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Remember the ladies: Lady Mary Bankes

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Lady Mary Bankes née Hawtry (c. 1598 – 11 April 1661) was a Royalist who defended Corfe Castle from a three-year siege during the English Civil War from 1643 to 1646. She was married to Sir John Bankes, Lord Chief Justice of the Common Pleas and Attorney-General of King Charles I.

Corfe Castle, which Lady Mary Bankes bravely defended against attacking Parliamentarians

Mary Hawtry was born in about 1598, the only daughter of Ralph Hawtry, Esquire of Ruislip, Middlesex, and Mary Altham. In about 1618, she married Sir John Bankes, who later became Attorney-General to King Charles I and Lord Chief Justice of the Common Pleas. In 1635, Sir John purchased Corfe Castle in Dorset with all its manors, rights, and privileges from Lady Elizabeth Coke. Sir John died on 28 December 1644 at the age of 55. ~ Wikipedia


The siege of her castle began on June 23, 1643. As many as six hundred men bombarded the castle from a nearby church, preventing a counterattack. Lady Bankes organized raids for food, one of which resulted in the theft of eight cows and a bull; she herself, “to her eternal honor be it spoken,” defended the upper ward of the castle with her maids and her daughters hurling stones and hot embers on the attackers, who “ran away crying.”

Finally, though, in 1646, the “prudent and valiant” lady was defeated. She and her children were given safe conduct from the castle, which was ransacked and its lavish decorations seized as spoils of war. Lady Bankes died in 1661. Her gravestone praises her for “constancy and courage above her sex.” ~ Remember the Ladies, Kirstin Olsen. The Main Street Press. 1988

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