Worcester: the final chapter of the English Civil Wars

Cannon on Fort Royal Hill
The Battle of Worcester puts paid to the misconception that the English Civil Wars were confined to England. 

For this, the final fight of the conflict between Parliament and the Monarch, Charles II led an army from Scotland into England, in the hope that English and Welsh supporters would rally to his cause. 

His aim to inspire the people failed, and he reached the loyal city of Worcester with around 16,000 men. A much smaller number than Oliver Cromwell, at the head of Parliament's New Model Army, was bringing to end the attack. 

The Battle of Worcester took place on 3rd September 1651, and saw Charles II attempting to regain the throne following the execution of his  father, Charles I. 

Support for the Royalist cause was at its strongest in Scotland and he rallied an army under the command of David Leslie. Cromwell was in Scotland and heading to Perth, so Charles saw an opportunity to ride into England unopposed. 

His call to arms was heeded by a force of Lancashire Royalists, but they were beaten by a Parliamentarian army at Wigan, signalling the end of the last English Royalist Army. 

For the rest of England, this Scottish army was seen as an invading force and they refused to enter the fight.

Cromwell was in pursuit of Charles' troops and he collected reinforcements along the way. His aim was to create a massive force to obliterate the Royalist army. As they reached Worcester, they cut off routes to London and Scotland, giving Charles's troops little chance of escape. 

The Parliamentarian force's main point of attack was from the River Severn, with bitter fighting taking place at Powick Bridge, where nine years earlier Prince Rupert had been victorious for the Royal cause.

Charles II watched proceedings from the tower of Worcester Cathedral. At one stage he spied an opportunity to attack a weakened Parliamentarian  force and descending the tower to rally his troops and lead the advance himself. 

But Parliament's numbers were overwhelming and the Royalists were defeated, with running battles taking place through the streets of Worcester. 

Most of the Royalist leaders were killed or captured, although Charles II was not among them. He escaped and evaded capture, famously hiding in an Oak tree, and finally made it to France.

The end was much more grim for many of the Scottish troops, with 3,000 killed and around 10,000 taken prisoner. Many were sent on to New England or Barbados as forced labourers.

This defeat provided final recognition for the Royalists that they could not win with military might. And while Cromwell was in power the return of a monarchy never looked likely. But when he died, Charles II returned.


More articles about the English Civil Wars
>> How divine right sparked the English Civil Wars 
>> How Charles I's Royalist revival was crushed at Preston 
>> Marston Moor - a reckoning for the Royalists 
>> How Cropredy Bridge created the New Model Army 
>> Julian Humphrys on his English Civil War tours 
>> ​The third and final siege of Oxford
>> The Battle of Naseby  

Photo Credit © Philip Halling (cc-by-sa/2.0)