Battle of Worcester and its Aftermath
Cromwell’s army took on its own grueling march—20 miles a day in extreme
heat for seven days—to reach Ferrybridge on August 19th. Once again,
the ever-pragmatic Worcester decided to align itself with the faction occupying
it at the time. Cromwell’s New Model Army forces were, by then, 31,000 strong.
Delaying the battle just long enough to build two pontoon bridges, Cromwell
launched his attack against Charles on September 3rd—the one-year
anniversary of the victory at Dunbar.
With a 2:1 troop advantage stretching over a four-mile-long arc toward
the town of Worcester, Cromwell was able to push back the Royalist forces,
despite fierce fighting. The Royalist retreat turned into a trouncing after the
of Fort Royal, a redoubt on a small hill to the southeast of the town. Among
Charles’ army, 3,000 were killed and 10,000 captured. Some leaders were
executed; some prisoners were sent to fight for Cromwell in Ireland; and around
8,000 Scots were deported to the New World and made to labor as indentured
workers there. By contrast, the Parliamentarian casualties were estimated at a
mere 200. A clear and complete rout for Cromwell.
by John Everett Millais, (1853)
After the Battle
of Worcester, a young Puritan woman helps a fleeing Royalist—Charles II
to escape, by
hiding him in a hollow tree.
In the next day’s report of the victory to
the Speaker of the House of Commons, Cromwell famously wrote:
The dimensions of
this mercy are above my thoughts. It is, for aught I know, a crowning mercy.
That last sentence, later inscribed on the
plaque placed on the Sidbury Gate in Worcester, reads in full:
LAST BATTLE OF THE CIVIL WAR
FOUGHT AT WORCESTER ON
THIS SPOT IN THE CITY WALL STOOD
SIDBURY GATE, WHICH WAS STORMED
THE PARLIAMENTARIAN TROOPS.
BY THE CROMWELL ASSOCIATION
WORCESTER CITY COUNCIL
THE AID OF PUBLIC SUBSCRIPTION
Thus, the Royalist Army was destroyed and
the bloody and costly conflict known as the “English Civil War” finally ended.
As preacher Hugh Peters put it: “…at Worcester, where England’s sorrows
began…they were happily ended.” Ironically, as a result of Charles II’s
ill-fated decision to detour to Worcester, the final battle was fought just
where the first battle had
been fought on September 23, 1642—almost exactly nine years earlier.
Unable to rally his troops and realizing his cause was lost, the
thoroughly defeated monarch removed his armor, found a fresh mount and escaping
as darkness fell, began a harrowing six-week-long flight. At one point, he hid
from the patrols in an oak tree (now referred to as the “Royal Oak”) on the
grounds of Boscobel House, as depicted in Millais’ painting, The Proscribed Royalist, 1651. A fearless
actor, the fugitive king sometimes hid in plain sight; on one occasion striding
through a crowd of Cromwell’s soldiers; on another boldly declaring to the blacksmith
who was shoeing his horse: “If that rogue Charles Stuart is taken, he
deserves to be hanged more than all the rest, for bringing in the Scots.”
At a time when the average man was
5’6”, the fugitive king was 6’2” and swarthy. Being so distinctive and hard to
disguise made him an exceptional target. The £1,000 reward on his head and the “death without mercy”
decree for anyone found helping him made him a tempting one, as well.
Notes: Battle of Worcester and its Aftermath,” in The Baron and the Lady, book two in the “Whitleigh series” by
Abigail Dane. http://TransitionsUnlimited.biz, AbigailDaneRomance@gmail.org.