The Cambridge Modern History: Planned by the Late Lord Acton - Vol. 4

By A. W. Ward; G. W. Prothero et al. | Go to book overview

CHAPTER XI.
PRESBYTERIANS AND INDEPENDENTS.
(1645-9.)

WE must at this point return to consider the tangled negotiations which were due to the position resulting from the military events that we have sketched, to the growing divergence between the forces whose union had gained the victory, and last, but not least, to the character of the King, who strove to recover by tortuous diplomacy at least a portion of what he had lost in the field. The chief parties in the game were now the King, intent mainly on preserving the Episcopalian Church and his control over the armed forces of the State; the Parliament, pledged to Presbyterianism, but still more anxious to retain command of the army, and to reduce the Crown to impotence; the Scots, resolved on the establishment of Presbyterianism in both kingdoms, but indifferent to other English demands. These three elements do not, however, exhaust the list. Behind the English Parliament stood the English army, now mainly composed of Independents--not as yet playing a leading part in negotiation, but resolved on obtaining liberty of conscience, whatever form of Church government might issue from the strife, and forming a growing body of opinion which no other party could ignore. In the background were the Irish Catholics, with whom Charles negotiated throughout; the English Royalists, who, though beaten, decimated, and half-ruined, were ready, if the opportunity came, to renew the struggle; and France, which, under the government of Mazarin, and assiduously plied by Queen Henrietta, was anxious--if such an object could be gained without military intervention--to see Charles come to his own again. The whole history of the three years from December, 1645, to January, 1649, is the history of one long, complicated, and futile intrigue, interrupted by a second civil war, and ending in the death of the King. The main stages of this conflict are marked by the flight of the King to the Scots; his surrender to the Parliament; his seizure at Holmby House, and the march of the army on London; the Engagement and the Vote of No Addresses; the second Civil War; Pride's Purge; and the scaffold at Whitehall.

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