The Edgehill Campaign: opening manoeuvres

During the summer of 1642, an armed confrontation between King Charles I and the Long Parliament became inevitable. Having been driven from London by hostile citizens early in the year, the King went north and set up his court at York. In response to Parliament's attempt to seize control of the armed forces through the Militia Ordinance, the King issued the first Commissions of Array in June 1642. The final attempt to reach a negotiated agreement failed with the King's rejection of Parliament's Nineteen Propositions and the first military action of the English Civil War took place in early July when a Royalist raiding party was driven away by gunfire from the walls of Hull.

The King's standardRealising that he needed a more central location to muster forces against Parliament, the King marched from York to Nottingham where, on 22 August 1642, the royal battle standard was raised over Nottingham Castle. This was the King's declaration of war against Parliament and a call-to-arms to all loyal subjects. Royalists rallied from Yorkshire, Staffordshire and Lincolnshire. The princes Rupert and Maurice and other European military experts had already arrived from the continent with men and munitions, but the Royalist army was not strong enough to give battle. After seizing the weapons of the Nottinghamshire trained bands, King Charles set out to raise recruits from Cheshire and the Welsh Marches. On 20 September, the King's men occupied Shrewsbury, then Chester on the 23rd. Although support was less wholehearted than expected, the King had succeeded in raising fifteen regiments of foot, eight of horse and a regiment of dragoons by the beginning of October 1642.

Parliament's army was initially raised from volunteers in London and Essex and financed by City merchants. It was commanded by Robert Devereux, third Earl of Essex, who marched from London on 9 September and gathered his forces at Northampton. The Parliamentarian force comprised twelve regiments of foot, six of horse, a regiment of dragoons and Essex's own cuirassier lifeguard regiment. Essex intended to march against the King at Nottingham, but learning that Charles had withdrawn to the Welsh border, he marched for Worcester on 19 September. Both sides believed that the quarrel between King and Parliament would be decided by a single pitched battle.


A.H. Burne & P. Young, The Great Civil War, a military history (London 1958)

S.R. Gardiner, History of the Great Civil War vol. i (London 1888)

Stuart Reid, All the King's Armies (Staplehurst 1998)

K. Roberts & J. Tincey, Edgehill 1642 (Osprey 2001)