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Leveling England


“These things we declare to be our native rights, and therefore are agreed and resolved to maintain them with our utmost possibilities against all opposition whatsoever; being compelled thereunto not only by the examples of our ancestors, whose blood was often spent in vain for the recovery of their freedom”- The Agreement of the People, 1647


            Dave’s ATL on a Cromwellian dynasty got my thinking. This is about a different political outcome to the Civil War. I admit this isn’t my area of expertise, but since people don’t seem to be interested in Byzantine timelines…


WI England had been led by the Levelers?

Historically, the Levellers were a group of radicals in England which advocated a policy that would sound familiar a few generations later, notably natural law. As one member of the Levelers put it, “by natural birth all men are equally and alike borne to like propriety, liberty and freedom”.

I was toying with the Leveller Mutinies in 1649, when John Lilburne was put on trial, but that is, IMO, a bit too late.

So let’s move it back to October of 1647, and see what happens. We’ll make Rainsborough a bit smarter than OTL.

We’re going to have to fiddle around with the Putney Debates (Thanks to Dave for help on a specific POD). I think any direct moves against Cromwell or Ireton (Ireton was another decent general) are too farfetched, at least for the moment.

Let us suppose that Cromwell aggress to give the vote to all men with property, or a fixed income [1]. But this agreement happens a week earlier than OTL, and is presented to the army on November 4,5, and 6. This means that the army hears of it a week before King Charles escapes. He still does so, but suddenly the army, with its promises of:

1)     Pardon for crimes.

2)     Pay and their arrears.

3)     Suffrage

Is much more important.  Note also that in TTL Rainsborough will stick with the army, because he is very popular with the rank and file. (Skillful Leveller propaganda).

Charles, in Scotland, agrees that Presbyterianism will be tried in England for three years, and to work for a  closer union of the two nations. Fairfax’s lifeguard regiment is Leveller, which goes to show how far the movement has spread; there are mass protests for the return of the king.

Scotland invades England more or less on schedule, but with a  pitiful army (also more or less as in OTL). This occurs in July; Cromwell was sent to Wales a few years earlier. Rainsborough, not out at sea, joins in the prayers in April. Fairfax is notably absent, and his absence marks a disillusionment with the views of him and his officers [2].

With Cromwell out west, Rainsborough is sent to Kent to subdue a rebellion there, which he handles well enough. The navy does not revolt because the Earl of Warick is still in charge, and  Cromwell finally gets a hold of Wales.

Cromwell marches north in July, while Rainsborough stays in the South. He wins the battle of Preston in August, and Colchester surrenders to Fairfax. Rainsborough is raised to the status of a Lord-General, for his actions in Kent and Lancaster.  Rainsborough is sent North, and reaches Edinburgh first. He quickly hammers out a simple treaty with them, in which Berwick and Carlisle were surrendered, and the Scottish military forces are to be disbanded.

With the war in the North won, Rainsborough, Colonel Harrison, and Ireton meet to discuss how to Bring The Agreement of the People  in line with the Remonstrance of the Army, which was written by Ireton.

Levellers petition Parliament that the House of commons was the supreme authority, and argued that the King should only be negotiated with for forty days. Soldiers appeal to Fairfax to stop the negotiations, nor did he listen to Ireton’s advice that he reoccupy London and purge the Commons.

Now, in TTL, Fairfax summons a Council of Officers at St. Albans in the first week of November, in which they discuss Ireton’s remonstrance. The Agreement of the People is brought up by Rainsborough, and becomes a part of it. The revised Remonstrance argues that the King should be brought to justice and the monarchy abolished. Parliament is unmentioned, and the Council of Officers sends his terms to the Iking.

The terms state that armed forces were to be controlled by a Council of State chosen by Parliament. Parliaments would be elected biennally on a reformed electoral system, with all property owners and men with a certain income voting in the House of Commons, but the House of Lords would continue. Charles rejects the terms in November, and Fairfax falls back on the Levellers; the Remonstrance is sent to the House of Commons. They also demand payment.

Since there’s a civil war on, payment proves less than forthcoming, and Fairfax orders the occupation of London. Parliament is not disbanded, but Parliament protests the King’s movement to Hurst Castle, and Ireton and Rainsborough purge the Commons (somewhat reluctantly).

Cromwell shows up and approves of this, but Fairfax is furious. He doesn’t intervene, but he is now very untrusting of Rainsborough.

Obviously, with no Parliament to appose it, the “Rump Parliament” sets up a Court to try the King. After much wrangling, the King appears before the court on the 22nd.

Now, the major event is that, in TTL, Rainsborough is an enthusiastic advocate of the trial. Fairfax isn’t, but Cromwell is. A near civil war breaks out, but Fairfax’s guard mutinies against him in favor of Rainsborough.

After the War

Now,  Parliament votes for the dissolution of the Monarchy, and for the abolishment of the House of Lords.

The House of Commons then passes the Agreement of the People, which is summed up as follows:

1)     England is a republic ruled by Parliament. The Franchise has already been expounded upon.

2)     The right to a trial by Jury for all voters.

3)     An executive appointed by the Parliament, known as the Lord-Protector. He is reelected every five years, and may not serve more than fifteen years.

4)     Guarantees for Life, Liberty, and Property.

5)     Some religious freedoms for Protestants, aside from far out groups like Quakers. Jews are let back into England.

Rainsborough is sent to Ireland instead of Cromwell, and manages to subdue the country by the end of the year.

In 1650, Cromwell is sent to Scotland, and English ships, to oversimplify, begin attacking Portuguese shipping for supporting Charles II. Cromwell is engaged in England for most of 1651, and falls sick and dies in February [3]. Rainsborough marches north, and defeats Charles II. Parliament naturally votes for a Union with Scotland. Those troops are there for protection from Royalists; and if you don’t believe me, ask Rainsborough.

The First Anglo-Dutch War

The Navigation Act is passed as in OTL. This is partly in response to the Dutch refusal to ally with England, on the basis that the English had, ah, executed their lawful sovereign. The House of Orange’s supporters refuse.

The war begins in May of 1562. It begins when the Dutch Admiral, Marten Tromp, refuses to pay respects to the English fleet. The English admiral, Blake, fires a shot across the Dutch bows. Tromp returns fire. The Dutch ultimately lose the battle, and war is officially declared.

The English lose a battle in 1652, but by 1653 are blockading the Netherlands. Tromp is killed in battle, and the Dutch are forced to sign a peace with the English.  Parliament now feels that the navy is now the key to Commercial Success.

Rainsborough, now the Lord-Protector of the Britannic Commonwealth, decides that the navy should be sent elsewhere. This is partly to ward off the problems in Parliament; everyone is still fighting as in OTL.

The Western Design

The Western Design is based on a plan by the English traveler Thomas Gage, who argued that England could easily take Mexico from bases in the Caribbean The English, with French support [4], also invade the Low Countries. 

The Plan revolves around the capture of the island of Santo Domingo. 50 ships and 7500 men sail for the island, and with Rainsborough’s attention to detail, the plan succeeds [5]. Santo Domingo falls in March of 1655, and Jamaica in April. For good measure, the fleet captures a Spanish treasure fleet. English goes wild rejoicing, and the success does silent some opposition [6].

In the Low Countries, the French and British forces ally against the Spanish. Lambert is sent with 6,000 English troops to join the French Marshal Turenne. The English are promised the towns of Mardyck and Dunkirk; the English will get the town of Gravelines.

In September, the English capture Mardyck. They beat the Spanish at the Battle of the Dunkirk, where Lambert breaks the Tercios.

The Anglo-Spanish war ends in 1660, with Santo Domingo, Jamaica, and the two Flemish towns going to the Commonwealth. France made peace a year earlier, and the Commonwealth enjoys newfound popularity.

The Second Hundred Years War

The Commonwealth was about to entire a period which historians refer to as the second Hundred Years War, a contest for global supremacy with the French. Much like the first war, the English had an ally in the Low countries, in the form of the Republic of Holland. England, secure with its hegemony in the West Indies, it was more inclined to accommodate its protestant neighbor across the channel. The Treaty of Westerminster confirmed an alliance of the Triple Powers, that is, Sweden, Holland, and Britain.

France was no longer the civil war wracked nation of the Wars of Religion. It is the giant of Louis XIV, who goes to war with the Spanish in 1667 over their failure to pay the proper dowry. He manages to overrun, within a year, most of the Spanish Netherlands and the Franc-Comte. He is forced to exchange, at the Peace Treaty, Franc-Comte for much of the Spanish Netherlands.

This leaves the Dutch understandably nervous, and it does the same thing to the English. The War of the Low Countries, as it is so called, begins in 1672 when an army 100,000 strong invades the Netherlands.

Conde, Louis XIV, and Turenne [6] march into the Southern Netherlands, and they succeed in taking Utrecht. But several thousand French soldiers are tied up at the siege of Dunkirk, where the English fort is resupplied by sea.

The Dutch are in a mess, as in OTL. Historically they appointed William II, their captain-general, and they do so. The English threaten to drop out of the war unless they are ceded several territories, notably Manhattan, Antigua, and Ceylon. Faced with the choice of a conquest by the French, they give in.

The colonial aspects of the war shall be discussed later, but for now let us simply say that the British take time to deploy to the Continent.  William manages to halt the French army, but it is John Lambert who recommends flooding the Low Countries by breaking the dykes, devastating the French army [8].

It takes several more years to drive the French out of the Low Countries into Calais. The battles of Ypres and Ghent are charnel houses, killing thousands.

Charles II makes an appearance in Scotland, rallying the Highland Clans to his standard. He is promptly defeated outside of Edinburgh by General Sexby, but that’s life.


OTL, the French and English were able to hold their own against the Dutch, and then triumph. This was largely the result of England. The Dutch and English navies have a merry time attacking French shipping, including in the Mediterranean.

But it is Quebec where the battle in the new world is decided. An armada of twenty warships travels to Montreal, then a small city, and manages to take it [9].

The Treaty of Rouen confirms the possession of the Spanish Netherlands in the hands of the Commonwealth, Luxembourg in Spanish hands, and several border adjustments in favor of France. It also gives Quebec, known as New Strathclyde, to the Commonwealth.

War and Peace. And Some more War.

There are other events abroad, of course. The French are not going to take this sitting down, and in 1680 , the War of the Grand Alliance begins.

The war of the Grand Alliance is a combination of several wars. The Empire and France

Fought a war in the 1680’s, which ends with Prussia gaining East Friesia but losing part of Pomerania, in Northern Germany.

The League of Ausburg, consisting of Bavaria, Austria, the Commonwealth, Sweden, Spain, Saxony, and the Palatinate oppose Louis. The outbreak of the war occurs when the Elector of the Palatinate dies. Louis claims a part of it on the basis that his sister in law was the Elector’s sister. He also presses for the Archbishop of Strassburg to become the Elector of Cologne instead of the Prince of Bavaria.

The war breaks out in 1789. Savoy is overrun in 1690, along with Piemonte. But the English win at Dunkirk, and the song “The Push of the Pike” becomes part of the English culture. The exact wording is something like this:

Captains in open fields, on their foes rushing,
Gentlemen second them with their pikes pushing.
Engineers in the trench, earth, earth uprearing,
Gunpowder in the mines, Frenchmen upblowing.

The French fleet is defeated at sea by the Commonwealth, but the French win the battle of Steinkirk.  The Duke of Savoy is defeated in 1693, and the allies are growing exhausted.

The war drags on for several more years until 1697. The treaty of Bordeaux confirms the Commonwealth, the separate peace with Savoy, the Britannic capture of Pondicherry, cedes Strassbourg to France, and brings a general peace of exhaustion.

This is followed up by the war of Spanish succession [10]. Charles, King of Spain, has no heirs. There are three candidates: Louis XIV, on behalf of his eldest son. Joseph Ferdinand of Bavaria, grandson of Phillip, and Archduke Charles of Austria. The specifics can be found in my timeline on the House of Hapsburg-Savoy.

Needless to say, the Commonwealth isn’t thrilled with the idea of a Franco-Spanish union, nor an Austro-Spanish one. They favor Joseph, and so does the King. The treaties of Partition fail, and war breaks out.

The French invade the Low Countries, but are defeated by the Duke of Sussex. The French gain the advantage in Italy, as they have the Duke of Savoy on their side. The Austrians manage to repulse a Bavarian invasion of Tyrol in 1702, and everyone blithely ignores the Northern War.

Eugene and the Duke of Sussex team up to defeat the Franco-Bavarian force in the Rhineland, and in 1702 the Commonwealth captures Gibraltar. While the Hapsburgs manage to occupy Madrid temporarily, it ultimately ends in failure.  The Austrian victory at Turin, however, secures all of Lombardy for the Austrians.

It is also important to note that the dynamics in the Commonwealth Parliament are different. The Sugar bloc is still there, but it’s not as important. In this timeline, they do not want to keep the price of sugar up by avoiding to conquer islands. They want the key producers of sugar in British hands. Now, preferably. Cuba joins Santo Domingo and Jamaica in 1708.

When the Emperor Joseph dies, and Charles VI becomes Emperor,  the entire war halts. Charles would mean that the Empires of Spain and Austria would be under one throne, which no one is willing to allow.

The Commonwealth leaves the war, along with Savoy, at the Treaty of Antwerp. The Treaty guarantees the possession of Cuba and Acadia for the Commonwealth, and cedes Sicily to Savoy.  Prussia and Portugal gain minor territorial adjustments too, of course.


So, where does it go from here? Hard to say; I was leery of going to the 1710’s, to be honest. The English are stronger than OTL, and the Enlightenment, since it probably still goes off, can point to a working European democracy. The fact that it’s English may not make Enlightenment ideals popular in France, but English based ideals were OTL, so it’s possible.

The colonies will have more self-government, but will be used to pulling their weight. An American Revolution is unlikely. Past that? Europe could go any number of ways.

[1] I honestly have no idea of how much this would be. I’m envisioning the approximate worth of a few acres. Note that this was more or less the initial value.

[2] OTL Cromwell was the chief beneficiary of this.

[3] He fell sick in OTL. Here, with the changes, I don’t think he’d survive.

[4] if Cromwell would ally with the French, then less fanatic Rainsborough would have.

[5] Failing in OTL was extremely unlikely, and required two incompetent generals, running at the first sight of the Spanish, and an insufficient amount of all provisions.

[6] This number is accurate, and Conde and Turenne are famous generals.

[7] It looks as ugly as it sounds.

[8] The fact that this is Dutch territory and not English probably influenced him, although William of Orange did a similar thing.

[9] I’m torn on this. It sounds like hand waving, but I think it’s probable. Thoughts?

[10] I kept it in because, well, it is my feeling that the Spanish Hapsburgs were headed toward something like this.

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