Edgehill had failed to resolve the war in the way that many had expected of the first great battle. The inexperience and lack of discipline of many of the troops led to what was in many respects an even more chaotic event than most battles. Both sides could draw important lessons from their failures on the field, but it would take several years of intensive warfare before highly effective, well trained troops would dominate the battlefields.

There can be little doubt that at Edgehill it was the failure of Prince Rupert to maintain effective control of his cavalry that let slip what could have been a decisive victory. But it was the inadequacy of the parliamentarian cavalry that had given Rupert such an opportunity to squander. We can now see, without doubt, that the most important lesson learnt at Edgehill was that by an insignificant parliamentarian cavalry captain. Talking to Hampden after the battle, he is supposed to have said of Essex’s cavalry: ‘most of them (are) old decayed serving-men, tapsters, and such kind of fellows, do you think that the spirits of such base, mean fellows will ever be able to encounter gentlemen that have honour, and courage, and resolution in them? You must get men of a spirit that is likely to go as far as gentlemen will go, or you will be beaten still.’ Three years later that same captain, whose name was Oliver Cromwell, would destroy the royalist army when Prince Rupert repeated the same errors on Naseby field.

It is often considered that Edgehill was a bloody draw. In reality it had given the royalists a dramatic advantage, because it saw the parliamentarian army retreat to Warwick and coventry, leaving open the road to London. Had the King taken Prince Rupert’s advice in the days after Edgehill then the war might have been ended very quickly by a rapid strike on the capital. But Rupert was overruled by Charles who, as the Edgehill campaign shows in the clearest light, was as incapable in war as he had already proved to be in politics.


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