Naseby, England (1645 AD)
The Battle of Naseby was the most important engagement of the English Civil Wars, and the first truly great victory of a rebellion against an entrenched royal government in post-medieval Europe. Naseby ultimately led to the overthrow of King Charles I and the House of Stuart, as well as the rise of the Parliament and the House of Commons as the key instrument of government in England. It also made Oliver Cromwell a household name and was ultimately a contributing factor to the weakening of the official state religious institutions. Naseby is ranked among the most important battles ever to occur on English soil.
At the same time that religious wars were tearing apart continental Europe, England too was wracked with strife, mostly along both nationalistic and religious lines. Full scale warfare broke out in 1642 between the Parliamentarians and Royalists. The latter group, which sided with the king, sought to preserve the unchallenged authority of the royal family and the existing institutions of state, notably the Anglican Church.
Opposed to this was a coalition of factions tied together by leaders of Parliament, including Oliver Cromwell, who sought to create a new government built on the will of the people. The primary supporters of this rebellion were various Calvinist religious factions, notably the Puritans, who also sought to check the authority of both the Anglican and Roman Catholic churches. Widespread dissatisfaction with the Stuarts contributed greatly to support for the rebels.
For three years, war raged across central and northern England, with victories on both sides but neither able to gain a true advantage. However in 1645, Parliament authorized the creation of the famous New Model Army, which for the first time recognized capability in military leadership over aristocratic blood. The new force, reequipped and retrained, proved more than a match for the Royalists.
The two armies met in June at Naseby. Outnumbered, outled and outmaneuvered, the Royalist army found itself badly positioned at the beginning of the battle and despite its best effort was unable to gain the initiative. The Parliamentarians, led by Oliver Cromwell, routed their enemies, who subsequently suffered massive over eighy percent casualties. This effectively destroyed the core of the king’s army, which was thereafter unable to maintain a successful campaign against the rebellion.
The Battle of Naseby is one of the most storied battles in the history of Britain, and the battlefield is a popular and beloved national historic site. The entire field where the fighting took place, known as the Broad Moor, has been preserved, and is well marked. Battle recreations and demonstrations are put on periodically. A stone monument commemorating the battle, one of the oldest in Britain, stands near the edge of the field.
The Nasbey Battlefield is located on the eastern outskirts of modern Naseby, approximately eightry miles north of London. It is an open site. There is no cost of admission. Web: www.visitnorthamptonshire.co.uk (official tourism website of Northamptonshire).