King Charles Retreats From The Battle of Turnham Green

Today on November 13, 1642, Parliamentarians decisively beat King Charles and the royalist army at the Battle of Turnham Green.

The Battle of Turnham Green was the second major engagement of the long and bloody English Civil War. The conflict pitted the king’s royalists against the parliamentarians. In August 1642, King Charles I of England was forced to raise his banner after any hope for a peaceful resolution with the parliament had dissipated. The first battle was at Edgehill on October 23, which resulted in the parliamentary army retreating back to London. Charles gained control over Oxford and built his headquarters there. The King’s nephew and cavalry commander, Prince Rupert, attacked a town on the outskirts of London in an attempt to spark a second pitched battle.

The Parliamentarian Roundheads, led by the Earl of Essex, began assembling near the village of Turnham Green (just outside London). They outnumbered the King’s Royalist Cavaliers by almost two-to-one (24,000 to 13,000 troops); however, their army mostly consisted of poorly trained Londoners. On the other hand, the royalist army consisted of battle experienced veterans, giving Charles the tactical advantage at the onset of the war.

The challenge for the King was that the enemy army was mainly civilian. In order to effectively retake and govern London, he needed the support of its people. If he were to fully engage the parliamentarians and massacre the army, what kind of message would that send to his people? Before his troops had a chance to fully deploy, Charles called for a tactical retreat — much to the dismay of Prince Rupert. While the Battle of Turnham Green ended inconclusively, most historians agree it was a strategic win for the parliamentarians. They ultimately succeeded in blocking the king from marching on London. Instead, the royalist army was forced to retreat back to Oxford for the winter. Charles would never again come so close to recapturing the capital city.

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