Next year (1643) another campaign, for surrounding instead of penetrating into London, was projected. Newcastle and Hopton were to advance from the north and west, seize the north and south banks of the river below the city, destroy its commerce, and combine with Charles at Oxford. The royalist force, however, in spite of victories at Adwalton Moor (June 30th) and Roundway Down (July 13th), did not succeed in combining with Charles, Newcastle in the north being kept back by the Eastern Association and the presence of the enemy at Hull, and Hopton in the west being detained by their successful holding out at Plymouth. Being too weak to attempt anything alone against London, Charles marched to besiege Gloucester, Essex following him and relieving the place. Subsequently the rival forces fought the indecisive first battle of Newbury, and Charles failed in preventing the return of Essex to London. Meanwhile on the 1st of February the parliament had submitted proposals to Charles at Oxford, but the negotiations came to nothing, and Charles’s unwise attempt at the same time to stir up a rising in his favour in the city, known as Waller’s Plot, injured his cause considerably. He once more turned for help to Ireland, where the cessation of the campaign against the rebels was agreed upon on the 15th of September 1643, and several English regiments became thereby available for employment by the king in England. Charles also accepted the proposal for bringing over 2000 Irish. On the 22nd of January 1644 the king opened the rival parliament at Oxford.
The campaign of 1644 began far less favourably for Charles than the two last, principally owing to the alliance now made between the Scots and the parliament, the parliament taking the Solemn League and Covenant on the 25th of September 1643, and the Scottish army crossing the border on the 19th of January 1644. No attempt was this year made against London, and Rupert was sent to Newcastle’s succour in the north, where the great disaster of Marston Moor on the 2nd of July ruined Charles’s last chances in that quarter. Meanwhile Charles himself had defeated Waller at Cropredy Bridge on the 29th of June, and he subsequently followed Essex to the west, compelling the surrender of Essex’s infantry at Lostwithiel on the 2nd of September. With an ill-timed leniency he allowed the men to go free after giving up their stores and arms, and on his return towards Oxford he was confronted again by Essex’s army at Newbury, combined now with that of Waller and of Manchester. Charles owed his escape here from complete annihilation only to Manchester’s unwillingness to inflict a total defeat, and he was allowed to get away with his artillery to Oxford and to revictual Donnington Castle and Basing House.
The negotiations carried on at Uxbridge during January and February 1645 failed to secure a settlement, and on the 14th of June the crushing defeat of the king’s forces by the new model army at Naseby practically ended the civil war. Charles, however, refused to make peace on Rupert’s advice, and considered it a point of honour “neither to abandon God’s cause, injure my successors, nor forsake my friends.” His chief hope was to join Montrose in Scotland, but his march north was prevented by the parliamentary forces, and on the 24th of September he witnessed from the walls of Chester the rout of his followers at Rowton Heath. He now entered into a series of intrigues, mutually destructive, which, becoming known to the different parties, exasperated all and diminished still further the king’s credit. One proposal was the levy of a foreign force to reduce the kingdom; another, the supply through the marquis of Ormonde of 10,000 Irish. Correspondence relating to these schemes, fatally compromising as they were if Charles hoped ever to rule England again, was discovered by his enemies, including the Glamorgan treaty, which went much further than the instructions to Ormonde, but of which the full responsibility has never been really traced to Charles, who on the 29th of January 1646 disavowed his agent’s proceedings. He simultaneously treated with the parliament, and promised toleration to the Roman Catholics if they and the pope would aid in the restoration of the monarchy and the church. Nor was this all. The parliamentary forces had been closing round Oxford. On the 27th of April the king left the city, and on the 5th of May gave himself up to the Scottish army at Newark, arriving on the 13th with them at Newcastle. On the 13th of July the parliament sent to Charles the “Newcastle Propositions,” which included the extreme demands of Charles’s acceptance of the Covenants, the abolition of episcopacy and establishment of Presbyterianism, severer laws against the Roman Catholics and parliamentary control of the forces, with the withdrawal of the Irish Cessation, and a long list of royalists to be exempted from pardon. Charles returned no definite answer for several months. He imagined that he might now find support in Scottish royalism, encouraged by Montrose’s series of brilliant victories, but these hopes were destroyed by the latter’s defeat at Philiphaugh on the 3rd of September. The Scots insisted on the Covenant and on the permanent establishment of Presbyterianism, while Charles would only consent to a temporary maintenance for three years. Accordingly the Scots, in return for the payment of part of their army arrears by the parliament, marched home on the 30th of January 1647, leaving Charles behind, who under the care of the parliamentary commissioners was conducted to Holmby House. Thence on the 12th of May he sent his answer to the Newcastle Propositions, offering the militia to the parliament for ten years and the establishment of Presbyterianism for three, while a final settlement on religion was to be reached through an assembly of twenty divines at Westminster. But in the midst of the negotiation with the parliament Charles’s person was seized, on the 3rd of June 1647, by Cornet Joyce under instructions of the army, which soon afterwards occupied London and overpowered the parliament, placing Charles at Hampton Court.
If Charles could have remained firm to either one or the other faction, and have made concessions either to Presbyterianism or on the subject of the militia, he might even now have prevailed. But he had learned nothing by experience, and continued at this juncture his characteristic policy of intrigue and double-dealing, “playing his game,” to use his own words, negotiating with both parties at once, not with the object or wish to arrive at a settlement with either, but to augment their disputes, gain time and profit ultimately by their divisions. The “Heads of the Proposals,” submitted to Charles by the army on the 28th of July 1647, were terms conceived on a basis far broader and more statesmanlike than the Newcastle Propositions, and such as Charles might well have accepted. The proposals on religion anticipated the Toleration Act of 1689. There was no mention of episcopacy, and its existence was thereby indirectly admitted, but complete religious freedom for all Protestant denominations was provided, and the power of the church to inflict civil penalties abolished, while it was also suggested that dangers from Roman Catholics and Jesuits might be avoided by means other than enforcing attendance at church. The parliament was to dissolve itself and be succeeded by biennial assemblies elected on a reformed franchise, not to be dissolved without their own consent before 120 days, and not to sit more than 240 days in the two years. A council of state was to conduct the foreign policy of the state and conclude peace and war subject to the approval of parliament, and to control the militia for ten years, the commanders being appointed by parliament, as also the officers of state for ten years. No peer created since May the 21st, 1642, was to sit in parliament without consent of both Houses, and the judicial decisions of the House of Lords were to be ratified by the Commons. Only five persons were excepted from amnesty, but royalists were not to hold office for five years and not to sit in the Commons till the end of the second biennial parliament. Proposals for a series of reforms were also added. Charles, however, was at the same time negotiating with Lauderdale for an invasion of England by the Scots, and imagined he could win over Cromwell and Fairfax by “proffers of advantage to themselves.” The precious opportunity was therefore allowed to slip by. On the 9th of September he rejected the proposals of the parliament for the establishment of Presbyterianism. His hopes of gaining advantages by playing upon the differences of his opponents proved a complete failure. Fresh terms were drawn up by the army and parliament together on the 10th of November, but before these could be presented, Charles, on the 11th, had escaped to Carisbrooke Castle in the Isle of Wight.