Page:Dictionary of National Biography volume 03.djvu/129

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Bankes
Bankes
123

steadily loyal to the royal cause. His property was restored to his family in 1647 by parliament after considerable payments by Lady Bankes and her children (Whitelocke, 270). Sir John left a numerous family, and his descendants, who still own considerable property in the neighbourhood, represented the borough of Corfe Castle until it was disfranchised in 1832. The present head of the family lives at Kingston Lacy, not far from the ruins of their ancient castle.

[Foss's Judges of England; Biographia Britannica; Bankes's Story of Corfe Castle; Fuller's Worthies; Wood's Fasti (Bliss), ii. 44; Lloyd's Memoires of Sufferers for Charles I.]

G. V. B.


BANKES, Lady MARY (d. 1661), the heroine of Corfe Castle, was the only daughter of Ralph Hawtrey, of Ruislip, in the county of Middlesex, the representative of an ancient family of Norman origin. Of her early life nothing seems to be recorded ; but having married Sir John Bankes [q.v.], chief justice of the common pleas in the latter part of the reign of Charles I, she retired with her children, on the commencement of the civil troubles, to Sir John's newly purchased residence, Corfe Castle, in the Isle of Purbeck, Dorsetshire, for many centuries a royal residence and one of the strongest castles in England. Here Lady Bankes, with the assistance of a small garrison, stood two prolonged sieges, the first in 1643, lasting six weeks and ending in the flight of the besiegers; the second in 1646, which after eight weeks ended in the taking of the castle through the treachery of one of the garrison. The fullest and best original account of the first siege is contained in a contemporary royalist publication, 'Mercurius Rusticus,' No. xi., which, notwithstanding its contemptuous banter of 'the rebels,' is probably a fairly truthful account, and is confirmed by occasional allusions in contemporary newspapers of the opposite side.

From this authority we learn that in May 1643, Sir John being in attendance on the king, the commissioners of Poole sent a force of forty seamen ('they in the castle not suspecting any such thing') to demand of Lady Bankes the surrender of the four small pieces of cannon which formed the armament of Corfe Castle, 'but instead of delivering them, though at that time there were but five men in the castle, yet these five, assisted by the maid servants, at their lady's command mount these pieces on their carriages, and lading one of them they give fire, which small thunder so affrighted the seamen that they all quitted the place and ran away.'

On 23 June 1643 the regular siege was begun by Sir Walter Earle, with a force of 500 or 600 men, and a few pieces of ordnance. Lady Bankes meantime had quietly laid in a good store of provisions, and had obtained from Prince Maurice, by her earnest entreaties, a garrison of about eighty men, commanded by Captain Lawrence. Her resolution was unshaken by the oath taken by the besiegers, 'that if they found the defendants obstinate not to yield, they would maintain the siege to victory and then deny quarter unto all, killing without mercy men, women, and children.' All the assaults of the besiegers were successfully repelled by the little garrison. In the last of these attacks, 'the enemy being now pot-valiant and possessed with a borrowed courage, which was to evaporate in sleep, they divide their forces into two parties, whereof one assaults the middle ward, defended by valiant Captain Lawrence and the greater part of the souldiers; the other assault the upper ward, which the Lady Bankes (to her eternall honour be it spoken), with her daughters, women, and five souldiers, undertooke to make good against the rebels, and did bravely perform what she undertooke, for by heaving over stones and hot embers, they repelled the rebels, and kept them from climbing their ladders.' Having lost in this assault 100 men in killed and wounded, and hearing that the king's forces were at hand, Sir Walter on 4 Aug. drew off his men so precipitately that they left their artillery, ammunition, and horses behind.

For the next two years Lady Bankes seems to have lived unmolested, partly at Corfe Castle and partly near London. The death of her husband in December 1644 caused no abatement of her devotion to the royal cause, and in the summer of 1645 Corfe Castle was again attempted several times by the parliamentary forces, and at last closely besieged a second time, there being now 'no garrison (but this) between Excester and London ' still holding out for the king (Sprigge, iii. 146). On 26 Feb., or according to some accounts 8 April, 1646, Lady Bankes and her little garrison, apparently as far as ever from yielding, were betrayed by one of her own officers who was 'weary of the king's service.' Under pretence of bringing in reinforcements this officer introduced by night fifty of the enemy, and next morning the garrison, finding themselves betrayed and further resistance useless, gave themselves up prisoners at discretion, their lives only excepted.

In Sprigge's table of battles and sieges Corfe Castle is said to have been taken in April 'by stratagem and storm' after forty-