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The Battle of Marston Moor and the role of the Scots

Scottish Covenanters and the victory at Marston Moor

In a field west of York near Long Marston the combined forces of the Scottish Army of the Solemn League and Covenant, reinforced by Lord Fairfax and the Earl of Manchester’s separate local English Parliamentarian forces, under the overall command of the Scottish commander the Earl of Leven routed King Charles I’s Royalist forces in northern England led by his nephew Prince Rupert of the Rhine with great slaughter. 

The battle would prove to be the largest battle of the Wars of the Three Kingdoms and its repercussions were pivotal on the course and eventual outcome of the war.
The action commenced in the evening of the 2nd July 1644 with an allied assault on Royalist positions with Prince Rupert’s cavalry successfully routing the English Parliamentarian cavalry on the allied right, a combination of both then riding down the allied infantry positioned behind. Rupert’s infantry initially made a strong response in the centre before being pushed back by the Scots centre once the right-wing had been stabilised. Although absent for much of the fight due to injury Oliver Cromwell returned to his cavalry – which was brigaded with Sir David Leslie’s Scots cavalry – on the allied left in time to take part in this forces flank attack which had success in rolling up the Royalist front.

The Scots infantry completed the destruction of the Royalist infantry with Newcastle’s Whitecoat regiment in particular making a fateful last stand at White Sykes Close before being virtually annihilated by Scots dragoon’s and infantry. Reports of losses suggest 4000 Royalist casualties to 300 allied. This effectively destroyed Royalist cause hopes in Northern  England and allowed English Parliamentarian forces the luxury of concentrating their forthcoming efforts in the south of England. The Scots undoubtedly took the main strain of action and responsibility for allied victory but the religious  “Independents” in the English Parliament had found their man in Oliver Cromwell and within days (to the Scots understandable extreme chagrin) were giving sole responsibility for the victory to Cromwell and his heavy cavalry.

Euan Lindsay
Euan is a former soldier, a retired architect, amateur historian and re-enactor with decades of experience.

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