Room 5: Charles I and Civil War
© The National Portrait Gallery, London
On 10 January 1642, his conflicts with Parliament at crisis point, Charles I quit his palace of Whitehall, never to return there as a free man. On 22 August he raised his standard at Nottingham and the first of the wars between King and Parliament began. Their dramatic culmination was the execution of the King, on 30 January 1649, on a scaffold erected in front of Inigo Jones's Banqueting Hall in Whitehall. The wars ended finally in 1651 when Charles II fled, defeated, from the Battle of Worcester.
The most important single factor in the Parliamentary victory was the remarkable New Model Army. Centrally organised and well supplied, it was put under the command of Sir Thomas (later Lord) Fairfax. The great military genius among its generals was Oliver Cromwell, a prominent politician who replaced Fairfax as Lord General in 1650. Cromwell emerged as the leader of the Parliamentarians, but was unable to establish a regime that reconciled the interests of Parliament, the army and the various religious factions. Finally, under pressure from the army, he took office as Lord Protector (1653), but he continued the struggle to find a satisfactory formula for government until his death.