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The Edgehill Campaign
The battle to end the war
Once aware of the proximity of the enemy, the royalists held a Council of War where a decision was taken to turn and fight. If they had continued to march towards London or attempted to take Banbury or Oxford, they would have been very vulnerable to the pursuing parliamentarian forces. If they fought and won then not only would these towns be easy prey, but also the road to the capital itself would be open to them.
On the night of the 22nd October both armies were well dispersed in quarters across the landscape and so assembling the forces took considerable time. The parliamentarian rendezvous was to be at the Earl of Essex's headquarters at Kineton, but it is said that Essex was not informed that the royalist forces were massing nearby until he was about to attend a service that morning at the church in Kineton.
The royalist rendezvous that morning was on Edgehill, a dramatically commanding position overlooking the parliamentarian headquarters in the small town of Kineton, three miles away across the Vale of the Red Horse. The ridge controlled the two main roads towards Banbury and thus on to Oxford and ultimately London. It was a secure position with no chance of a parliamentarian attack up the steep, 100 metre high scarp. Though some troops had arrived early in the day the army was not fully assembled until early afternoon, around 2:00pm. By this time the parliamentarian army has already deployed in Kineton field. If they were to force a battle then the royalist army would have to march down into the vale.
It was mid afternoon before both armies were deployed below Edgehill. Here, in the open fields of Kineton and Radway, they were at last to fight the great battle so long expected. But, rather than deciding the war, it proved to be the start of four of the bloodiest years in English history.