It has been disputed how crucial Parliament’s superiority in resources was to their eventual victory in the civil war. There are opposing views that suggest it was only the superiority in resources that allowed them to win, others think it was the creation of the new model army. Some believe it was a combination of factors. In comparison too other cities in England London was the most important city and site of the majority of the financial and military resources in England for Parliament. The London trained bands were the most professional in England.
The Tower of London provided access to a large arsenal so the capital could equip its own troops. London was by far the biggest city in England and through its ports arrived most of the trade, it also had the largest population allowing Parliament to efficiently collect the taxes needed to fund the war and provide men for the army. The merchants and moneylenders that had suffered under Charles’s forced loans were also situated in London and many provided loans and paid customs duties to Parliament ensuring a constant flow of money.
The possession of London and the south east ensured Parliament would win a protracted war. However Parliament’s advantage could have been lost early in the war after the battle of Edge hill in October 1642. Though out numbered Charles defeated Essex’s army and could have marched on London. Historians have disputed if he had attacked at Turnham Green at Rupert’s urging he could have occupied London and the majority of the resources, but it is equally possible that Londoners could have overwhelmed his army.
It is important that an army is properly supplied and supported financially if it is to fight well. John Pym realised that the war could not be fought and won without an efficient system to provide for the army. Pym introduced the assessment tax that removed the land that Royalist families had to help finance the war, he also introduced County committees to ensure all taxes were thoroughly collected. Though John Pym died in December 1643, but he had ensured that Parliament would never be short of money. Equally crucial was the king’s lack of funds.
He had to rely on gifts from wealthy supporters, these donations would have been easy to come by in the beginning of the war, however as the war progressed they would have grown more erratic leaving the king short of money. One of the most important military resources was the quality of leadership on both Parliamentary and Royalist sides. The Royalist forces had Prince Rupert of the Rhine, the king’s nephew who had gained experience in the 30 years war in Europe. He became Charles’s cavalry commander and was probably the best commander on either side.
Rupert’s crucial flaw was his impetuousness, while his first charge often broke the opposition he did not see any reason to regroup and aid the infantry battle. Although the Royalists had the best cavalry commander in the war it seemed that both sides could boast a similar number of able generals. In fact the Royalist forces were usually superior in leadership before the creation of the New Model army. The advantage of better leadership meant that even though Charles was outnumbered his troops were usually better lead, which should have resulted in early victory.
However rivalries between the Royalist generals, especially Rupert and Digby who did his best to turn Charles against his nephew, ensured that any victories that Rupert or any other Royalist general gained were never exploited fully. The result was a long war that the king could ill afford due to his lack of troops. Charles was unable to muster enough men for his armies, this could have been due to the reputation his troops had received for pillaging, defects in recruitment procedure or the problem of neutralism.
Charles believed himself to be a skilled military commander, which he wasn’t so his insistence to take overall command of military strategy did hamper the Royalist war effort. He frequently ignored the advice of his more experienced officers; Charles actions ultimately weakened his armies and aided Parliament’s victory. The superior military resource of the New Model army, this army was paid directly by Parliament, the New Model army was a standing army not a militia. Well trained, regularly paid and modelled around the old eastern association.
The cavalry were led by Oliver Cromwell, the infantry by Philip Skippon and Sir Thomas Fairfax in overall command. Many of its members were puritan so order was strict and was maintained, the New model army was revolutionary because it promoted officers on merit not on status, the battles won at Naseby and Langport ensured that the military power of the king was broken. Though the New Model army was important it was a catalyst to victory, it could certainly not win the war without finance from London, and John Pym’s system for supplying the men and money. Another superiority that Parliament had was the navy.
The Navy sided with Parliament even though it took little part in the actual fighting. It did help to relieve sieges near to the coast, but most importantly it gave Parliament control of the seas and considering a great deal of trade came from abroad the king would be starved of the resources he needed to fight the war. The navy blockaded England preventing Charles from receiving foreign help even though Henrietta Maria failed in her attempt to gain support from abroad. Finally the last military resource that Parliament had over the king was foreign aid in the form of the Scots.
Charles was unable to receive foreign help due to the blockading of England. The solemn League and Covenant was signed in 1643, Scotland would help in the war; in return Parliament promised that the Church of England was to be modelled more on the Scottish Presbyterian Church. The alliance provided 20,000 extra men for the Parliamentary side, combined with the relatively few troops that Charles had meant that now Parliament had a large superiority in numbers ensuring that the king was inevitably going to loose the civil war.
The superiority of resources was important in the parliamentary victory, however equally important in the victory was the Royalist disadvantages. I believe that though Parliament had superior resources it was how they were used that allowed them to win rather than the quantity. The historian Derrick Hurst described it best. “money bags don’t win wars. ” Parliament won because of Royalist inefficiencies and better use of resources rather than just because they had more.