June 14, 1645
Friction between Charles I and Parliament led ultimately to Civil War. Raising, paying, and training large armies was new in Britain, and both the Royalists, or Cavaliers, and Parliamentarians, or Roundheads, had difficulties. But Parliament controlled London and the more prosperous southeast, giving them an important advantage, and they eventually formed a more professional "New Model Army." Naseby would be its first major battle.
The New Model Army, under Thomas Fairfax, was besieging Oxford, a Royalist stronghold. In response, the Royalist army accompanied by the king and commanded by Prince Rupert attacked and sacked Leicester. (pronounced "Lester") Fairfax abandoned the siege and marched north. When the Parliamentarians reached the Naseby area they came into contact with the Royalist army. Oliver Cromwell convinced Fairfax to take position on a ridge north of Naseby instead of on rougher terrain further east. Because the ridge was better country for cavalry, they believed the Royalists would attack them. Although there were 10,000 Royalists and 14,000 Parliamentarians, the Royalists attacked.
From Near the Monument
This is a more than 180 degree view from the Parliamentarian ridge near the battle monument. The Parliamentarian line was roughly parallel to the hedgerows on the left and far right of the picture. Cavalry protected both flanks, and dismounted dragoons were placed behind a hedgerow on the blue ridge on the left-center of the picture in order to enfilade attackers. On the right of the picture, the doctor of democracy, Dr. K., is facing the direction the Roundheads faced. The road behind the hedgerow on the right half half of the picture existed at the time and leads to the Royalist position on the opposite ridge.
From Behind the Monument
This is a wider view from the hedgerow behind the monument. The left half of the picture is looking up the slope of the ridge. Before the battle began, the Parliamentarian infantry withdrew to just behind the ridge. As the Royalists attacked, their right flank cavalry defeated their Roundhead opponents and headed to the enemy baggage train in the rear while the Royalist infantry slowly pushed back the Parliamentarian counterparts. The left flank Roundhead cavalry had reformed, however, and began to attack the exposed right flank of the Cavalier infantry. Soon thereafter, the Roundhead cavalry on the right flank under Cromwell defeated their opponents and attacked the left flank of the Royalist infantry. The battle became decisive, with only 200 Roundheads lost to 1,000 Royalists killed and 4,500 captured.
Although there would be further civil war, the Naseby was the decisive battle in the conflict, a conflict which re-affirmed the power of Parliament and permanently decreased the power of the monarchy. The king was eventually captured and relieved of his head, and a Commonwealth was formed. Although the king's son Charles II was invited to return as king after Cromwell's death, when James II tried to regain the lost powers of the monarchy he was deposed by William and Mary in the Glorious Revolution of 1688. Forever after the monarchy's power was limited.
Back to Index