The Defiance of Mary Bankes

A portrait miniature showing Lady Mary Bankes

In the 1640s, England was in the grip of civil war and Corfe Castle found itself on the front line of conflict between Parliament and King Charles I.

The formidable Lady Mary Bankes led its defence while her husband was away serving the King and became a darling of the Royalist cause in the process

Explore her life and legend though three audio story points located at the south west gate house, in the west bailey and near the gloriette in the inner ward.

In act one Mary secures her family home against the gathering storm and sees off an early attempt to capture it.

Act two sees Corfe Castle under siege and its tiny garrison outnumbered while Mary herself takes part in the defence of the battlements along with her daughters and maids.

Act three follows Mary through the anguish of losing the castle to an act of treachery, the death of her husband and the defeat of the Royalist side.

But her defiance didn’t end there. After years of petitioning Parliament, she lived to see her family estates returned and the restoration of King Charles II.


Even her enemies were impressed. The victorious Parliamentarians eventually presented her with the keys to Corfe Castle as a tribute to her courage, and you can still see them today at the Bankes family’s later home, Kingston Lacy, a few miles from Corfe Castle near Wimborne Minster.

The Defiance of Mary Bankes is part of Women and Power. A century on from women achieving the vote, we’re exploring the stories and impact of women who lived and worked at the special places we care for.

Kingston Lacy is also looked after by the National Trust, and you can find out more about the women of the Bankes family in Beyond the Portrait, another Women and Power Event.