The Battle of Edgehill
October 23, 1642
Parliamentary troops under the Earl of Essex vs. royal troops under the Earl of Forth
Charles I believed strongly in the rights of the monarch to rule as he saw fit - including raising money for his wars or for whatever other reason. Parliament, on the other hand, believed equally strongly in their right to approve or deny funds to the crown as they saw fit.
Simplistically put, this is the reason for the outbreak of the conflict we know as the English Civil War. The Battle of Edgehill was the first major armed conflict of that war.
King Charles marched from Shrewsbury toward London with his newly raised army. Essex marched out to meet him, with the express task of making sure the king did not reach the capital. They met near Edgehill, a few miles from Banbury.
The two armies were of approximately the same size; about 14,500 men. The Royal cavalry under Prince Rupert and Lord Wilmot pushed back the wings of the Parliamentary army, but in the centre the royal troops were themselves badly mauled.
After only three hours of hard fighting neither side was able to make headway, and they broke off the fight as darkness descended. Essex considered his army too badly damaged to resume the fight next day, and he pulled back his men to Warwick, leaving the road to London open to Charles' army.
Although neither side at Edgehill could claim a decisive victory, the result was that Charles "won" in so far as the road to London was now open to him. However, Charles did not take advantage of his opportunity.
His natural caution asserted itself, and by the time his troops reached Reading, Essex had regained London and a fresh force of men prevented any further royalist advance. Charles never again had so clear an opportunity to take London as he did after Edgehill.
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