Course:History 344 Nasty Families/The First English Civil War/Picking Sides

From UBC Wiki

When civil war broke out in England, individuals, families, towns, and counties found themselves having to choose sides. The demographics of the two sides can be broadly divided. The king's forces were largely in the North, West, and Wales, were Catholic or High Anglican, and aristocratic.[1]. Conversely, the Parliamentary forces were largely from the South and East, were Puritan, and lower gentry.[2]. However, to generalize in this way would be to ignore the fact that within these broad categories were exceptions and variations. For example, both sides were led by individuals of gentry or aristocratic backgrounds.[3]. Similarly, there were many Puritans on the side of the king[4] and presumably, scholars would be able to find Catholics and Anglicans on the side of Parliament. Further, within a geographic area, there were battles as to what side a region should be on; it could be said that within the civil war, civil war was occurring.[5] Even within families, there was division over which side to support. It was not uncommon for a family to have a son fighting on each side.

In addition to choosing sides, many individuals and families chose to remain neutral. This was particularly common in the early stages of the war, when people hoped that the problems would blow over soon and they would not have to get involved.[6] In some places, neutrality acts were actually drawn up and the gates were shut in hopes of keeping out both sides.[7] Despite these attempts, it was rare for someone to remain completely neutral throughout the many years the war carried on.

Which side an individual or family fought on could potentially impact them for years to come. During the interregnum, royalist had to retreat from public life or swear the covenant. They also often had their lands confiscated. After the return of Charles II, parliamentarians were almost universally pardoned, but the social stigma of being a round head would often follow them.

  1. Angus Stroud, Stuart England (London: Routledge, 1991): 91.
  2. Ibid.
  3. Ibid.
  4. Ibid.
  5. Ibid., 92.
  6. Ibid.
  7. Ibid.