The Civil Wars of the mid seventeenth century were a reflection of profound political, constitutional, religious and social conflict which was expressed in a struggle for control between King and Parliament.
In the summer of 1643 the grip of the Parliamentary army was closing on the Royalist headquarters at Oxford. News that a convoy bearing £21,000 to pay Parliament's army was approaching Thame gave Prince Rupert an opportunity to relieve the pressure. On the afternoon of 17 June Rupert led a mixed force of cavalry, infantry and dragoons out of Oxford to intercept the convoy. In the early hours of the next morning he surprised enemy outposts in Chinnor and Postcombe but failed to find the convoy. Now harried by Parliamentarian troops, Rupert decided to withdraw to Oxford.
Sending his infantry on to line the route home, Rupert himself and 1,000 horsemen turned to face the advancing Parliamentarians. Against all advice, instead of retreating to draw the Parliamentarians into an ambush, Prince Rupert suddenly turned his horse and leapt the hedge, which separated the two sides. He was followed by his cavalry, and 'with sword and pistol' the Royalists beat back their pursuers, who fled eastwards over Golder Hill to Easington. The fight had been short and sharp, and the Royalist troops returned in safety to Oxford.
Amongst the few casualties was John Hampden, one of the key political figures in the lead up to the Civil War. The mortal wounding of Hampden, the differing tactics of the two sides and the characteristic boldness of Prince Rupert add up to something more than a typical skirmish, although the scale of the fighting was matched in many other Civil War engagements.
Although the hedge over which Prince Rupert leapt to turn the battle does not survive, adjoining ancient hedges do and these were lined by parliamentarian troops. Greater public access would be desirable.
Stevenson, J and Carter A, 1973, 'The raid at Chalgrove Field, June 17th and 18th, 1643', in Oxoniesia 38, 351