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19: The Civil War

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After the Tudors came the Stuarts. The Tudors did what their people wanted; the king and the people, between them, crushed the nobles. The Stuarts did what they thought right, and they did not try to please the people. Under the Tudors, there was harmony between Crown and Parliament; and Elizabeth left a prosperous people with strong views about their rights and their religion. But James I., and especially his son Charles I., tried to change law and religion. From the Tudor period of unity, then, we come to the Stuart period of strife.

From 1603 to 1642 the struggle went on in Parliament. The Welsh Members nearly all supported the king, and the Welsh people followed the Welsh gentry in strong loyalty. The most famous Welshman of the period was John Williams, who became Archbishop of York and Lord Keeper. He was a wise man; he saw that both sides were a little in the wrong; and if any one could have kept the peace between them, he could have done it. But the king did not quite trust him, and the Parliament almost despised him; and this happens often to wise men who get between two angry parties.

From 1642 to 1646, the First Civil War was waged. This was a war between the king and the Parliament over taxation, militia, and religion. The south-east, and London especially, were for Parliament; the wilder parts, especially Wales, were for the king. The only important part of Wales that declared for Parliament was the southern part of Pembrokeshire, which had been English ever since the reign of Henry II.

Wales was important to the king for two reasons. For one thing, it could give him an army, and he came, time after time, to get a new one. When he unfurled his flag and began the war at Nottingham in 1642, he came to Shrewsbury, and there five thousand Welshmen joined him. With these and others he marched against London, fighting the battle of Edgehill on the way. While the king made many attempts to get London until 1644, and while the New Model army attacked him between 1645 and 1647, the Welsh fought in nearly all his battles, their infantry suffering heavily in the two greatest battles, Marston Moor and Naseby. The war went on in Wales itself alsoóRupert and Gerard being the chief Royalist leaders, and Middleton and Michael Jones being the chief Parliamentary ones. No great battles were fought, but there were several skirmishes, and much taking and retaking of castles and towns.

Wales was important to the king, also, because it commanded the two ways to Ireland. The King thought, almost to the last, that an Irish army would save him. Welsh garrisons held the two ports for Ireland, Chester and Bristol. Bristol was stormed by a great midnight assault, and Chester was forced to yield. In March 1647 Harlech yielded, and the war came to an end. By that time the king was a prisoner in the hands of the army.

The Second Civil War, in 1648 and 1649, was a struggle between the two sections of the victorious army. The Parliament wished to establish one religion, the army said that every man must be allowed to worship God as he liked. One was called the Presbyterian ideal, the other the Independent. The army was led by Cromwell, and Parliament was overawed. Then the Presbyterian parts rose in revolt- -Kent, Pembrokeshire, and the lowlands of Scotland. The New Model army marched against the Welsh, in order to break the connection between the northern and southern Presbyterians. The Welsh generals were Laugharne, Poyer, and Powell, who had all fought for Parliament in the first war. They were defeated at St Fagans, near Cardiff, and then driven into Pembroke. They determined to hold out to the last within its walls. Cromwell besieged them, and the great feature of the war was the siege of Pembroke. Walls and castles like those of Pembroke had become useless because of gunpowder. But Cromwell could not at once bring his guns so far. His difficulties were increasing daily: the Parliament was trying to come to terms with the king, all Wales around him was disaffected, the Scotch had crossed the border and were marching on London. After many weeks of assaults and desperate defence, the guns came and the old walls were battered down. Pembroke Castle, whose great round tower still stands, had protected William Marshall against Llywelyn and had enabled an important district to remain a "little England beyond Wales," was the last mediaeval castle to take an important part in war. The Scotch were soon defeated at the battle of Preston, and the king was brought to trial and put to death, the death-warrant being signed by two WelshmenóJohn Jones of Merioneth and Thomas Wogan of Cardigan. The date of Charles' execution is January 20, 1649.

The Commonwealth was established immediately, and Wales was looked upon with much distrustóthe Presbyterian parts and the Royalist partsóby the new Government. It was represented in the English Parliaments, it is true, but its representatives were often English, and practically appointed by the Government. When the country was put under the military dictatorship of the major-generals, Harrison was sent to rule Wales.

Honest attempts were made to give it an efficient clergy; but the zeal of Vavasour Powel aroused much opposition. Wales either clung tenaciously to its old religion; or, if it changed it, the changes were extreme. Though the country generally returned to its old life and thought at the Restoration in 1660, much of the new life of the Commonwealth remained: congregations of Independents still met; Quaker ideals survived all persecution; and even the mysticism of Morgan Lloyd permeated the slowly awakening thought of the peasants whom, in his dreams, he saw welcoming the second advent of Christ.


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