English Civil war Begins
In wars between states it is generally simple to pick a date for the commencement of hostilities: a declaration of war is made, shots are fired, or a border crossed by one of the belligerents. Civil Wars are more complex, and none more so than the English Civil War .
Actually minor skirmishes and acts of defiance by both sides, the King’s party and the Long Parliament, had preceded the accepted date of August 22 1642. Hull and its arsenal (and its money) had been denied to the crown when the royalists attempted to enter it. Around the country bands of armed men had begun to move on what they regarded as strategic fortifications and other buildings of consequence.
In July the king was prevented from seizing Leicester ’s armoury – each major county town had its own militia, the Trained Bands, whose weaponry was stored in that town. London had already in practical terms expelled the king, forcing him to set up his court in York , a terrible indignity for this most proud of men, convinced of his divine right to rule and outraged by Parliamentary resistance to his will in matters of religion and taxation.
Having failed in Leicester the king’s representatives were determined to secure the arms held at Nottingham’s Town Hall. Spurred on by the indignant merchants and middle-ranking men of the city, the Mayor and one John Hutchinson argued with Lord Lieutenant of Leicester Lord Newark and his ally the High Sherriff John Digby, barring their way.
A very British compromise was reached, two locks being placed on the armoury door, one by each side, in theory denying the munitions to both. But on August 19 the royalists simply kicked the door down and took possession of the contents. Charles arrived shortly afterwards, having been unsuccessful in his own attempt to grab Warwickshire ’s martial store in Coventry .
Angered by his failure elsewhere, or buoyed by the success in Nottingham, Charles had his standard raised above the castle in that city on August 22 1642. This symbolic act signalled to the nation that matters had gone beyond reasoned argument, and that the king was determined to use military means to resolve the situation. His decision would cost Charles his throne and head seven years later.
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