The Battle of Naseby on June 14, 1645, was the last major battle of the frst phase (1642–1646) of the English Civil War (1642–1646). It marked the frst appearance of Parliament’s New Model Army and led directly to the defeat and execution of King Charles I.
Although they were at a disadvantage when the English Civil War opened, the Parliamentary forces gradually secured the upper hand, and by 1645 Charles I was losing the war. The Royalists had been defeated at the Battle of Marston Moor (July 2, 1644) and lost northern England. This had been somewhat offset by Royalist successes in Scotland, however.
Parliament now reorganized its forces, placing them under the command of Sir Thomas Fairfax. Fairfax, aided by Oliver Cromwell, worked to instill discipline
and train this force, which came to be known as the New Model Army. In June, Fairfax led the New Model Army to seek Royalist troops under Charles I. Fairfax commanded some 13,000 men, 7,500 of whom were either cavalry or dragoons (mounted infantry). Charles headed a far smaller force of perhaps 7,400 men, including 3,300 cavalry. Royalist leaders were divided about the wisdom of trying to engage the Parliamentarians, but confdence soared after a victory at Leicester on May 31, and those favoring battle had their way.
The two armies encountered one another near the village of Naseby, about 20 miles south of Leicester in Northamptonshire, on the morning of June 14. Underestimating Parliamentarian strength, the Royalists abandoned an excellent defensive position to seek out the enemy located on high ground just north of Naseby. On the Royalist side, Prince Rupert of the Rhine commanded the right wing of 1,600 cavalry and 200 musketeers. Infantry under Jacob, Lord Astley, held the center, and cavalry under Sir Marmaduke Langdale were on the Royalist left. Charles I was located with the Royalist reserve behind the center of the line with about 700 infantry and an unknown number of cavalry. The Parliamentary line consisted of 3,200 cavalry on the left under Henry Ireton and 3,500 on the right under Oliver Cromwell. Infantry held the Parliamentary center.
The battle began in midmorning with a Royalist advance. The cavalry under Prince Rupert drove back Ireton’s cavalry and pursued it far from the battle, all the way to the baggage train. In the center the Royalist infantry commanded by Lord Astley initially enjoyed success but soon were hard-pressed, fanked by Cromwell’s cavalry on their left and, because of the absence of Rupert’s cavalry, also on their right. By the time Rupert realized his error and returned to the fray, it was too late: the Royalist center had given way. The king’s reserve then fed, and with them went any hope of turning the tide.
Although the bulk of their cavalry managed to escaped, the Royalists suffered between 400 and 1,000 men killed as well as 4,500 taken prisoner, including most of the offcers. The New Model Army lost only 200 men. Among the booty were important private papers written by Charles I. These became a useful propaganda tool for the Parliamentarians, for they revealed the king’s plans to bring in French mercenaries and to grant religious concessions to English Catholics.
Naseby fostered a general sentiment among the Royalists that the war was indeed over. When news of the result arrived, Royalists at the fortress of Carlisle, which had resisted a Scottish siege since the previous October, immediately asked for terms. Indeed, a half dozen Royalist garrisons surrendered later in June, and a dozen more surrendered in July. Nearly two dozen others also surrendered by January 1646. By the end of 1645 Royalist forces controlled only Wales, southwestern England, and a few strongholds in the Midlands. The Parliamentary offensive continued, and fnding it virtually impossible to challenge the Parliamentary forces, Charles I fnally surrendered on May 5, 1646.