The Committee for Both Kingdoms

The Committee for Both Kingdoms (England and Scotland) was established in February 1644 to replace the Committee of Safety after Parliament's adoption of the Solemn League and Covenant had secured an alliance with the Scots. Political manoeuvring by Sir Henry Vane and Oliver St John ensured that the new Committee had greater powers to direct the course of the war than its predecessor.

The Committee consisted of fourteen members of the House of Commons, seven from the House of Lords and four Scottish commissioners. Parliament's lord-general, the Earl of Essex, and lord high admiral, the Earl of Warwick were included. Decisions could be made providing there were at least six members of the Committee present, including at least one member of the Lords and two from the Commons.

The Committee was answerable to Parliament, but had authority to act independently in matters connected with the conduct of the war. It was responsible for co-ordinating strategy between the English and Scottish armies. However, political differences between the English and Scots and between Independents and Presbyterians on the Committee resulted in conflicts of interest and confused strategies.

Senior Parliamentarian commanders did not always co-operate with the Committee. During the spring of 1644, the Earl of Essex ignored the Committee's recommendations and acted on his own initiative, resulting in his disastrous defeat at Lostwithiel. Elsewhere, soldiers in the field were often frustrated by orders received from Westminster that bore little relation to current tactical situations. Just before the battle of Naseby in June 1645, Sir Thomas Fairfax was granted independent operational control of the New Model Army, to direct it in the field as he judged best.

After the First Civil War, King Charles secretly negotiated with the Scots for an army to restore him to the throne, resulting in the Second Civil War and the Engager invasion of England. With the breakdown of the alliance between Scotland and the English Parliament, the Committee for Both Kingdoms was dissolved in January 1647. English members of the Committee continued to meet as the Derby House Committee, named after its Westminster meeting place. It was dominated by the Presbyterian faction led by Denzil Holles which the Army swept from power in Pride's Purge in November 1648.

Members of the Committee

House of Lords House of Commons Scottish Commissioners
Earl of Essex Sir William Armyne William Pierrepoint Earl of Loudoun
Earl of Manchester Samuel Browne Oliver St. John Viscount Maitland
Earl of Northumberland John Crewe Sir Philip Stapleton Johnston of Wariston
Earl of Warwick Oliver Cromwell Sir Henry Vane (senior) Robert Barclay
Viscount Saye and Sele Sir Gilbert Gerard Sir Henry Vane (junior)  
Baron Wharton John Glynn Robert Wallop  
Baron Robartes Sir Arthur Hesilrige Sir William Waller  


S.R. Gardiner, History of the Great Civil War vols. i-iv (London 1888-94)

C.V. Wedgwood, The King's War ( London 1958)