The Battle of Naseby Battlefield Britain


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The Battle of Naseby

Peter and Dan Snow take an in-depth look at the battles that shaped our nation using state-of-the-art graphics. They go back to 1645 and the Battle of Naseby.


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350 years ago a great battle was fought in the heart of Britain,

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a battle that would shake the British monarchy to its core.

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It would challenge forever

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the belief that the King had a God-given right to rule

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without the consent of his people.

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Together with my son, Dan, I'll be revealing how the ferocious clash

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that took place here revolutionised the way Britain was governed.

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On one side - soldiers of the King,

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on the other - men fighting for Parliament.

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The first British army where talent meant more than breeding.

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I'll be following the story of these ordinary men who were shaped into a new kind of fighting force.

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Our officers are on the field because they are good soldiers,

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not because they have been placed there by right of birth.

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A man fights for his conscience, it's better than any King.

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These English fields are seen as the birthplace of British democracy,

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but it was a birth that was drenched in blood.

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Bloodshed, right here,

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in 1645, on the battlefield of Naseby.

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In 1629, England was ruled by an uneasy alliance

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between the King and Parliament.

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But the alliance was reaching breaking point.

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At the heart of the problem was a conflict about how much control

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Parliament could or should have over the monarch.

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The King, Charles I - a neat, elegant man -

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believed he had been appointed by God

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to rule as he saw fit,

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that he had the Divine Right of Kings.

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Charles had been at loggerheads with the Members of Parliament for years.

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The Puritans amongst them disliked his marriage to a French Catholic

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and his fondness for lavish religious ritual.

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Others criticised his choice of political advisers

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and his expensive wars in Europe.

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By 1629, Charles was so sick of Parliament arguing with him

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that he shut it down and ruled alone.

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But this left Charles with a problem.

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The King needed MPs to vote him the right to collect key taxes.

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Without Parliament, Charles had to find other ways to get money out of his subjects.

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Loopholes were found in ancient tax laws to squeeze as much cash out of the people as possible.

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Taxpayers were outraged at this abuse and the sidelining of their Parliament.

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Many regarded Charles as a tyrant.

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We had nothing, we were bled dry.

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He made demands that were unreasonable.

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He believed only in his divine right to rule

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and then he ignored the will of Parliament.

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Charles ruled on his own for 11 years,

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but in 1640 he found himself in need of serious money to finance a war.

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Desperate for cash, he swallowed his pride

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and turned to the people who could vote him the money - Parliament.

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The MPs returned to London

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and amongst them was one who would rise from obscurity

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and become the King's most powerful enemy.

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Oliver Cromwell.

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Oliver Cromwell was stocky, ruddy-faced

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and famously he had warts.

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He was hard-working Puritan gentry...

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Call himself a gentleman, he didn't even look like a gentleman,

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didn't sound like a gentleman. He's a farmer, nothing elegant about him.

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He may only have been a farmer,

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but now Cromwell and his fellow MPs had the King in their power.

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They would give him the money he wanted but only if he agreed to radical reforms.

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At first, Charles accepted their demands,

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but his anger was growing with these upstart MPs,

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then they insisted on a veto over his choice of political advisers.

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This was a drastic challenge to his authority.

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And the King refused to give in.

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Over the next six months the crisis deepened.

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No political compromise could be found,

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and it seemed increasingly likely that the power struggle would erupt into a civil war.

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On Monday 22nd August 1642,

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King Charles raised the royal standard. This was a call to arms for his supporters.

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The King of England had declared war on his Parliament.

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As both sides began to raise armies,

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difficult decisions had to be made up and down the country.

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Which side would people support?

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Should they back the King and join his cavaliers or support Parliament

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and become known as a roundhead?

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These decisions would set brother against brother and friend against friend.

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Within weeks the country was thrown into brutal conflict.

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When the civil war began,

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both sides thought one great battle would decide it, but it didn't.

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It went on and on.

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There was the battle of Edge Hill, the battle of Turnham Green,

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the battle of Hogden Heath,

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Bristol Field, Sorton Down, Nantwich,

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Adwarton Moor, Lansdown Hill,

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Barston Moor and many others.

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The problem was both sides maintained armies

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strong enough to threaten each other but not to deal out the killer blow.

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So the civil war dragged on.

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Two years into the conflict, the situation was bleak.

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'44, I'd say it was definitely one of the darkest periods of the war.

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England was in a terrible state.

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Families fighting families, brothers fighting brothers.

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How Englishmen could do this to one another...

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The country was weary.

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In fact, after two years of warfare,

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there was still no clear victor.

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The war had divided the country in half, literally.

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The Royalists had their capital here in Oxford and controlled the Midlands, the south-west and Wales.

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Parliament had its capital here in London and controlled the south-east, East Anglia and the North.

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Something had to happen to break this stalemate,

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and in the autumn of 1644,

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it looked as if that moment had come.

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A crucial encounter took place near the Berkshire town of Newbury.

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Here Parliament was handed a golden opportunity

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to inflict a crushing defeat on the King once and for all.

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It ordered three armies to join together to confront the Royalists.

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The Parliamentarians would have Charles totally outnumbered.

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At last, an end to the civil war was in sight.

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On the evening of the 26th October 1644,

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the two sides met face to face just north of Newbury,

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not far from this castle at Donnington.

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The castle was held by the Royalists,

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commanded by the King in person.

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Here's the castle here.

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The Royalists also held strong defensive positions at Shaw House

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and Speen Hill,

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with a total of 9,000 cavalry and infantry.

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The Parliamentarians were massed over here to the east, up on Clay Hill.

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They had the King powerfully outnumbered,

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19,000 men to the King's 9,000 -

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an advantage of more than two to one.

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It was the greatest numerical advantage Parliamentarians had enjoyed since the Civil War began.

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The Royalists stationed around Shaw House were told to strengthen their defences and dig in.

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400 Musketeers were placed in a dry moat around the house,

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another 400 in the gardens there.

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They may have been outnumbered,

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but they'd been on a winning streak

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and they were feeling confident.

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During the last battle we had three positions,

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we were dug in at Shaw House, we had the castle

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and, all right, we were outnumbered,

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but we had one thing - we weren't afraid.

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Seeing that the Royalists held strong defensive positions,

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the Parliamentarians, up here on Clay Hill, came up with a bold idea.

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They would exploit their advantage in numbers by splitting their forces

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and by attacking the Royalists from front and rear simultaneously.

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Once night fell, two-thirds of the Parliamentarian army

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would march off through the dark in a great arc,

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which would take them round behind Donnington Castle

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and put them here, in the rear of the Royalist line.

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Once in position, they would fire a cannon as a signal

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to those over here on the east side

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to start a simultaneous attack on this sector, around Shaw House.

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It was an ambitious and daring plan,

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and among the Parliamentarian commanders in the outflanking party

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was Oliver Cromwell, now a Lieutenant General in the Parliamentarian forces.

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Before the war, Cromwell had never fought in a battle,

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but after two years of conflict, he'd proved a gifted cavalry officer.

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As night fell, Cromwell,

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his cavalry and thousands more Parliamentarian soldiers,

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set off on the long march.

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When the troops marched off, half carried muskets weighing 7lb

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and the other half were carrying these -

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very cumbersome, very long spears called pikes.

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They were about 16 to 18 foot long.

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Given that I'm 6' 6" - about a foot taller than the average infantryman in the Civil War -

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I'm finding it difficult to use. I don't know how they managed.

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I've been marching for over an hour tonight,

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but I probably managed a measly three miles, which is a fraction of what they had to.

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The interesting thing about these

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is that night marches must always have been tricky -

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before GPS and infra-red night sights and stuff -

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but with these it's lethal! I've hit trees about four times,

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I've piled it into the ground several times almost killing myself, let alone the guys behind me.

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Just the thought of a whole army of people walking down the road with these is terrifying.

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My shoulder and neck are really stiff, really painful,

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and I can see why they risked such punishment

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by sawing the bottom two or three feet off their pikes.

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The Parliamentarian soldiers marched through most of the night and into the following day.

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By early afternoon the next day,

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the Parliamentarians' great encircling movement was complete.

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They had the King surrounded, and at three o'clock the commander of the troops over on this side

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gave the order for his infantry to attack

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and for a cannon to be fired as a signal to comrades over here.

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The battle of Newbury had started.

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As soon as they made their move,

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those Parliamentarians came under a hail of cannon fire.

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They pushed on and soon infantry was fighting infantry.

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The Royalists put up an impressive defence.

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The Parliamentarians hadn't expected it to be this difficult.

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The Royalists should have been on the point of collapse, outnumbered and threatened from two sides,

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but they weren't collapsing. Something was going wrong.

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The Parliamentarians' plan had relied on a co-ordinated attack on two fronts.

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But whilst the Parliamentarians here were in the thick of it,

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the rest of their army over here on the east had still not made a move.

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It was only after an hour of fighting that they finally received the command to attack.

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The bold plan to trap the King in a simultaneous two-pronged assault had failed.

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Soon it was too dark for anyone to see and the battle simply stopped.

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What had seemed a golden opportunity for Parliament had been thrown away.

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It was said their plan for a two-pronged attack failed

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because the cannon signal hadn't been heard on the second front.

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Possible, but there was a suspicion amongst some Parliamentarians,

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Cromwell included, that the high command simply wasn't up to the job,

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and in view of what happened later that night, he may have been right.

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The Royalists had fought ferociously to hold off the Parliamentarians,

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but knew they weren't up to another day.

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So that night the entire Royalist army quit Newbury and headed off on the road to Oxford.

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Thousands of them would have crossed this bridge in Donnington.

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It was the obvious line of retreat, but no Parliamentarians blocked their path.

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There was nothing to stop the Royalists escaping.

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We got the order to withdraw

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and they let us walk away.

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They gave us no trouble,

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much to my amazement.

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The next day, Cromwell was desperate to give chase,

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but to his fury his request for troops was refused.

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Newbury had been a humiliating fiasco.

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Cromwell blamed it on vacillating and incompetent leadership.

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He was furious that such a perfect chance to end this destructive war had been squandered.

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Cromwell was now convinced that if Parliament was to win the war

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its army needed new commanders and a radical overhaul.

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So he headed to Westminster to make this happen.

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Throughout the rest of the winter, Cromwell worked to push two new laws through Parliament.

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These laws would revolutionise Parliamentarian forces.

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MPs passed one bill to create the country's first ever national army.

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Out would go the loose network of local militias

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and in would come a new force, centrally administered,

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a slick co-ordinated organisation.

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The second bill removed all members of the Commons and the Lords from military command.

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Leadership would now be based on ability, not class.

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The lessons of Newbury had been learned,

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the so-called New Model Army was born.

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Soon, equipment, uniforms and weapons were pouring in. There was a recruitment drive too.

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Both old and new soldiers were freshly equipped.

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March on!

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There were thousands of new muskets, pikes, saddles and swords,

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and for the first time a uniform coat, the same for all the infantry.

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To keep costs down they went for the cheapest dye, red.

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The New Model Army were the first redcoats.

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Discipline was very strict. There was to be no swearing, no excess drinking and no plundering.

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Any breach of the rules would be dealt with severely.

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Should you blaspheme? You'll have a hot spike thrust in your tongue.

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Also, if you were to call a fellow Parliamentarian a roundhead,

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then you will be cashiered instantly upon the spot.

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We are a professional fighting army.

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The Royalists, those rogues, are ill-disciplined.

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We will beat them in battle with discipline.

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In the New Model Army, only two things counted to get to the top.

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One was proven ability as a soldier, and the other commitment to Parliament's cause.

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Social standing didn't really matter. For the first time ordinary men could become senior officers.

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One man, Thomas Pryde, had been a drayman before the war.

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Another, John Houston, had been a cobbler, and yet both these two

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were now Lieutenant Colonels in the New Model Army.

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Myself, I'm just a man of the land, a farmer.

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My men are proud of me and I am proud of them and I am proud to lead them.

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Oliver Cromwell was a driving force in designing the new army.

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Early in the war he had created an outstanding regiment of horsemen known as the Ironsides.

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They were now the core of the New Model Cavalry

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and Cromwell made sure that the key principles, training and discipline,

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that made the Ironsides so formidable,

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were now applied to the entire New Model Army.

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Nice!

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Cromwell made his horsemen train relentlessly to perfect the skills

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of disciplined riding and effective use of weapons,

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skills still practised for competitions by the army today.

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He sliced that one in two, I reckon.

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-Melon juice.

-Almost half and half.

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The army riders have been doing this for years.

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We've only got one day. ..What'll we be able to do by the end of the day?

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Right. So I'll get you to sit on a broom handle,

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and we'll put you on motorbikes because you don't ride,

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so you'll ride as pillion, and get you attacking the target.

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And then walk forward, simulation of being on the bike.

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The momentum will take you forward, you'll come to the melon and stop.

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-That's the easy bit.

-That's the easy bit. Now, see what we do when we get on the bike.

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Time to trade our broom handles for the real thing.

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-There you go, Peter.

-Yeah.

-..Dan.

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-Thank you.

-Take your swords.

-It's a sharp sword, this.

-Very sharp.

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That's why we're careful and do the broom handles to start with,

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-you don't want to damage the men.

-Absolutely.

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-I'm feeling sorry for those melons, particularly mine.

-That's good.

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OK, well, let me take that off you.

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Let me take that sword off you, Peter.

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-Woo! Right.

-And helmet.

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Well!

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How did you find that?

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Er, good. At low speeds it's all right,

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but when the speed comes up near a horse, that target just flashes by.

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I don't know how you can hit it.

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It becomes second nature. You just go straight into it.

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That's training, day after day. Get the technical side sorted, so in a battle you're aggressive.

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-That's right.

-So once again it's momentum that counts?

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If you get the aim right, you'll make a real mess of the person you hit.

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-Just hold that sword.

-Yeah. It's a very, very effective weapon.

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From winter to spring 1645, the men of the New Model Army honed their skills.

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Their commanders were determined that training and discipline

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would make the New Model into a crack force to crush the Royalists.

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But as the New Model Army began to take shape,

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there was one notable absentee -

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Oliver Cromwell himself.

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The very law that Cromwell had promoted to improve the professionalism of the army,

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the one that blocked MPs from holding command,

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excluded him too from holding command.

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The driving force behind this military revolution had to sit and watch from the sidelines.

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I thought it was very foolish.

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I mean, Cromwell was a man amongst men and we believed in him.

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He had proven himself so many times on and off the field.

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It was like we'd thrown away one of our greatest strengths.

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Parliament appointed Sir Thomas Fairfax as overall commander of the new army.

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Fairfax was a battle-hardened soldier, respected by his friends and enemies alike.

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He took to the job with great energy.

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Just as well, because with the arrival of Spring

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the start of a new campaigning season was now very close.

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Charles had spent the Winter in Oxford.

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The city had been transformed since becoming the Royalist capital.

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Teaching work at the university almost ground to a halt.

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This beautiful cloister was the Royalist gunpowder store.

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Imagine - one mistake with a match and it'd be blown to smithereens.

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Students who had been learning their Plato and Aristotle

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now used these quads as military training grounds.

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As Winter turned to Spring, King Charles must have been aware

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that Parliament was creating a new army.

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But he didn't believe this demanded any changes on his side, except one.

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He appointed his nephew, Prince Rupert,

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as Lieutenant General in charge of all his forces in England.

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Prince Rupert is a fearsome man of immense personal courage.

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I felt that with Prince Rupert in overall command,

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the next season's fighting would be successful.

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The new commander was not the only thing Royalists felt they had in their favour.

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Many also had a very low opinion of Parliament's so-called New Model Army.

0:27:300:27:37

I heard that one officer was nothing more than a brewer's drayman,

0:27:370:27:41

another a shoemaker.

0:27:410:27:43

With officers like these,

0:27:450:27:48

I feel very confident.

0:27:480:27:50

We didn't think we had any reason to feel scared.

0:27:500:27:53

The Parliamentarian commander, Fairfax, was confident too.

0:27:530:27:58

By the end of April the New Model Army was far better drilled, equipped and organised

0:27:580:28:04

than the army that had been humiliated at Newbury.

0:28:040:28:07

Now Fairfax wanted just one thing,

0:28:070:28:10

to find and defeat the King.

0:28:100:28:13

By early May, Charles and the Royalists were also on the march - heading North.

0:28:310:28:36

Everyone was in buoyant mood.

0:28:360:28:39

The King himself wrote to his wife that things had never looked so good.

0:28:390:28:43

Perhaps Charles was being over-confident because he'd just made an extraordinary decision.

0:28:430:28:49

Against the advice of his new commander, Prince Rupert, he divided his army.

0:28:490:28:54

He sent off 3,000 cavalry to the west country,

0:28:540:28:57

where he believed the New Model Army were heading.

0:28:570:29:00

And he and Prince Rupert had taken the rest of his army North

0:29:000:29:03

to relieve garrisons and gather reinforcements.

0:29:030:29:07

Little did he know Charles was within days of the battle that would decide his fate.

0:29:070:29:14

Charles, Rupert and the Royalist army arrived here in the town of Market Harborough in June 1645.

0:29:340:29:42

At this stage, they had no clear idea where the New Model Army was.

0:29:420:29:46

In fact, Fairfax and his Roundheads were hard on their heels -

0:29:460:29:50

they were just 15 miles away, and in very good cheer.

0:29:500:29:55

That same morning they'd had some excellent news.

0:29:550:30:00

At 6am, the New Model Army were preparing for the day ahead,

0:30:020:30:06

saddling their horses and packing up their kit, when they saw Oliver Cromwell galloping into camp.

0:30:060:30:12

The news spread fast. Parliament must have realised its mistake

0:30:120:30:16

in excluding one of its most talented and popular officers.

0:30:160:30:21

'Cromwell was now in charge of the New Model Cavalry, with the rank of Lieutenant General of Horse.

0:30:210:30:27

The men greeted his arrival with a huge cheer.

0:30:270:30:30

That was a beautiful sight. We believe now we have God on our side with the general,

0:30:300:30:36

and we must surely win.

0:30:360:30:39

The New Model Army was spoiling for a fight.

0:30:420:30:46

Soon, word reached the Royalists that the enemy was close by.

0:30:460:30:49

The moment he received the news, Charles called a council of war here in Market Harborough.

0:30:490:30:55

And the outcome - rather than march on north, they would turn around and confront the Parliamentarians.

0:30:550:31:02

Some, like Prince Rupert, had urged caution,

0:31:020:31:05

but Charles was convinced that he had an army of veterans who could see off the untested New Model Army.

0:31:050:31:11

In the next 24 hours, the most decisive battle of this protracted civil war would be played out,

0:31:130:31:19

and the battlefield? A hilly area between Market Harborough and Naseby, six miles to the south-west.

0:31:190:31:27

Early on the morning of Saturday 14th June, 1645,

0:31:390:31:44

at 6am, the Royalists moved South out of Market Harborough

0:31:440:31:49

and formed a battle line along that high ground about three miles away over there.

0:31:490:31:54

This is that ridge just here.

0:31:540:31:57

The King and Prince Rupert positioned their forces all the way along that ridge.

0:31:570:32:03

Now, this piece of high ground here, where I'm standing now,

0:32:030:32:06

is where Cromwell and Fairfax rode up to, to look at the lie of the land.

0:32:060:32:10

They'd moved their New Model Army up here, just slightly north of the village of Naseby,

0:32:100:32:15

which is just off down there.

0:32:150:32:17

They could clearly see the Royalists fanning out on that other ridge over there,

0:32:170:32:22

so they were in no doubt the King and his men wanted to do battle.

0:32:220:32:26

But there was one snag.

0:32:260:32:28

The trouble was, the New Model Army's position was too good, and actually made a battle less likely.

0:32:280:32:35

The slope in front of them was so steep it would be suicide for enemy cavalry to charge up it.

0:32:350:32:41

Fine for defence, but not if you wanted to provoke an attack,

0:32:410:32:45

and that was exactly what Cromwell wanted to do.

0:32:450:32:49

So he said to Fairfax, "I beseech you,

0:32:490:32:52

"draw back to yonder hill which will encourage the enemy to charge us."

0:32:520:32:57

And so they agreed to shunt their entire battle line sideways,

0:32:570:33:02

to some more gentle ground to the west.

0:33:020:33:04

The Royalists followed the lead,

0:33:060:33:08

also eager to bring the conflict to a head.

0:33:080:33:13

Both sides now began to assemble on either side of the valley

0:33:270:33:32

that was to become the battlefield of Naseby.

0:33:320:33:35

By 10am, the two armies had moved to their new positions -

0:33:450:33:49

the Royalists all along that slope over there, the Parliamentarians up there.

0:33:490:33:54

That Royalist ridge over there is just here.

0:33:560:34:00

The two sides were on opposite slopes facing each other, with 800 metres of flat ground between them.

0:34:000:34:06

The two battle lines were about a mile wide from end to end.

0:34:060:34:11

Estimates varied, but the king had roughly 4,500 infantry

0:34:110:34:16

in three lines in the centre.

0:34:160:34:18

The king himself, dressed in full plate armour,

0:34:180:34:22

was back here with his reserves in the third line.

0:34:220:34:25

On the flanks, the Royalists cavalry.

0:34:250:34:28

Around 10,000 Royalists altogether.

0:34:280:34:31

Against them, around 13,500 men of the New Model Army.

0:34:310:34:37

Their cavalry were also split into two wings.

0:34:370:34:40

Their right wing was commanded by Oliver Cromwell.

0:34:400:34:44

In the centre, here, were the infantry.

0:34:440:34:48

Neither side had a great battle plan. Both thought they would win in a straight contest, a head-on clash.

0:34:480:34:54

It was on strategy, the strength, courage and discipline that would decide the battle.

0:34:540:35:00

The New Model Infantrymen began to form up here, on this slope.

0:35:000:35:05

Then came an order from Fairfax - they were to move back over the crest of this hill,

0:35:050:35:09

so that the Royalist infantry over there wouldn't be able to see them.

0:35:090:35:13

This may have been to disguise their strength and their numbers,

0:35:130:35:17

but it also meant that any raw recruits amongst them

0:35:170:35:20

wouldn't be intimidated by the terrifying sight of their enemy.

0:35:200:35:25

Just before the battle began, Cromwell spotted another opportunity.

0:35:270:35:32

In those days, all this was open land except for long hedgerow here.

0:35:320:35:39

Cromwell saw that these hedges could provide perfect cover,

0:35:390:35:43

so he sent an attachment of dragoons - soldiers who travelled on horseback but fought on foot -

0:35:430:35:49

led by Colonel Oakey, up behind the hedges to a spot right up here,

0:35:490:35:54

yards away from where Prince Rupert's horsemen were preparing to advance.

0:35:540:35:59

We galloped there, which took the edge off my nerve

0:36:050:36:09

and, er, we positioned ourselves as we were told.

0:36:090:36:12

Oakey's men rode up here, dismounted, and then took cover behind these hedges.

0:36:160:36:21

From this vantage point, they could see the Royalist cavalry,

0:36:210:36:25

preparing for a charge. The dragoons loaded their weapons,

0:36:280:36:32

and through the hedge they unleashed a hail of musket fire.

0:36:320:36:36

MUSKET FIRE

0:36:360:36:38

Shots came from nowhere, and the horses just went,

0:36:430:36:48

had no choice.

0:36:480:36:50

Some of our men were hit.

0:36:500:36:52

We had to keep moving. The rebels were firing from behind hedges.

0:36:520:36:57

The battle of Naseby had begun.

0:37:000:37:03

Startled by the surprise attack, 2,500 horses of the Royalist cavalry

0:37:160:37:22

charged in waves, three men deep, swords drawn.

0:37:220:37:27

The left wing of the New Model Cavalry, facing them, moved forward to meet them.

0:37:270:37:31

They all seemed to move at once.

0:37:470:37:49

It sounded like thunder.

0:37:490:37:52

Swords drawn, charging off.

0:37:520:37:55

Then we were in the thick of it. It was all a blur,

0:38:220:38:26

you can't remember details - you just keep at it.

0:38:260:38:29

The Parliamentarian cavalry did well in the initial flash,

0:38:340:38:37

but as reserves piled in on both sides, the Royalists got the upper hand.

0:38:370:38:42

We were just too good for them. Swordplay, everything - too strong.

0:38:450:38:49

The rebels just turned and fled.

0:38:510:38:53

They turned and ran like cowards, and we chased them.

0:38:530:38:57

Most of the New Model Horsemen were chased off this battlefield by the Prince's cavalry.

0:39:110:39:16

In fact, some of them kept going and didn't stop till they reached Northampton, 15 miles away.

0:39:160:39:22

The Royalist cavalry galloped off in pursuit, until they discovered the Roundhead baggage train.

0:39:220:39:29

Unable to resist the temptation,

0:39:290:39:31

many of them didn't return to the battle, but got stuck in a tussle for booty.

0:39:310:39:36

Our charge was a complete success. It was an exhilarating time,

0:39:370:39:41

and then to be faced with all that plunder...

0:39:410:39:45

Well, I defy any man to ignore it.

0:39:450:39:47

The cavalry charge over there was a disaster for the Parliamentarians.

0:39:470:39:52

Half their supposedly disciplined force of horsemen had disappeared from the field altogether,

0:39:520:39:57

and by now the Royalist infantry had begun their advance straight up here.

0:39:570:40:02

They tramped forward in tight formation, five regiments in a line half a mile wide.

0:40:050:40:11

We got the order to advance, the drum sounded,

0:40:210:40:25

and we began to march to the beat.

0:40:250:40:27

Muskets loaded, ready to fire.

0:40:270:40:31

VOICE BARKS ORDERS

0:40:310:40:34

We moved up the hill,

0:40:370:40:39

and we still couldn't see them.

0:40:400:40:43

We knew they were there, we knew they weren't far away.

0:40:510:40:54

But we didn't know what we were going to walk into.

0:40:540:40:57

These men were hardened veterans, but they would have had dry mouths and pounding hearts.

0:40:570:41:03

It must have been unnerving, knowing the New Model Army

0:41:030:41:06

was ready and waiting, but just out of sight over the brow of the hill.

0:41:060:41:10

We were just behind a hill,

0:41:200:41:23

which meant the Royalists could not see us, but it also meant that we could not see the Royalists.

0:41:230:41:28

And we were all of us nervous, old hands and new recruits alike.

0:41:280:41:32

Suddenly, Parliamentarians moved to the crest of the hill into full view of the advancing Royalists.

0:41:490:41:56

They came into view over the slope and they were so close! We had no idea they were that close.

0:42:070:42:12

I looked down and there was the enemy, closer than I had imagined.

0:42:150:42:19

Both sides fired.

0:42:190:42:22

Up to half of the New Model Infantry were new recruits,

0:42:280:42:32

and when they found themselves face to face with the Royalists,

0:42:320:42:36

much of what they'd learnt in training seemed to melt away.

0:42:360:42:39

Many failed to grip their muskets tightly enough.

0:42:470:42:50

When they fired, the shot passed over the head of the Royalists.

0:42:500:42:54

After the initial round of fire, everything seemed to go silent for a moment.

0:42:590:43:04

It seemed like forever.

0:43:040:43:06

You lived those minutes like days,

0:43:090:43:11

but I hadn't been hit.

0:43:110:43:14

I thought, by God's hand, this day was my last.

0:43:170:43:21

But somehow, by His grace,

0:43:210:43:24

I was still standing.

0:43:240:43:26

With the gap between the two sides fast closing,

0:43:290:43:32

there was no time for reloading of muskets,

0:43:320:43:36

and so they fought hand to hand.

0:43:360:43:38

The musketeers grabbed their weapons by the barrels and used the butt to club people to the ground.

0:43:420:43:48

We went straight in there - turn your musket round and crack a few skulls.

0:43:480:43:52

The pikemen threw away their long pikes and lashed out with their swords instead.

0:43:520:43:59

There was a great roar from both sides

0:43:590:44:02

and I began to run without thinking.

0:44:020:44:04

All about was chaos.

0:44:350:44:37

A bloody mess.

0:44:370:44:40

Blood.

0:44:420:44:44

Mud, screaming -

0:44:440:44:47

enough to turn a heathen to God, that's for sure.

0:44:480:44:52

After half an hour of this furious infantry battle,

0:45:100:45:14

so successful was Royalist pressure that parts of the Parliamentarian line were fragmenting.

0:45:140:45:20

Fairfax's regiment here was still standing its ground,

0:45:200:45:24

but to his left men were running for their lives.

0:45:240:45:28

The fiercest battle of all was fought by Skipman's regiment, here.

0:45:280:45:32

They fought valiantly. But eventually, they were pressed back.

0:45:320:45:36

Despite its new commanders, recruits and training,

0:45:360:45:40

the New Model Army's first line looked close to collapse.

0:45:400:45:44

Half our cavalry had left the field.

0:45:490:45:53

God knows where they went.

0:45:530:45:55

And our infantry were being hard-pressed.

0:45:550:46:01

It seemed to me that we were breaking.

0:46:010:46:04

As the Parliamentarian infantry fought for survival in the centre over there,

0:46:060:46:10

Oliver Cromwell and the rest of the Parliamentarian cavalry

0:46:100:46:14

were right here where I'm standing, looking on helplessly.

0:46:140:46:19

This is where Cromwell was, over here on Parliament's right wing.

0:46:200:46:24

Cromwell would have liked to come to the rescue of the infantry

0:46:240:46:28

to his left, over here, but he now had to deal with a bigger threat.

0:46:280:46:31

He and his horsemen had to face the rest of the king's cavalry about to attack him from this slope over here.

0:46:310:46:38

Prince Rupert's first cavalry charge over on the other side had destroyed the Parliamentarian left.

0:46:380:46:44

Now Parliament's centre was being beaten back as well.

0:46:440:46:48

So if Cromwell failed to fight off the King's cavalry

0:46:480:46:51

over here on the right, the battle of Naseby would be as good as lost.

0:46:510:46:57

The Royalist horsemen started to charge.

0:47:000:47:03

Cromwell ordered his men to charge to meet them.

0:47:030:47:06

The fate of Parliament's army now depended on Cromwell and his Ironsides.

0:47:060:47:12

The cavalry battle that followed was savage.

0:47:340:47:37

The Royalist horsemen fought hard,

0:47:370:47:40

but eventually the New Model Army's discipline and training began to pay off.

0:47:400:47:45

We rode in at their line and took them straight.

0:47:470:47:50

That was hard, that was hand to hand.

0:47:500:47:53

My men held their line, my men went through their line,

0:47:530:47:57

and this time it was them Royalists that turned and fled.

0:47:570:48:01

For the first time in the battle, Parliament had the edge.

0:48:010:48:07

Maybe the King could have regained the advantage now -

0:48:090:48:13

if he had introduced his reserve,

0:48:130:48:16

they MIGHT have overpowered the Ironsides and won the day. But he did not.

0:48:160:48:21

Soon, the Royalist cavalry were fleeing back over the hill there.

0:48:210:48:25

Suddenly, it was Cromwell and the New Model Army who had the golden opportunity.

0:48:250:48:30

As the Royalist cavalry turned and galloped off in utter confusion,

0:48:340:48:39

Cromwell allowed only part of his force to chase them away.

0:48:390:48:43

With the cool judgment that Prince Rupert had lacked,

0:48:470:48:51

Cromwell held back most of his cavalry,

0:48:510:48:54

wheeled them to the left and fell upon the Royalist infantry in the centre.

0:48:540:48:59

We turned our men on horse and we went back to their infantry.

0:49:150:49:19

That was exciting. That was exhilarating, we were proud.

0:49:190:49:22

And it seemed then that with God on our side we would surely have victory.

0:49:220:49:28

Cromwell's cavalry had turned the battle in Parliament's favour.

0:49:410:49:46

Now the Royalist infantry were at their mercy.

0:49:460:49:50

What really went wrong for us?

0:49:500:49:53

As the Roundhead cavalry, we were in no shape to defend ourselves.

0:49:530:49:58

There's nothing you can do against the horses, kicking and slashing through with their swords,

0:50:000:50:05

and men were falling like flies.

0:50:050:50:07

To make matters worse, the Parliamentarian infantry,

0:50:090:50:13

who had seemed to be on the brink of collapse, were now strengthened.

0:50:130:50:17

Some of these reinforcements were from the reserves.

0:50:250:50:28

Others were men who had fled from the battle

0:50:280:50:31

but were now being sent back into the fray by their commanders.

0:50:310:50:35

Those men whose firing had started the whole battle, Colonel Oakey's dragoons,

0:50:410:50:46

were so inspired by what they saw, they came out from behind the hedges and charged.

0:50:460:50:50

Dragoons - well, we'd never done cavalry charges before.

0:50:520:50:56

We was all fired up,

0:50:560:50:58

we all wanted to be part of it,

0:50:580:51:00

and so we did. We rode and we fought.

0:51:000:51:04

And it wasn't long before the combined Parliamentarian pressure

0:51:120:51:15

of the reinvigorated infantry in the centre,

0:51:150:51:18

Cromwell's rampaging horsemen over here on the right,

0:51:180:51:22

and the daredevil dragoons coming in on the left

0:51:220:51:26

began to break the Royalists' line and turn the king's infantry regiments into flight.

0:51:260:51:32

All except one, just here.

0:51:320:51:34

Not all regiments broke.

0:51:540:51:56

One regiment stood -

0:51:560:51:59

the Bluecoats.

0:51:590:52:02

They were there at the storming of Bolton and Liverpool,

0:52:020:52:06

and at York.

0:52:060:52:09

They were notorious.

0:52:090:52:10

There was only the Bluecoats left -

0:52:100:52:13

one regiment against the whole rebel army.

0:52:140:52:18

'Ready!

0:52:270:52:29

'Set!

0:52:310:52:33

'Fire!'

0:52:350:52:37

As other troops surrendered or fled, the Bluecoats stood firm.

0:52:370:52:41

They were like a wall of brass,

0:52:410:52:44

thrusting their pikes at attacking horses and firing volley after volley.

0:52:440:52:48

The New Model Cavalry charged once and then again, but to no avail.

0:52:510:52:55

The Bluecoats held their ground.

0:52:550:52:58

The odds were massively against them, but the Bluecoats refused to surrender.

0:53:150:53:21

More and more New Model Army troops set upon them with sword, pike and musket butts.

0:53:370:53:43

The cavalry hammered them from front and rear.

0:53:430:53:46

I could see them - they were standing strong and they held on and they held on

0:53:580:54:03

and they were withstanding wave upon wave of attack.

0:54:030:54:07

I knew they couldn't last forever.

0:54:140:54:18

But as they held on and held on, I began to think that they might.

0:54:180:54:23

But the New Model Army relentlessly pursued its assault,

0:54:240:54:27

pouring fire into the ranks of blue.

0:54:270:54:30

Faced with overwhelming force, the Bluecoats finally broke, and they were cut to pieces.

0:54:320:54:38

We stood and watched them all being slaughtered.

0:54:430:54:47

And I cried.

0:54:480:54:51

The Royalists were in retreat.

0:54:550:54:58

But then Charles, who seems to have been strangely inert throughout the battle, had a sudden burst of zeal.

0:54:580:55:05

Even though he MUST have known the battle was now certainly lost,

0:55:050:55:09

surveying the scene here before him,

0:55:090:55:11

Charles tried to rally men for one final cavalry charge against the pursuing enemy.

0:55:110:55:17

But someone, described by the council at the time as a person of quality,

0:55:170:55:22

seized the King's bridle,

0:55:220:55:24

swore at him and exclaimed, "Would you go upon your death?"

0:55:240:55:28

Charles, always swayed by the last person to speak to him,

0:55:280:55:32

heeded the warning, and fled.

0:55:320:55:35

The King may have escaped but his men weren't so lucky.

0:55:380:55:42

A group thought they were on the main road, but when they got here,

0:55:420:55:46

they realised it was a dead end.

0:55:460:55:48

When the Roundheads caught up with them, there was carnage.

0:55:480:55:51

This field is still known today as Slaughterford Field.

0:55:510:55:55

But wherever the Royalists ended up, they fared little better.

0:55:550:55:59

Thousands were taken prisoner.

0:55:590:56:01

The Royalist army was cut down at its knees, and with it went the Royalist cause.

0:56:010:56:08

Naseby was not the last battle of the Civil War, but it was the beginning of the end.

0:56:100:56:16

The destruction of Charles' infantry on this battlefield was decisive.

0:56:160:56:21

The King would never lead such an experienced army again.

0:56:210:56:25

Don't know what the future holds.

0:56:300:56:32

I never thought we... would be defeated like this.

0:56:340:56:39

Why do they want a country without a king?

0:56:390:56:42

What would that be like?

0:56:430:56:46

I hope the King sees reason now. He listens to the will of Parliament.

0:56:460:56:51

That is my hope,

0:56:530:56:55

but...

0:56:550:56:57

I think it might be too late for that.

0:56:570:57:00

The King did not make peace with Parliament.

0:57:040:57:07

He tried to fight on, but it was futile.

0:57:070:57:12

Within a year, Parliament had triumphed and Charles was a prisoner.

0:57:120:57:16

In 1649, he was tried for treason here, in Westminster Hall,

0:57:160:57:22

condemned to death and beheaded.

0:57:220:57:25

The country became a republic, with Oliver Cromwell as its head of state.

0:57:250:57:30

The monarchy was eventually restored, but the Civil War had changed Britain forever.

0:57:300:57:36

Parliament had entrenched itself at the heart of the constitution.

0:57:360:57:42

King Charles I had aimed at absolute power.

0:57:420:57:46

After Naseby, no other British monarch would dare do that again.

0:57:460:57:52

Subtitles by Red Bee Media Ltd

0:58:150:58:18

Peter and Dan Snow go back 350 years to tell the story of a battle that shook the British royal family to its core. It was the turning point in a civil war that had ripped the country apart for three long years. With the aid state-of-the-art graphics, father and son reveal the crucial moments of a battle that is seen by many as the starting point of British democracy.

Dan Snow experiences at first hand what it would have been like for the ordinary foot-soldiers as they struggled with cumbersome pikes and Peter joins his son on the back of a motorbike, where they try their skills with a sword in a simulated cavalry charge.