The Edgehill Campaign: overview

The first military campaign of the English Civil War revolved around King Charles the First's attempt to regain control of London, from where he had been ejected by Parliamentarian citizens early in 1642.

The Edgehill campaign
The Edgehill Campaign, August-December 1642

The King set up his court at York and began recruiting an army in the north, then moved south to occupy Nottingham. When all attempts to reach a negotiated settlement with Parliament had failed, the King raised his battle standard at Nottingham in August 1642 as a call-to-arms to loyal subjects and a declaration of war against Parliament. From Nottingham, the King marched to the Welsh border to raise more recruits before advancing on London.

Meanwhile, Parliament's army, under the command of the Earl of Essex, marched to intercept the Royalists. Essex mustered his forces at Northampton, then advanced westwards. On 23 September, Prince Rupert took first blood by routing the Parliamentarian advance guard at Powick Bridge near Worcester. The Royalists then tried to evade Essex's main Parliamentarian army and march straight for London, but they were pursued and obliged to fight. The first pitched battle of the English Civil War took place at Edgehill in Warwickshire on 23 October 1642. Although the outcome of the battle was indecisive, the Earl of Essex's subsequent withdrawal to Warwick left the road to London open for the King's army.

However, King Charles advanced south cautiously, approaching London via Oxford, Reading and Windsor which gave the Earl of Essex time to return by a more direct route and to prepare the City's defence. The King's army approached London in mid-November. A Parliamentarian outpost at Brentford was stormed and plundered but the Royalist advance came to a halt at Turnham Green, where the two armies faced one another in a stand-off on 13 November. The King then withdrew his army to Oxford, which became Royalist headquarters for the duration of the war.