Accounts of the second siege of the royalist stronghold in Dorset during England’s Civil Wars have romanticised the role of its aristocratic owner. But was Mary, Lady Bankes even there? Patrick Little investigates.
Among the many romantic stories from the English Civil Wars, the heroic defence of strongholds by aristocratic women have a special place. The royalist Countess of Derby at Lathom in Lancashire and the parliamentarian Lady Brilliana Harley at Brampton Bryan in Herefordshire both resisted sieges while their husbands were away. Perhaps the most famous of these heroines is Mary, Lady Bankes, whose defence of Corfe Castle in Dorset during two sieges has inspired painters and sculptors, with the dramatic ruins of the stronghold featuring in innumerable tourist photographs.