Warrior King: Part II

This is quite a week for kings going into battle. First there was George II leading his troops during the War of the Austrian Succession on June 27, 1743. Almost a hundred years earlier, on June 29, 1644, Charles I defeated a Parliamentarian detachment at the Battle of Cropredy Bridge, marking the last time an English king won a battle on English soil.

1644 hadn’t started out as a good year for the Royalist cause. They were defeated at Nantwich and Cheriton, and a Royalist army was besieged at York by a Scottish Covenanter army. By late May the king was desperate, and Parliamentarians were marching on Oxford, Charles’s wartime capital. Charles and a detachment of mostly cavalry managed to slip away and head for Worcester, with Sir William Waller in pursuit.

Charles managed to fool Waller into thinking he was going to head north while actually moving south and collecting reinforcements at Oxford. Waller turned around and pursued him and they finally met up, one army on each side of the River Cherwell, on June 29.

Charles sent a small detachment of dragoons to seize a bridge crossing the river near Cropready, while also speeding up his army’s march in an effort to cut off 300 additional horsemen who were riding to join Waller’s army. The Royalist army was strung out and vulnerable, and Waller tried to take advantage of the situation and attack the Royalist rearguard while sending other soldiers to overcome the dragoons at the bridge. It worked—the dragoons were soon overpowered—but the Parliamentarian army too became too spread out. The Royalist army was able to regroup and eventually drove Waller’s men back. The Royalists were unable to recover the bridge or engage in another round of fighting, so once night fell they slipped away, taking Waller’s guns with them. The Royalists lost few men, but Waller lost 700, many due to desertion immediately after the battle. Following the Battle of Cropredy Bridge, Charles turned his attention to the Earl of Essex, who was besieged at Lyme Regis. Before long, Essex’s army was forced to surrender at Lostwithiel.

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