Ludlow was elected to the House of Commons as representative of Wiltshire. A strong critic of Charles I and a close associate of Henry Marten, Ludlow caused controversy in Parliament on 7th May, 1642, when he said that "the king was not worthy to be king of England."
On the outbreak of the Civil War Ludlow joined the Parliamentary army and he initially served as a bodyguard to the Earl of Essex. On 23rd October, 1642, Ludlow fought at Edgehill before becoming captain of a troop of cavalry. The following year he was appointed as governor of Wardour Castle in Wiltshire. Ludlow endured a three months siege at Wardour Castle before being forced to surrender to the royalists. After a short imprisonment in Oxford Ludlow was exchanged in the summer of 1644.
In May 1644 Ludlow joined the army led by William Waller. Ludlow, who was appointed as Sheriff of Wiltshire, took part in battle at Newbury (27th October, 1644), the siege of Basing House (November, 1644) and the relief of Taunton (December, 1644).
In the House of Commons Ludlow showed himself to sympathize with the Levellers and the Anabaptists. He was also a promoter of the Pride's Purge and signed the death warrant of Charles I. In February 1649 he was elected to the Council of State.
In June 1650 Oliver Cromwell appointed Ludlow as second in command to General Henry Ireton. He went to Ireland in January 1651 and later that year took part in the siege of Limerick. On the death of Ireton he became chief commander until replaced by Charles Fleetwood in October 1652.
Ludlow was furious when Cromwell closed down the House of Commons in April, 1653. He circulated pamphlets critical of the government and in January 1655 Fleetwood sacked him from his post in Ireland.
When Ludlow arrived back in England in October 1655, and was kept in captivity until being allowed to meet Oliver Cromwell on 12th December, 1655. Cromwell asked Ludlow what he wanted and he replied: "That which we fought for, that the nation might be governed by its own consent." Ludlow argued that Cromwell's administration was illegal but promised he would not plot to overthrow the government.
Cromwell accepted his word and Ludlow was allowed to retire and went to live in Essex. Attempts were made in Wiltshire to get Ludlow elected to the House of Commons but this was prevented by the government. However, after the death of Cromwell he was allowed to represent Hindon in Parliament. Ludlow now led the opposition to Richard Cromwell becoming Lord Protector.
In June, 1659, Parliament appointed Ludlow as commander-in-chief of the Irish army. Over the next few months he purged senior officers in the army and replaced them with committed republicans. When this was done he appointed Colonel John Jones as commander in his absence.
Ludlow arrived in England and attempted unite opposing forces in the House of Commons. He was forced to return to Ireland after hearing that Jones had been arrested by his own officers. While Ludlow was in Ireland George Monck, the officer in charge of the English army based in Scotland, decided to march his army to London.
When Monck arrived he reinstated the House of Lords and the Parliament of 1640. Monk now contacted Charles II, who was living in Holland. Charles agreed that if he was made king he would pardon all members of the parliamentary army and would continue with the Commonwealth's policy of religious toleration. Charles also accepted that he would share power with Parliament and would not rule as an 'absolute' monarch as his father had tried to do in the 1630s. This information was passed to Parliament and it was eventually agreed to abolish the Commonwealth and bring back the monarchy.
Ludlow joined with John Lambert and Robert Lilburne in an attempt to arouse resistance to the restoration of the monarchy. When their soldiers deserted Ludlow was forced to go into hiding. Later he escaped to France.
In August 1660, Charles II and Parliament agreed to pass the Act of Indemnity and Oblivion. This resulted in the granting of a free pardon to anyone who had supported the Commonwealth government. However, the king retained the right to punish those people who had participated in the trial and execution of Charles I.
A special court was appointed and in October 1660 those Regicides who were still alive and living in Britain were brought to trial. Ten were found guilty and were sentenced to be hung, drawn and quartered. This included Thomas Harrison, John Jones, John Carew and Hugh Peters. Others executed included Adrian Scroope, Thomas Scot, Gregory Clement, Francis Hacker, Daniel Axtel and John Cook.
Oliver Cromwell, Henry Ireton, Thomas Pride and John Bradshaw were all posthumously tried for high treason. They were found guilty and in January 1661 their corpses were exhumed and hung in chains at Tyburn.
A reward of £300 was offered for Ludlow's arrest. Ludlow constantly kept moving living in Geneva, Lausanne and Vevay. His fellow Regicide, John Lisle was assassinated in Vevay on 11th August, 1664, but Ludlow survived several plots on his life.
Ludlow's wife joined him in Switzerland and he remained close to other republican exiles, Nicholas Love and Andrew Broughton. Over the next few years Ludlow wrote his memoirs.
When the Glorious Revolution took place in 1688 Ludlow returned to England. However, a proclamation was issued for his arrest and he was forced to flee the country.
Edmund Ludlow died in Vevay on 26th November 1692.
In the mean time the Major-Generals carried things with unheard of insolence in their several precincts, decimating to extremity whom they pleased, and interrupting the proceedings at law upon petitions of those who pretended themselves aggrieved; threatening such as would not yield a ready submission to their orders, with transportation to Jamaica or some other plantations in the West Indies; and suffering none to escape their persecution, but those that would betray their own party, by discovering the persons that had acted with them or for them.
Sir Anthony Ashley Cooper, also a great instrument in this horrid treachery, as he was most active amongst those of the Parliament who were consulting for their restitution, so notwithstanding the affronts he had formerly put upon me, the Lord Arundel being pressed by the trustees and contractors at Drury House for the paying in of thousands of pounds which he was in arrears for some lands which they had sold of his to some of his friends, and which Cromwell had discharged him of, they not allowing that to be a sufficient discharge threaten him to sell the land again, according to a command they had received from the Parliament to that purpose, if he forthwith paid not the said arrears. It being apprehended that my letter to them might be of service to him therein, he the same Sir Anthony, coming to me with him to desire me to write on his behalf, professed to be very affectionate to the interest of the Commonwealth, which he did so to the life that I was much pleased therewith, having always believed him to be otherwise inclined. But notwithstanding his fair words, I was not so confident of him as to repose any great trust in him, he having played fast and loose so often, declaring sometimes for the king, then for the Parliament, then for Cromwell, afterwards against him, and now for the Commonwealth.
About this time I went to Sir Arthur Haslerig, whom I knew to be of a most rigid and inflexible spirit, and endeavoured as well as I could to persuade him of the necessity incumbent on us all to lay aside our private animosities, and to unite our whole strength to preserve the vessel of the Commonwealth from sinking. I desired him to entertain a better opinion of Sir Henry Vane, and some other persons than he seemed to have, assuring him that it was impossible to prevent that ruin which threatened us.
Another of my friends who was well acquainted with the designs of the Court, and had all along advised me not to trust their favour; now repeated his persuasions to withdraw out of England, assuring, that if I staid I was lost; and that the same fate attended Sir Henry Vane and others, notwithstanding all engagements to the contrary. He added, that there was a design on foot to seize the estates of all those who had been outlawed in the late King's time, of which number my father having been one, it would be difficult for me to escape ruin on that account. The advice of my friend whom I had always found to be entirely sincere, and knew to be well informed of affairs, was of great weight to induce me to resolve upon departing from England; in which resolution I was confirmed by the friendly counsel of the Lord Ossery, eldest son to the Marquis of Ormond, who with divers others that had observed the inconstancy and irresolution, to say no worse, of those in the House of Commons, in sacrificing Mr. Carew and Colonel Scroop to the revenge of the enemy, concurred in giving the same advice.
The time appointed for my departure from England being come, after I had settled my affairs in the best manner I could, and taken leave of my dearest friends and relations, I went into a coach about the close of the day, and passing through the City over London-Bridge to St. George's Church in Southwark, I found a person ready to receive me with two horses, one of which I mounted and began my journey. My guide was so well acquainted with the country, that we avoided all the considerable towns on the road, where we suspected any soldiers might be quartered ; and the next morning by break of day we arrived at Lewes without interruption. On the Tuesday following, a small vessel being prepared for my transportation, I went on board; but the wind blowing hard and the vessel having no deck, I removed into another that had
been provided for me by a merchant of Lewes, and was struck upon the sands as she was falling down to receive me. This vessel had carried over Mr. Richard Cromwell some weeks before, and lay very commodiously for my safety on that occasion; for after I had entered into her to secure my self from the weather, till I might put to sea in the other, the searchers came on board my small vessel to see what she carried, omitting to search that in which I was, not suspecting any person or thing to be in her, because she was struck upon the sands. But the storm still continuing, and the men thinking not fit to put to sea, we continued in the harbour all that day and the night following; the master, who had used the ports of Ireland whilst I had been in that country, among other things, enquiring if Lieutenant-General Ludlow were not imprisoned with the rest of the King's judges; to which I answered, that I had not heard of any such thing.
The next morning we set sail, and had the wind so favourable, that we arrived in the harbour of Diepe that evening before the gates were shut; where going ashore I was conducted by the master, to the house of one Madame de Caux to whom I was recommended, where I was received with all possible demonstrations of civility; the gentlewoman leaving it to my choice either to continue at her habitation in Diepe, or to go to her house in the country; which last I chose to do, as well that I might enjoy the liberty of taking the air, as to avoid the Irish who were in great numbers in the town, and who probably might have seen me in Ireland when I served the Parliament.
The first letters I received from England, after my arrival at Geneva, informed me that Major-General Harrison, Mr. John Carew, Chief Justice Coke, Mr. Hugh Peters, Mr. Thomas Scot, Mr. Gregory Clement, Colonel Adrian Scroop, Colonel John Jones, Colonel Francis Hacker, and Colonel Daniel Axtel being accused of having contributed in their several stations, to the death of the King, had been condemned and executed. This important business had been delayed during the time that Mr. Love was to continue Sheriff of London, he being no way to be induced, either for fear or hopes, to permit juries to be packed in order to second the designs of the Court. But after new sheriffs had been chosen, more proper to serve the present occasion, a commission for hearing and determining this matter, was directed to thirty-four persons, of whom fifteen had actually engaged for the Parliament, against the late King; either as members of Parliament, judges or officers in their army; most, if not all of them, the Lord Mayor excepted, having been put into places of trust and profit since the late revolution.
Colonel John Jones who next appeared on this bloody theater, was a gentleman of a competent estate in North- Wales, and so well beloved in his country that he did considerable service to the public cause by his interest in those parts. He reduced the Isle of Anglesey to the obedience of the Commonwealth, and was soon after chosen to serve in Parliament for that place. He had been one of the Council of State, and in the year 1650 was constituted one of the Commissioners of Parliament for managing the civil affairs of Ireland. This trust he discharged during the course of divers years, with great diligence, ability, and integrity, in providing for the happiness of that country, and bringing to justice those who had been concerned in the murders of the English Protestants. When the Great Parliament was restored to the exercise of their authority, after the long interruption, they chose him to be one of those eight persons, to whom they committed the care of the public safety, till they could establish a Council of State. Of this also he was chosen a member, and soon after sent by the Parliament to his former trust in Ireland, where he continued till the late change.