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National Civil War Centre

The Battle of Edgehill

23rd October 1642. The first big battle of the Civil War ends in a draw. The king’s favourite loses a hand.

British Civil Wars > Weapons & Warfare > Battles & Sieges > The Battle of Edgehill

The Battle of Edgehill was the first important battle of the civil war. The battle took place on a Sunday and was fought on a field in Warwickshire between the villages of Kineton and Radway. King Charles I and his nephew Prince Rupert led the Royalist army. Robert Devereux, the 3rd Earl of Essex commanded the Parliamentarian army. Both armies were roughly the same size. The king had 12,400 men. Parliament had 15,000 men. Apart from many of the officers, very few of the soldiers in both armies had ever fought a battle before.

The battle began at 14.00 in the afternoon. For the first hour both armies shot at each other with cannons. At 15.00pm Prince Rupert launched a cavalry charge, destroying the Parliamentarian’s cavalry.However, Rupert and his men carried on riding, chasing the enemy cavalry away from the field, stopping only to steal the enemy baggage. Once Rupert had left the battlefield the Parliamentarians had a serious advantage. Essex’s infantry were stronger and better trained than the king’s infantry and defeated them. Essex’s forces came dangerously close to taking the king’s son prisoner. Essex’s infantry captured the king’s flag and killed Sir Edmund Verney, one of the king’s favourites. Eventually Prince Rupert and his cavalry came back to the battlefield, recaptured the Royal Standard and two of Essex’s cannons.  Rupert’s return to the battle forced the Parliamentarians to withdraw. The Royalist army did the same. The battle was over. It had lasted 2 ½ hours.  During the battle the fighting was confusing and extremely violent. A civil war myth has it that when Sir Edmund Verney was killed, he was so badly hacked to bits that the only recognizable part of him was his severed hand still clasping the Royal standard. Neither side wore proper uniforms. Because of this some soldiers accidently killed their own men. Instead of uniforms many soldiers wore different coloured sashes to show which side they were on. Both sides killed around 500 hundred soldiers and wounded around 1,500 more. The result of the battle was a draw, although the royalists and the Parliamentarians would both claim that they had won.

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