The War of Three Kingdoms famous to most as a bloody series of revolutions and civil wars fought across Britain and Ireland in between 1638 and 1651 where dozens of factions all fought, allied, betrayed and re-allied against one another, where religious fanaticism married political radicalism and blatant opportunism, and a million people lost their lives. It all ended at the battle of Worcester in the west of England in 1651 when Oliver Cromwell defeated the invading Scottish Army of Charles II…………..Or so we’re told.
With Britain exhausted from over a decade of strife Cromwell’s regime was faced with the daunting prospect of re-igniting the economy. At that time the wealthiest place in the world was the West Indies and it was to the New World where Cromwell envisioned the restoration of Britain’s fortunes. Of course there was a problem, the West indies were mostly under the control of Spain, still the main enemy, not France since the days of Elizabeth. But now at last Britain finally possessed a land army to rival Spain: the New Model Army Europe’s finest fighting machine and the first modern army in the world since Roman times made up entirely of grizzled veteran soldiers and officers worked up through the ranks entirely on merit.
In 1654 Cromwell fired the first shot against Spain by occupying Santo Dominigo and then taking Jamaica soon after that and thus the Anglo-Spanish War of 1652-60 began at Cromwell’s instigation. Britain wasn’t alone in fighting Spain, as France was already at war with her, so quickly to two countries formed an alliance with 7000 New Model Army (or Ironsides as they had become known) troops were to France to bolster French armies fighting the Spanish, 3000 of these were included in the army of Vicomte de Turenne giving perhaps the finest general of the age the finest soldiers.
In 1658 Turenne was given the task of invading Flanders and seizing it from the Spanish, taking with him taking 15,000 troops including 3000 Ironsides he laid siege to the city of Dunkirk. The Spanish response was swift and within a few weeks an army under Don Juan of Austria with the Prince de Conde another great French commander as his military chief arrived to break the siege. Conde’s force also numbered 15,000 men and included a British contingent of 2000 Royalists in exile led by Charles II’s younger brothers, the Duke of York and Duke of Gloucester consisting of three regiments, two of English royalist and one Irish, though there were a good many Scots in all three.
Turenne seeing his siege about to be lifted decided to attack despite having only equal numbers. Conde caught somewhat by surprise by the haste in which Turenne marched on him elected to defend and sought out a viable defensive position, eventually settling upon almost flat area of beach. The position was sound with his right flank anchored by the sea and his left to a canal on the shore, only one notable terrain feature sat upon this otherwise completely flat battlefield. This was a large 150 foot tall sand dune, he saw this would give him some advantage over the enemy and deployed his line across it. He deployed his best Spanish infantry on top of it and considered it would be too costly for Turenne to attack as both armies were even in infantry and cavalry. Conde was confident in his position, with no way to flank the army and the right a strongly defensible position, Turenne would have to assault his centre and left where he could mass his troops in depth. Or so he thought.
Any ordinary commander would have been perturbed by the seemingly superior position of the Spanish, but Turenne was no ordinary commander and came up with one of the most cunning battle plans in history to defeat them. He knew the tide would go out in a few hours and he could charge his cavalry around the right flank of the Spanish through the retreating waves. But he also knew a great commander like Conde would quickly see this and expand his line to accommodate, so he had to prevent this. He elected to this with madness by doing the one thing Conde couldn’t have thought he was stupid enough to do, assault the dune. He would launch an attack across the centre and impenetrable right leaving his left weak against Conde’s strong left. This would look not only look incompetent to the Spanish tie up all his troops but it would tie up all their troops on their right and centre too so they could not fill the gap on their flank from the retreating tide. Then at the right moment he could strike. It was a hell of a gamble, but that’s maybe the only way one great commander can break an almost perfect defensive position of another.
Turenne began his assault tasking the Ironsides with the job of mounting the slope and assaulting the Spanish troops on the dune. Comde had deployed the British Royalist troops just to the left of the Dune, it seemed the two British contingents would be within sight of each other but not actually engage. Half the Ironsides began firing vollies into the Spanish at the top of the hill while the other half began to make their way up the Dune coming under withering fire from the Spanish defenders as they did, the casualties were horrendous but the Ironsides didn’t buckle and after upon reaching the summit both pike and musket launched a ferocious charge at the Spanish. For several minutes brutal hand to hand combat took place between the Spanish defender and Ironside attackers. Seeing this the Duke of York personally commanding the Royalists lead reinforcements up the hill to aid the Spanish and once again 7 years after the Battle of Worcester Roundhead fought Cavalier. However even with Royalist reinforcements it wasn’t enough and Ironsides fighting like tigers smashed through the Spanish and Royalist lines sending them fleeing down the dune in confusion. Ironside commander Morgan then rallied the Ironsides and managed to stop them pursuing, instead reforming them on top of the dune.
As the dune fell Turenne judged the sea was shallow enough launching his horse around the Conde’s right and to the rear of the bemused Spanish and Wallons. Almost instantly the right and some of the centre of the Spanish army facing infantry to the front and cavalry to the rear broke or surrendered without a fight with three notable exceptions, the three Royalist regiments who continued fighting, the reason being they were engaging the Ironsides that hadn’t assaulted the hill, for the second time that day Roundhead was meeting Cavalier, old scores were being settled and a ferocious musket and pike duel was ensuing, and aprivate battle taking place oblivious to events around them.
Meanwhile in an attempt the save the day Conde counter attacked on the left with everything he had and very nearly broke though, personally leading three cavalry charges and having his horse shot beneath him he broke through the French right and almost looked like doing the same the Turenne’s right as had been done to his, but for one stubborn regiment of French guards who held ground in porcupine formation firing vollies into his cavalry foiled him.
Conde knew when he was beaten and set about saving what remained of his army and personally organised the retreat saving half his army. Meanwhile the only remaining formed units of his force on the field, the Royalists, were locked in bloody battle with the Ironsides, finally realising the situation they were now surrounded, alone and facing the entire French army they agreed to surrender, but not to the Ironsides, instead to the French regiments that had now moved up on them and that they become French not Ironside prisoners.
Two of the great generals of French history had met, Conde and Turenne, in an almost even battle where one of the great tactical manoeuvres in history was executed to perfection, both these forces with a small contingent of British troops fighting old grievances that spanned two decades and were still boiling strong. How strong this was and how much more ferociously the British troops engaged one another than the French and Spanish can be illustrated by the battle figures. Of the 1000 Spanish casualties over half came from the 2000 Royalists, two of the three regiments were completely destroyed. Of the 400 French casualties most of them came from the Ironsides. For the French and Spanish it was almost a delicate eighteenth century battle of manoeuvre where one army outwitted by another and seeing the position futile gracefully retreated or surrendered. For the British it a was a blood curdling enraged slaughter session where two hated foes tore shreds out of one another as part of a 20 years long vendetta.
After the battle Dunkirk fell to Turenne, who was criticised later by Napoleon for not using this victory as momentum to march on and capture Brussels. Some of the Ironsides stayed to garrison Dunkirk while the rest campaigned on in Belgium for another year, though never to meet another Royalist. Dunkirk and Mardyke became part of Cromwell’s Commonwealth until sold to France in 1662. The Anglo-Spanish War along with the Franco-Spanish War were the conflicts that finally broke the Spanish Empires back, never again would Spain be a force. Britain annexed Jamaica and used it as springboard to control of the Caribbean, the richest prize in the world for the British Empire before India.
Born in 1542 she was the daughter of James V Stuart and Mary of Guise of France and became queen a few weeks later when her father died.
At birth she was promised in marriage to Henry VIII’s son Edward later Edward VI in an English bid to break the Auld Alliance, however Mary of Guise was made regent which lead to renewed vigour in the alliance and eventually a short disastrous war with England.
In 1548 Mary was betrothed to the French Dauphin and sent to France to live. In 1558 her husband became Francis II of France them both being sixteen, however Francis was to die 2 years later.
She returned to Scotland and found herself in the middle of the Catholic/Protestant troubles engulfing the country. Despite being a Catholic Mary tolerated the Protestants and kept high level Protestant advisors which annoyed the Catholics and it was the Catholics who lead the first rebellion against her in 1562.
In 1565 Mary married her cousin Henry Stuart, Henry was a Catholic and the union lead to a Protestant rebellion
A year after her marriage things started to go wrong as her husband wanted more power and she refused to give it to him, this lead to him being sent away by her. After a year away he returned to her and was shortly murdered, most likely by the Earl of Bothwell who was quickly tried and acquitted in a mock trial.
Later that year (1567) Mary was kidnapped by Bothwell while visiting Stirling where she was taken back to his castle and allegedly raped. A few days later Bothwell divorced his wife and Mary and Bothwell went to Edinburgh and had a Protestant marriage.
Most Scottish nobles rose up against the marriage, Bothwell fled to Scandinavia and died in prison, Mary was taken prisoner in Loch Leven Castle.
In 1568 Mary escaped from prison and raised a small army bus was quickly defeated and fled into exile in England.
Mary’s relationship with Elizabeth was poor because Mary previously had refused to renounce her claim on the English throne and recognise Elizabeth as rightful queen.
At first Elizabeth was reluctant to help Mary regain her throne but eventually was persuaded to by the French ambassador; however Lord Burley put a condition on this aid, that Mary officially end the Auld Alliance which Mary refused to do. Shortly after a Catholic assassination attempt was made on Elizabeth with the intent of putting Mary on the throne of England. This lead to Elizabeth imprisoning Mary for the next 18 years.
Frustrated by her imprisonment Mary finally plotted to overthrow Elizabeth for the crown of England but her whole conspiracy was being monitored by England’s spymaster Francis Walsingham who was intercepting her letters. In 1587 she was beheaded for her part in the plot.
The English Civil War was the birth place of modern day radical views that had been building up since John Ball and John Wycliffe. Religious movements such Methodists, Quakers, Puritans found there origins there along with Communism, Anarchism and Socialism. Here’s just a few of the opposing factions, which one would you join?
King Charles I was put on the throne by God and he is not subject to earthly authority he is not subject to the will of his people and any attempt to question his absolute authority is to question God’s will thus heresy. Charles I must be maintained in power and the property and status of the lords he created kept in place too. If keeping control of the country means encouraging foriegn countries, Scotland, Ireland, Holland and France to invade England it is not treason and his right to do so. England has long had the Magna Carta and the idea of rule through parliament, however Scotland believes in the Divine Right of Kings, absolute royal power, the English system is wrong. Charles’s queen is Catholic, so is one of his sons and among his strongest supporters are the catholic lords. He believes in religious tolerance for his loyal subjects, but not for disloyal ones such as the confederates in Ireland.
You were the dominant force in the Houses of Parliament before the civil war and then again during the Rump Parliament, the Independents accuse you of corruption. You are suspicious of the New Model Army and wished to appease the king and come to an amicable peace, however if he refuses to convert to your religion he must go. You see your solace across the border in Presbyterian Scotland, you support all the Scottish incursions into England and would like to see them unify the whole country under Presbyterianism. You will even deal with Charles II to achieve this, as long as he converts to Presbyterianism first.
All people should be equal, the wealth of the rich should be taken from them and all people given an equal share. The right to own property should be abolished. The country should be ruled by a democratic parliament with universal suffrage and all people equal in the eyes of the law. Human rights must be respected and religious tolerance adopted. The best way to achieved this is by military coup by the leveller regiments in the New Model Army rising. If Cromwell becomes a tyrant you must assassinate him.
Like the Quakers you believe in the inner spirit and accept no authority, but you believe anyone who accepts this is bound by no earthly laws and are free to do anything. God is pantheistic and in everything, alcohol, free sex, drugs, people shouldn’t live life obsessed with the afterlife but live this life to the full now. You will ride up and down the countryside, running hell, fire and damnation preachers out of town and preaching universal love instead.
The tyrant Charles I must be overthrown by all means necessary, tried and executed as a traitor. You support the creation of the New Model Army this is the way to win the war, not a Presbyterian alliance with Scotland and will give England to power to resist Scotland after the war. You are morally outraged at the licentiousness and corruption of the world and want to pass laws to impose piety and a strong moral code, however tolerating all moderate religions. The Levellers, Diggers, Ranters, Quakers and Fifth Monarchists are beyond saving. Government should be honest and if that means making Cromwell king, so be it.
You believe it is the dawning of a new golden age, soon Christ’s kingdom on Earth will come, it will be brought in by a society of saints marching on Europe, however at the moment the country is too corrupt. Your job is to convert powerful people and win parliamentary elections if this fails military coup and gain control of the country to make the land fit for saints. Your main support comes from tradesmen and some of the army, you control several seats on the Parliament of Saints and you are strongly anti-Cromwellian.
The Levellers are mostly middle class agitators or soldiers in the New Model Army, talk a lot and do little. You are peasants at the bottom rung of society and have nothing, land ownership has robbed every Englishman of his birthright, all land is the common property and no-one has the right to own it. Enough with talking, the Diggers will simply move on to the land and begin farming on a collective basis all over the country. You believe the world is sinful and soon the final judgement will come, however those who live puritanical lives will be spared.
You believe in the inner light and reject priests and scripture. You don’t like the corruption of the world, you refuse to take public oaths or pay tax, you hate organised churches and disrupt their services. Sometimes you go into rapture and often wear no clothes. You accept no authority, whenever you meet lords or nobles you use insulting terms of address to them