Wars of the Three Kingdoms: There could have been a negotiated settlement at the end of the first civil war

There was almost certainly room for a negotiated settlement in the late 1640s. There had been an increasing polarisation, away from the peace party, a middle group, and a war party into two camps, Presbyterian and independent. This meant that there was no one to smooth relations and come up with a general settlement that would satisfy both sides. King Charles was therefore able to try to divide and rule, hoping that both sides would bid for his support. The main parties to any settlement were therefore the King, Presbyterians and Independents.

All the No points:

Wars of the Three Kingdoms: There could have been a negotiated settlement at the end of the first civil war
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Wars of the Three Kingdoms: There could have been a negotiated settlement at the end of the first civil war
Yes because...

Little Scottish or Irish impact on negotiations.

The Scots had been outmanoeuvred, left off subcommittees, even the English Presbyterians did not wish the Scots included in English negotiations.[[Lotte Mulligan, ‘Peace negations, Politics and the Committee of both Kingdoms 1644-1646’, The Historical Journal, Vol. 12, No.1, (1969) pp.3-22, p17]] When the Scots sold the King they solved a short-term problem but leaving themselves with a bigger long-term problem of how to make a permanent peace with England. Without the King they no longer had any way of influencing English events without recourse to war. The Scots, taking Argyll’s policy over Hamilton’s, also reduced the size of their army, their last means of influence.[[David Stevenson, Revolution and Counter-revolution in Scotland, 1644-1651, London, 1977, p81-2]]

The Irish were even more peripheral. During this period the Irish were also working for peace, with as an example the ‘Ormond peace’ that was rejected at the general assembly This caused Ormond to turn over his Royalist positions to Parliament; this seriously undermined the Irish position, as the English Parliament was their main enemy. Factionalism prevented the Irish Catholics from consistently aiding Charles win victory in the civil wars meaning that once Parliament was in complete control of England an invasion was only a matter of time.[[Jane H. Ohlmeyer, Civil War and Restoration in the Three stuart Kingdoms, The career of Randal MacDonnell, marquis of Antrim, 1609-1683, Cambridge, 1993, pp.182-184, 193, 199]] This attempt itself caused divisions between the New Model Army and Parliament however this was only indirect influence by Ireland on the prospects of an English settlement. The Scots and Irish were therefore peripheral and would effectively have to take whatever settlement resulted. Their main impact was in any English reaction.

No because...

The Scots had been part of the Committee of both Kingdoms and as such were theoretically supposed to be consulted on any peace proposals.

Wars of the Three Kingdoms: There could have been a negotiated settlement at the end of the first civil war
Yes because...

War not fought over big differences

A settlement should have been relatively easy to bring about. There was no clash, as yet, between irreconcilable ideologies.[[Austin Woolrych, Britain in revolution 1625-1660, Oxford 2002, p340]] The war had been fought over relatively small differences both accepted that it was King and parliament together who held power, the disagreement was over who should give way in the event of conflict, in this case over the Militia bill. For Parliament, if the King was in the hands of evil counsellors sovereign power resided in Parliament, whereas Charles believed this power should remain with the King.[[C.V. Wedgwood, The King’s War 1641-1647, London, 2001, p73]]

If parts of the opening proclamations are taken as the war aims of the two sides then they should never have been fighting. In His maiesties proclamation for the suppressing of the present rebellion the King called upon the trained bands:

Charles I

“to serve us for the defence of Us, & of Our Kingdom, and of the true Protestant Religion, and the known Laws of the Land, and the just Liberties of our Subjects, & the just Priviledges of Parliament… and for re-setling of the happy peace of this Kingdom.”[[England and Wales. Sovereign (1625-1649 : Charles I), His Maiesties proclamation for the suppressing of the present rebellion under the command of Robert Earle of Essex, Oxford, 1642, EEBO, p8-9]]

A parliamentary declaration in response to the King’s declaration was that Essex’s forces were for:


“the maintenance and preservation of the true Protestant Religion, the Kings Person, the Laws of the Land, the Liberty and Property of the Subject, and the Rights and Priviledges of Parliament.”[[England and Wales. Parliament. A declaration and resolution of the Lords and Commons assembled in Parliament, London, 1642, EEBO, E.112[6], p6]]

No because...

Both declarations are very similar however Charles and Parliament both had different ideas about what the true protestant religion was, and what the privileges of parliament should be. Both sides also declared that the other were traitors to the King and offered pardon if the opposing side laid down their arms.

Wars of the Three Kingdoms: There could have been a negotiated settlement at the end of the first civil war
Yes because...

Parliament’s original objectives met

The main point raised against the Royalists by the Parliamentarians, as it the case in almost all rebellions, was that “the venom of those Traiterous counsellors about his majesty”[[England and Wales. Parliament. A declaration and resolution of the Lords and Commons assembled in Parliament, London, 1642, EEBO, E.112[6], p3]] were those at fault. Parliament also blamed this misguided council for the immediate start of the war “Since which time by their perpicious Councells, they have caused his Majestie to ingage himselfe in a Warre against Hull”[[England and Wales. Parliament. The Parliaments protestation: Or The resolution of the Lords, and Commons, to maintaine the iust priuiledge of Parliament, London, 1642, EEBO, E.109[6], p3]] However these allegations against counsellors show the true reasons for parliaments fight against the King:


“Who having for many yeers together carried a wicked designe to alter Religion, and to introduce Popery, Superstition, and Ignorance (the ready way to an Arbitrary and Tyrannical Government)”[[ England and Wales. Parliament. A declaration and resolution of the Lords and Commons assembled in Parliament, London, 1642, EEBO, E.112[6], p3-4]]

Thus Parliament was fighting to prevent the King accruing absolute authority as was occurring elsewhere in Europe.

Parliaments aims of preventing an absolutist King and replacing any misguided counsellors are brought about as soon as the King is in their hands. The King on the other hand is presented with a fait accompli; parliament has control of the army and any counsel to the King. At the end of the war it would seem that the King should be willing to accept a peace treaty that is based upon parliaments war aims, after all he has lost nothing since just before the war.

No because...

King Charles however was fighting to regain privileges that he believed parliament had taken from him:

Charles I

“And having by that declaration (as far as in the lies) devested Us of that pre-eminence and authoritie, which God, the Law, the Custome and Consent of this Nation has placed in Us, and assumed it to themselves”[[England and Wales. Sovereign (1625-1649 : Charles I), His Majesties declaration to all his loving subjects, occasioned by a false and scandalous imputation laid upon His Majesty of an intention of raising or leavying war against his Parliament, and of having raised force to that end, London, 1642, EEBO, p3]]

Particularly the Kings privileges in relation to his command of any army

Charles I

“That they should likewise with expedition put forth the fruits of that supream power, for the violating and suppressing that power they despised (an effect of which resolution their wilde Declaration against Our Proclamation concerning the pretended Ordinance for the Militia, and punishing of the proclaimers appears to be) yet we must confess, in there last attempt… they have out-done what We conceive was their present Intention; And whosoever hears of Propositions and Orders for the bringing in of Money or Plate to maintain Horse, Horse-men and Arms for the preservation of the public Peace, or for the defence of the King, and both Houses of Parliament… and (at least) the King himself to be consulted with, and privie to these Propositions”[[ibid, p3]]

Charles is complaining against the hypocrisy of parliament for attempting to raise an army while denying his sovereign right to raise and lead any army in defence of the Kingdom.

Wars of the Three Kingdoms: There could have been a negotiated settlement at the end of the first civil war
Yes because...

‘Mixed monarchy’ a potential compromise

King Charles adopted the theory of mixed monarchy right at the beginning of the civil war, that there needed to be balance in which neither the King nor parliament could create a tyranny.[[Corinne Comstock Weston, ‘English Constitutional Doctrines from the Fifteenth Century to the Seventeenth: II. The Theory of Mixed Monarchy under Charles I and after’, The English Historical Review, Vol. 75, No. 296, (Jul. 1960), pp.426-443, p427-428]] This balance was brought about through the three estates having independent powers with which to check the others.

Charles I

“that neither one estate transact what is proper for two, nor two what is proper for three”
“your ancestors hath so moulded this out of a mixture of these as to give this Kingdom the conveniences of all three, without the inconveniences of any one, as long as the balance hangs even between the three estates… In this Kingdom the laws are joyntly made by a King, by a House of Peers, and by a House of Commons chosen by the people, all having free votes and particular privileges”[[ England and Wales. Sovereign (1625-1649 : Charles I), His Majesties answer to the nineteen propositions of both Houses of Parliament, Cambridge, 1642, EEBO, pp.8, 12]]

Holles, one of the Presbyterians leaders, also certainly believed in a mixed monarchy, for him the vote of no address was:

Denzil Holles

“as if a limb should cut itself off from the body, and thereby deprive itself of nourishment: For the communication between the King and Parliament is that which gives it being and life.”[[ Denzil Holles, Memoirs of Denzil Lord Holles, Baron of Ifield in Sussex, From the Year 1641, to 1648, London, p200]]

In the theory of the mixed monarchy, and the opinion of the majority, neither Parliament nor the King could survive without the other.

No because...

However this conversion allowed Charles to position himself as champion of a reformed constitution,[[Weston, Mixed Monarchy, p429-430]] allowing the Royalists to accuse parliament of being the side that was acting arbitrarily and authoritarian, bring up the spectre of a puritan tyranny.[[J.W. Daly, ‘Could Charles be Trusted? The Royalist Case, 1642-1646’,The Journal of British Studies, Vol. 6, No. 1, (Nov., 1966), pp.23-44, p37-8]] It gave him a convincing constitutional reason to reject any settlement that damaged that balance. Essentially it was a political tactic rather than a real change in belief in the monarchy being absolute.

Wars of the Three Kingdoms: There could have been a negotiated settlement at the end of the first civil war
Yes because...

Charles willing to negotiate

Charles himself may have believed that he was divinely ordained; God had given him paramount authority in his Kingdoms and that he would be committing a sin if he gave up any of his sacred authority.[[ C.V. Wedgwood, The Trial of Charles I, London, 1970, p11]] Nonetheless he was prepared to negotiate on some points, he consented on Ireland:

Bulstrode Whitelock

“that the prosecution of the war there be left to the two houses, and the King to assist them…
2. The reformation of Ireland to be settled by the parliament of England.
3. The chief governors and officers in Ireland to be nominated by the parliament of England.”[[Bulstrode Whitelock, Memorials of the English Affairs from the beginning of the reign of Charles the First to the happy restoration of Charles the Second, Vol. II, Oxford, 1853, p421]]

Charles’ position on religion did however give him some room for compromise with the Presbyterians who had similar nfor the Treaty of Newport, “he will consent to an act of parliament the form of church government, and Directory of worship” and “will consent to repeal of so much of all statutes as only concern the Book of Common Prayer” perhaps more importantly in relation to himself Charles “consents to acts to be passed… prevent the saying and hearing of mass in the court or elsewhere”[ibid, p.419, 437.]

Charles was prepared to negotiate with any opponent so long as the restraints placed upon him would not prevent him being, in his eyes, the King. If Charles’ primary concern about the church was that the King could exercise his authority through the church then a settlement over religion was also possible hence Charles could not accept:


“the utter abolishing of episcopacy, the substance whereof he conceives to consist in the power of ordination and jurisdiction…
[But] His majesty’s resolution being to comply with his two houses for the alteration and regulating of his present hierarchy and government, so as episcopacy, reduced to the primitive usage, may be settled and continued in the church”[[Whitelock, Memorials, p419]]

This seems to be a half waypoint between Presbyterianism and Episcopalianism. He was also prepared to temporarily lose control over the army, as when a new army was needed the King would once more be needed.

No because...

Charles however was unwilling to compromise his position on the church his “conscience being irreconcilably engaged against it.”[[To the Lords Jermyn and Culpeppert, and Mr. John Ashburnham, Newcastle, July 22, 1646, Petrie, Letters, p201]] This put Charles at odds with those who would have been his most obvious constitutional supporters. Although Charles took his position based upon his conscience there were practical reasons as to why he was unwilling to give way on religion. The church was the foundation of the monarchy in several ways:

Charles I

“the dependency of the Church upon the Crown is the chiefest support of regal authority…
the maintenance of Episcopacy… [is needed] to hinder the growth of the Presbyterian doctrine, which cannot but bring anarchy into any country”[[To the Prince of Wales, Newcastle August 26, 1646, Petrie, Letters, p205-6]]

Charles recognised that “people are governed by the pulpit more than the sword in times of peace”. After all in and early modern society without other methods of government control “where was there ever obedience where religion did not teach it?”[[To the Lords Jermyn and Culpeppert, and Mr. John Ashburnham, Newcastle, July 22nd, August 19th, 1646, Petrie, Letters, pp.200, 204]] For Charles caving in on religion to the presbytery would give the presbytery control over the people and hence ultimately the King.

Wars of the Three Kingdoms: There could have been a negotiated settlement at the end of the first civil war
Yes because...

Independents willing to deal with the King

The independents position shifted most dramatically during the period in which a settlement between the two sides was possible. Cromwell like the King recognised in 1646 that “Things are not well in Scotland; would that they were in England! We are full of faction and worse.”[[Wilbur Cortez Abbott, The Writings and speeches of Oliver Cromwell, Vol. I 1599-1649, Cambridge, 1937, p410]] Although from the outset the Independents were much more radical in being willing to think of replacing Charles they were equally willing to make a settlement with him at the expense of the Presbyterians. For Ireton the most important thing was a permanent peace, in which:


“if ever it doe come to settle, it must bee by setting downe some thinge that may bee a rule to lay a foundation for the common rights and liberties of the people, and for an established peace in the nation.”[[C.H. Firth ed., The Clarke Papers Selections from the Papers of William Clarke, Vol. I, Westminster 1891, p197]]

The independents views were reflected in the Armies heads of proposal, with Article I reflecting a desire for parliamentary reform, XI, XII and XIII for freedom of Worship and XV and XIV for a lenient settlement to reintegrate the royalists into the body politic:

Army Heads of the Proposals

I, 5, That the elections for succeeding parliaments may be distributed to all counties… according to some rule of equality or proportion… to render the House of Commons (as near as may be) an equal representative of the whole.
XII, That there be a repeal of all Acts… enjoining the use of the Book of Common Prayr, and imposing any penalties thereof [and of] imposing any penalty for not coming to church, or for meetings elsewhere for prayer or other religious duties
XVI, That there may be a general Act of Oblivion to extend to all, to absolve from all trespasses, misdemeanors, &c. done in prosecution of the war… and to restore them to all privileges, &c.[[The Heads of the Proposals offered by the Army, Gardiner, Constitutional, p316-323]]

At the Putney debates Ireton asserted that he would not “joyne with them that doe seeke the destruction either of Parliament or the Kinge.”[[Firth, Clarke Papers, p233]] Cromwell is supposed to have given his reasons for treating with the King in a conversation with Roger Boyle in the “Saddle letter”:

Oliver Cromwell

“The reason why we would once have closed with the King was this; we found this; we found the Scots and the Presbyterians began to be more powerful than we; and if they made up matters with the king we should have been left in the lurch: therefore we thought it best to prevent them by offering first to come in upon any reasonable conditions”[[Abbott, Cromwell, p564]]

It was therefore simple necessity.

No because...

However the view of the independents changed quickly away from peace with the King. There had been accusations of bloodguilt levelled at King Charles during the first Civil war, for example by minister Christopher Love. The levellers in the Putney debates brought up the idea again, with the idea playing a role in the Army’s decision making, withdrawing support from any further negotiations. In launching the 2nd civil war Charles had gone against God, and God had confirmed his judgement against Charles. Blood guilt prevented any argument about the necessity of compelling Charles to sign a peace. This shifted the argument to how was the Lords wrath to be assuaged, blood guild destroyed the Kings sacredness, preventing Charles from being King and preventing any negotiations.[[Patricia Crawford, ‘Charles Stewart, That Man of Blood’, The Journal of British Studies, Vol. 16, No. 2, (Spring, 1977), pp41-61, pp.49, 52-4, 56, 45, 42]] Cromwell, also in the “Saddle letter”, cited the Kings untrustworthiness as preventing any negotiations after the 2nd Civil war:

Oliver Cromwell

“he was now counted on by both factions, the scotch Presbyterians and the army, and which bid fairest for him should have him… and finding we were not likely to have any tolerable terms from the king, we immediately, from that time forward, resolved his ruin.”[[Abbott, Cromwell, p564]]

The Army having many members who were not politicians or diplomats expected any settlement to be arrived at quickly, they would not wait for long drawn out negotiations and quickly moved to an alternative to prevent the Lords wrath.

Wars of the Three Kingdoms: There could have been a negotiated settlement at the end of the first civil war
No because...

Could not make peace without Charles?

Charles however was a genuine player in any negotiations for a settlement; his decisions had a genuine impact on the Independents and Presbyterians vying for power, there was even the potential for a revival of royalist sympathies, particularly if he brought peace. This revival is shown by the risings, in traditionally parliamentary areas, at the outbreak of the 2nd civil war.

Charles believed that as he was king was an organ of the state that could not be replaced, “without my establishing, there can be no peace”.[[To the Lords Jermyn and Culpeppert, and Mr. John Ashburnham, Newcastle, October 27, 1646, Sir Charles Petrie ed., The Letters and Speeches and Proclamations of King Charles I, London, 1968, p210]] His opponents would be forced to tone down their demands upon him. To this end he promoted division in his enemies camps:

Charles I

My opinion upon this whole business is, that these divisions will either serve to make them all join me, or else God hath prepared this way to punish them for their many rebellions and perfidies.[[To the Queen, Newcastle, June 17, 1646. Petrie, Letters, p182]]

Although written in relation to the Scots it could equally be applied to Charles’ position towards Parliament. Similarly he believes parliament and the Covenanters would not get along for long without a general settlement.

Charles I

And yet the English will not dare break with the Scots, lest they, setting me up to claim my right, should raise a great party for me in England… I believe the two nations must needs fall out, and so give me an opportunity, either to join the weaker party, or frame one of my own”[[To the Lords Jermyn and Culpeppert, and Mr. John Ashburnham, Newcastle, October 27, 1646, Petrie, Letters, p210]]

Charles assumed he had as long as it took for the opposing parties to come as close as possible to giving Charles what he wants.

Yes because...

C.V. Wedgwood asserts “In the new situation which had come into being the defeated King was merely a piece in the game to be used or set aside in the struggle between authority (Parliament or Presbytery, Church or Law) and the people.”[[Wedgwood, War, p615]]

Wars of the Three Kingdoms: There could have been a negotiated settlement at the end of the first civil war
No because...


What the Presbyterians wanted was set out in the Newcastle Propositions; its core was religion:

Houses of Parliament

“2, That His Majesty… may be pleased to swear and sign the late solemn Leaghue and Covenant; and that an Act of Parliament be passed in both kingdoms respectively, for enjoining the taking thereof by all subjects of the three kingdoms
3, That a Bill be passed for the utter abolishing and taking away of all Archbishops, Bishops, their Chancellors…”[[Samuel Rawson Gardiner ed., The Propositions of the Houses sent to the King at Newcastle, The Constitutional Documents of the Puritan Revolution 1625-1660, 3ed ed., Oxford, 1906, p291]]

These strong religious conditions that the King would never accept reflected the Presbyterians alliance with the Scots. Moreover by these propositions 58 principle royalists were to be condemned of treason, hardly a way to settle the kingdom.[[J.S.A. Adamson, ‘The English Nobility and the Projected Settlement of 1647’, The Historical Journal, Vol. 30, No. 3, (Sep.,1987), pp.567-602, p584]]

Yes because...

Except on religion the demands of the Presbyterians were much more in line with the causes of the civil war, for example:

Houses of Parliament

13, That… the Parliament of England assembled, shall during the space of twenty years, from the 1st of July, 1646, arm, train and discipline… all the forces of the kingdoms.[[Gardiner, Constitutional Documents, p.292]]

These were therefore much more likely to be palatable to both the King and the Independents.

The Presbyterians were involved in conflict with the independents in both Parliament and the army, making it less likely they would be able to impose a Presbyterian settlement on either the King or the country as a whole. Any attempt to establish Presbyterianism was coming too late as with the breakdown of authority during the war independent churches had sprung up and were supported by the army, in which with ideal conditions independency was flourishing.[[Clare Cross, ‘The Church in England 1646-1660’, in G.E. Aylmer ed., The Interregnum The Quest for Settlement 1646-1660, (London, 1979), pp99-120, p102]] In the long run this conflict could lead towards a settlement as the Presbyterians would have to give in or reduce their demands on religion, a major sticking point in any attempt to have a negotiated settlement.

Wars of the Three Kingdoms: There could have been a negotiated settlement at the end of the first civil war
No because...

Charles’ judgement

Charles was wrong about the Independents. The independents had been willing from an early stage to contemplate replacing Charles with one of his, hopefully more compliant, sons. According to the Venetian Ambassador, Henry Vane was investigating this course as early as June 1644:

Venetian Ambassador

“the real object is something greater, to persuade the leaders of that army to agree to the deposition of the King, if, as a great part of the English desire and hope, he is taken prisoner or leaves the Kingdom.”[[Allen B. Hinds ed., Calendar of State papers and manuscripts relating to English affairs, existing in the archives and collections of Venice, and in other libraries of North Italy, Vol. XXVII 1643-1647, London, 1926, p110]]

If this was the case then Charles could not spin out negotiations as he could with the Presbyterians. Unlike the Presbyterians who, as is usual practice in negotiation, made very tough demands and slowly reduced them as their position deteriorated, the independents first proposals were likely to be their most lenient conditions. The Independents in the Army were probably in their worst position, the Presbyterians had control of Parliament, issuing the Declaration of dislike, and threatening to impeach Cromwell, the two factions appeared to be on the verge of war.[[Woolrych, Statesmen, p116]] The heads of proposal had been directly debated with the King and the material things the King disliked struck out.[[Firth, Clarke Papers, pxli]] Thus the Army at this point needed the King to provide them legitimacy to create a general settlement, later the army’s position would improve and the soldiers would become more radical. Charles failed to grasp his opportunity; he rejected the terms because there was nothing to support Anglican Church government, rather a nominally Presbyterian national church for three years,[[Adamson, Nobility, p585]] not realising this did not matter as Robert Baillie points out:

Robert Baillie

“Independency being so weak in itself, and so near into disorder and confusion, would quickly call for a remedy, and open a way for the King to return to his own power.”[[Robert Baillie, Letters and Journals: Containing an impartial account of public transactions, civil, ecclesiastical, and military, in England and Scotland from the beginning of the civil wars, in 1637, to the year 1662, Vol. II, Edinburgh, 1775, ECCO, p127]]

In the meantime the church hierarchy could remain in place competing in a world of free religious conviction. Charles ever the opportunist hoped first that London with its offer of the Kings unconditional return would win and later that the Scots would intervene, he would not agree while he thought a better deal could be had elsewhere.[[Adamson, Nobility, p569, 598-600]] The army had however already gone beyond what it would like to create peace, so could not affirm church government for Charles, and the army therefore quickly became disillusioned:

Edward Sexby

“The cause of our misery [is] uppon two thinges. We sought to satisfie all men, and itt was well: butt in going [about] to doe itt wee have dissatisfied all men. Wee have labour’d to please a Kinge, and I thinke, except wee goe about to cutt all our throats wee shall nott please him.[[Mr. Edward Sexby, Firth, Clarke Papers, p227-8]]

Once Charles had rejected these proposals in favour of launching the 2nd Civil war he lost all hope of negotiating with his most powerful opponent.[[Woolrych, Revolution, p400]]

Yes because...

Charles was however correct that the Presbyterians and independents had divergent interests. In the summer of 1647 many in the Army believed that a settlement was more likely between them and the King than with Parliament. Charles never realised that ultimately he would have to choose between religious concessions to the Presbyterians or constitutional concessions to the independents.[[Woolrych, revolution, p359, 375.]] Charles was correct in his assessment of the Presbyterians, as they were unwilling to remove the King they had to move their proposals substantially towards the Kings position.

Wars of the Three Kingdoms: There could have been a negotiated settlement at the end of the first civil war

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