Worcester played a decisive role in the English Civil War and the outcome of the Battle of Worcester changed the way that Great Britain was governed, creating the democracy we enjoy today.
The Commandery was given a dramatic new purpose in 1651 when Charles Stuart (later Charles II) marched into Worcester on the 22nd August 1651 at the head of 13,000 men and set up his Headquarters in the city. William, 2nd Duke of Hamilton, was the Royalist Commander in Chief and he and other officers were billeted at The Commandery.
Charles’ Royalist army had marched from Sterling in Scotland to Worcester, covering 350 miles in just three weeks. When they arrived in Worcester the soldiers, most of whom were Scots, were under equipped, some without shoes and their clothing in rags.
The Royalist troops spent the next two weeks preparing the city’s defences, including the fortification of Fort Royal Hill behind The Commandery and City Walls alongside the building.
On the 3rd September 1651, battle commenced at around noon with an attack from Oliver Cromwell’s 28,000 strong ‘New Model Army’. The battlefield covered a seven mile front from Powick to Red Hill, including the entire modern-day city.
After several strategic gains, the Royalists quickly faltered at the Sidbury Gate outside The Commandery and many soldiers were killed as they tried to flee. To commemorate those who lost their lives at the Battle of Worcester, an annual ceremony takes place on Fort Royal Hill on the 3 of September. The Duke of Hamilton was carried back into The Commandery with blood pouring from a wound in his leg, and he died about a week later. It is said that Hamilton’s body was hastily buried under The Commandery floor, before being exhumed and reburied in Worcester Cathedral.
Charles escaped from Worcester and fled into exile until his restoration to the throne nine years later. Despite this, the Restoration Settlement did not give back absolute control of government and military to the Crown and a more democratic rule is a legacy of the English Civil War.
Say you have been at Worcester, where England’s sorrows began, and where they are happily ended. Hugh Peter 1651.