375 years ago today, the Battle of Edgehill took place just outside of Kineton, Warwickshire. It was the first of many pitched battles of the English Civil Wars that took place between 1642 and 1651.
Late on 22 October, both armies unexpectedly found the enemy to be close by, near to Edge Hill, a few miles from Banbury. The next day, the Royalist army descended from Edge Hill to force battle, and the Earl of Essex marched out to meet them.
After the Parliamentary artillery opened a cannonade, the Royalists attacked.
The two armies were of approximately the same size; about 14,500 men. The Royal cavalry under Prince Rupert and Lord Wilmot pushed back the wings of the Parliamentary army, but in the centre the royal troops were themselves badly mauled.
Both armies consisted mostly of inexperienced and sometimes ill-equipped troops. Many men from both sides fled or fell out to loot enemy baggage, and neither army was able to gain a decisive advantage.
Commanders & Leaders
Charles I Earl of Essex
Prince Rupert Lord Fielding
Earl of Forth
Royalist troops Parliamentary troops under the
12,400 – being: 15,000 – being:
2,500 horse 2,300 horse
800 dragoons 700 dragoons
9,100 foot 12,000 foot
16 guns 7 guns
Casualties and Losses
500 dead 500 dead
1,500 wounded 1,500 wounded
After only three hours of hard fighting neither side was able to make headway, and they broke off the fight as darkness descended.
Prince Rupert’s cavalry had much the better of the exchanges, but the parliamentary infantry stood firm, allowing both sides to claim victory.
Essex considered his army too badly damaged to resume the fight next day, and he pulled back his men to Warwick, leaving the road to London open to Charles’ army.
However, Charles’s natural caution asserted itself, and his leisurely advance by way of Oxford gave his opponents time to regroup and look to their defences.
By the time his troops reached Reading, Essex had regained London and a fresh force of men prevented any further royalist advance. Charles never again had so clear an opportunity to take London as he did after Edgehill.
The inconclusive result of the Battle of Edgehill prevented either faction gaining a quick victory in this (the First) Civil War, which eventually lasted four years.