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Roundheads were the supporters of the
Parliament of England The Parliament of England was the legislature of the Kingdom of England from the 13th century until 1707 when it was replaced by the Parliament of Great Britain. Parliament evolved from the great council of bishops and peers that advis ...
during the
English Civil War The English Civil War (1642–1651) was a series of civil wars and political machinations between Parliamentarians ("Roundheads") and Royalists led by Charles I ("Cavaliers"), mainly over the manner of Kingdom of England, England's governanc ...
(1642–1651). Also known as Parliamentarians, they fought against King
Charles I of England Charles I (19 November 1600 – 30 January 1649) was King of England, Scotland, and Ireland from 27 March 1625 until his execution in 1649. He was born into the House of Stuart as the second son of King James VI of Scotland, but after ...
and his supporters, known as the
Cavalier The term Cavalier () was first used by Roundheads as a term of abuse for the wealthier royalist supporters of Charles I of England, King Charles I and his son Charles II of England during the English Civil War, the Interregnum (England), Interr ...
s or Royalists, who claimed rule by
absolute monarchy Absolute monarchy (or Absolutism as a doctrine) is a form of monarchy in which the monarch rules in their own right or power. In an absolute monarchy, the king or queen is by no means limited and has absolute power, though a limited constitut ...
and the principle of the
divine right of kings In European Christianity, the divine right of kings, divine right, or God's mandation is a political and religious doctrine of political legitimacy of a monarchy. It stems from a specific Metaphysics, metaphysical framework in which a monarch ...
. The goal of the Roundheads was to give to Parliament the supreme control over executive administration of the country/kingdom.


Beliefs

Most Roundheads sought
constitutional monarchy A constitutional monarchy, parliamentary monarchy, or democratic monarchy is a form of monarchy in which the monarch exercises their authority in accordance with a constitution and is not alone in decision making. Constitutional monarchies dif ...
in place of the
absolute monarchy Absolute monarchy (or Absolutism as a doctrine) is a form of monarchy in which the monarch rules in their own right or power. In an absolute monarchy, the king or queen is by no means limited and has absolute power, though a limited constitut ...
sought by Charles; however, at the end of the
English Civil War The English Civil War (1642–1651) was a series of civil wars and political machinations between Parliamentarians ("Roundheads") and Royalists led by Charles I ("Cavaliers"), mainly over the manner of Kingdom of England, England's governanc ...
in 1649, public antipathy towards the king was high enough to allow republican leaders such as
Oliver Cromwell Oliver Cromwell (25 April 15993 September 1658) was an English politician and military officer who is widely regarded as one of the most important statesmen in History of England, English history. He came to prominence during the 1639 to 1651 ...
to abolish the monarchy completely and establish the
Commonwealth of England The Commonwealth was the political structure during the period from 1649 to 1660 when England and Wales, later along with Ireland and Scotland, were governed as a republic after the end of the Second English Civil War and the High Court of Ju ...
. The Roundhead commander-in-chief of the first Civil War,
Thomas Fairfax Thomas Fairfax, 3rd Lord Fairfax of Cameron (17 January 161212 November 1671), also known as Sir Thomas Fairfax, was an English politician, general and Roundhead, Parliamentary commander-in-chief during the English Civil War. An adept and talen ...
, remained a supporter of constitutional monarchy, as did many other Roundhead leaders such as
Edward Montagu, 2nd Earl of Manchester Edward Montagu, 2nd Earl of Manchester, Order of the Garter, KG, Order of the Bath, KB, Royal Society, FRS (16025 May 1671) was an important commander of Parliamentary forces in the First English Civil War, and for a time Oliver Cromwell's sup ...
, and
Robert Devereux, 3rd Earl of Essex Robert Devereux, 3rd Earl of Essex, Order of the Bath, KB, Privy Counsellor, PC (; 11 January 1591 – 14 September 1646) was an English Member of parliament, Parliamentarian and soldier during the first half of the 17th century. With the sta ...
; however, this party was outmanoeuvred by the more politically adept Cromwell and his radicals, who had the backing of the
New Model Army The New Model Army was a standing army formed in 1645 by the Roundhead, Parliamentarians during the First English Civil War, then disbanded after the Stuart Restoration in 1660. It differed from other armies employed in the 1639 to 1653 Wars ...
and took advantage of Charles' perceived betrayal of England in his alliance with the Scottish against Parliament. England's many
Puritans The Puritans were English Protestants in the 16th and 17th centuries who sought to purify the Church of England of Catholic Church, Roman Catholic practices, maintaining that the Church of England had not been fully reformed and should become m ...
and
Presbyterian Presbyterianism is a part of the Reformed tradition within Protestantism that broke from the Roman Catholic Church in Scotland by John Knox, who was a priest at St. Giles Cathedral (Church of Scotland). Presbyterian churches derive their nam ...
s were almost invariably Roundhead supporters, as were many smaller religious groups such as the Independents. However, many Roundheads were members of the
Church of England The Church of England (C of E) is the State religion, established List of Christian denominations, Christian church in England and the mother church of the international Anglican Communion. It traces its history to the Christian church record ...
, as were many
Cavaliers The term Cavalier () was first used by Roundheads as a term of abuse for the wealthier royalist supporters of Charles I of England, King Charles I and his son Charles II of England during the English Civil War, the Interregnum (England), Interr ...
. Roundhead political factions included the proto-anarchist/socialist
Diggers The Diggers were a group of religious and political dissidents in England, associated with agrarian socialism. Gerrard Winstanley and William Everard (Digger), William Everard, amongst many others, were known as True Levellers in 1649, in refe ...
, the diverse group known as the
Levellers The Levellers were a political movement active during the Wars of the Three Kingdoms who were committed to popular sovereignty, extended suffrage, equality before the law and religious tolerance. The hallmark of Leveller thought was its populis ...
and the apocalyptic Christian movement of the
Fifth Monarchists The Fifth Monarchists, or Fifth Monarchy Men, were a Protestant sect which advocated Millennialist views, active during the 1649 to 1660 Commonwealth of England, Commonwealth. Named after a prophecy in the Book of Daniel that Four kingdoms of Da ...
.


Origins and background

Some Puritans (but by no means all of them) wore their hair closely cropped round the head or flat. There was thus an obvious contrast between them and the men of courtly fashion, who wore long ringlets. During the war and for a time afterwards, ''Roundhead'' was a term of derision, and in the
New Model Army The New Model Army was a standing army formed in 1645 by the Roundhead, Parliamentarians during the First English Civil War, then disbanded after the Stuart Restoration in 1660. It differed from other armies employed in the 1639 to 1653 Wars ...
it was a punishable offence to call a fellow soldier a Roundhead. This contrasted with "Cavalier", a word used to describe supporters of the Royalist cause, but which also started out as a pejorative term. The first proponents used it to compare members of the Royalist party with Spanish ''Caballeros'' who had abused Dutch Protestants during the reign of
Elizabeth I Elizabeth I (7 September 153324 March 1603) was List of English monarchs, Queen of England and List of Irish monarchs, Ireland from 17 November 1558 until her death in 1603. Elizabeth was the last of the five House of Tudor monarchs and is ...
. However, unlike Roundhead, Cavalier was later embraced by those who were the target of the epithet and used by them to describe themselves. "Roundheads" appears to have been first used as a term of derision toward the end of 1641, when the debates in Parliament in the
Clergy Act 1640 The Clergy Act (1640), also known as the Bishops Exclusion Act, or the Clerical Disabilities Act, was an Act of Parliament, effective 13 February 1642. Prior to the Act, bishops of the Church of England sat in the House of Lords, where they comp ...
were causing riots at
Westminster Westminster is an area of Central London, part of the wider City of Westminster. The area, which extends from the River Thames to Oxford Street, has many Tourism in London, visitor attractions and historic landmarks, including the Palace of W ...
. The ''Encyclopædia Britannica'' Eleventh Edition quotes a contemporary authority's description of the crowd that gathered there: "They had the hair of their heads very few of them longer than their ears, whereupon it came to pass that those who usually with their cries attended at Westminster were by a nickname called ''Roundheads''". The demonstrators included London apprentices, for whom Roundhead was a term of derision, because the regulations which they had agreed to included a provision for closely cropped hair. According to John Rushworth, the word was first used on 27 December 1641 by a disbanded officer named David Hide. During a riot, Hide is reported to have drawn his sword and said he would "cut the throat of those round-headed dogs that bawled against bishops"; however,
Richard Baxter Richard Baxter (12 November 1615 – 8 December 1691) was an English Puritan The Puritans were English Protestants in the 16th and 17th centuries who sought to purify the Church of England of Catholic Church, Roman Catholic practices, ma ...
ascribes the origin of the term to a remark made by Queen
Henrietta Maria Henrietta Maria (french: link=no, Henriette Marie; 25 November 1609 – 10 September 1669) was List of English royal consorts, Queen of England, List of Scottish royal consorts, Scotland, and Ireland from her marriage to Charles I of England, ...
, the wife of Charles I, at the trial of
Thomas Wentworth, 1st Earl of Strafford Thomas Wentworth, 1st Earl of Strafford, (13 April 1593 (New Style, N.S.)12 May 1641), was an English people, English statesman and a major figure in the period leading up to the English Civil War. He served in Parliament of England, Parliame ...
, earlier that year. Referring to
John Pym John Pym (20 May 1584 – 8 December 1643) was an England, English politician, who helped establish the foundations of Parliament of England, Parliamentary democracy. One of the Five Members whose attempted arrest in January 1642 sparked the F ...
, she asked who the roundheaded man was. The principal advisor to Charles II,
Edward Hyde, 1st Earl of Clarendon Edward Hyde, 1st Earl of Clarendon (18 February 16099 December 1674), was an English statesman, lawyer, diplomat and historian who served as chief advisor to Charles I during the First English Civil War The First English Civil War too ...
, remarked on the matter, "and from those contestations the two terms of ''Roundhead'' and ''Cavalier'' grew to be received in discourse, ... they who were looked upon as servants to the king being then called ''Cavaliers'', and the other of the rabble contemned and despised under the name of ''Roundheads''." After the Anglican Archbishop
William Laud William Laud (; 7 October 1573 – 10 January 1645) was a bishop in the Church of England. Appointed Archbishop of Canterbury by Charles I of England, Charles I in 1633, Laud was a key advocate of Caroline era#Religion, Charles I's religious re ...
made a statute in 1636 instructing all clergy to wear short hair, many Puritans rebelled to show their contempt for his authority and began to grow their hair even longer (as can be seen on their portraits) though they continued to be known as Roundheads. The longer hair was more common among the "Independent" and "high-ranking" Puritans, which included Cromwell, especially toward the end of the Protectorate, while the "Presbyterian" (non-Independent) faction, and the military rank and file, continued to abhor long hair. By the end of that period, some Independent Puritans were again derisively using the term Roundhead to refer to the Presbyterian Puritans. ''Roundhead'' remained in use to describe those with republican tendencies until the
Exclusion Crisis The Exclusion Crisis ran from 1679 until 1681 in the reign of King Charles II of England, Charles II of England, Scotland and Ireland. Three Exclusion bills sought to exclude the King's brother and heir presumptive, James II of England, James, Du ...
of 1678–1681, when the term was superseded by " Whig", initially another term with pejorative connotations. Likewise, during the Exclusion Bill crisis, the term ''Cavalier'' was replaced with "
Tory A Tory () is a person who holds a political philosophy known as Toryism, based on a British version of Traditionalist conservatism, traditionalism and conservatism, which upholds the supremacy of social order as it has evolved in the English cul ...
", an Irish term introduced by their opponents that was also initially a pejorative term.


Notes


References

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Attribution

* {{authority control *Roundhead English Civil War Parliament of England