Remembering the English Civil War and Lady Mary Bankes’s heroic defence of her home, Corfe Castle, in Dorset, against the Roundheads in 1643. Lady Bankes, the daughter of local squire Ralph Hawtrey, had also lived at Haydon Hall in Eastcote. Sometime around 1618, she married Sir John Bankes, who later became Attorney-General to King Charles I. The couple had bought Corfe Castle a few years before the war had broken out, when it did her husband was away fighting with the king’s forces in London and Oxford. In May 1643, a force of Parliamentarians, consisting of 40 seamen, demanded the surrender of the castle’s four pieces of ordnance. She, her maidservants, and her small group of soldiers retaliated with cannon fire and drove them away, later surrendering some ordnance to buy time. More Parliamentarians returned the following month and besieged the fortress. But having had time to resupply the castle she was in a better position to defend it. As a result nearly a fifth of the besieging force was killed as they tried to storm the battlements. The castle only fell in 1646 when one of her officers betrayed her to the Parliamentarians and let them in via a back gate. Her stout defence of her home had impressed the opposing army so much that she was allowed to keep the keys.
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