The Siege of Loyalty House

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From The Wall Street Journal:

On Oct. 14, 1645, at the height of the English Civil War between Charles I and his defiant Parliament, Gen. Oliver Cromwell unleashed a brigade of the New Model Army against the most notorious remaining royalist outpost. For more than two years, Basing House—a sprawling estate in Hampshire, 55 miles southwest of London—had been held for the king despite repeated efforts to subdue its garrison. Now, at last, the strongpoint was stormed, and all inside were slaughtered or captured.

In “The Siege of Loyalty House,” Jessie Childs tells the compelling story of a place that acquired a mystique far beyond its strategic significance, mounting a staunch resistance justifying the sobriquet recalled in her title. Underpinned by meticulous research, this finely crafted narrative unfolds in evocative and often poetic language, transporting readers back to a “terrifying, electrifying time” and breathing fresh life into the men and women who endured it.

Ms. Childs, a historian whose previous works have focused on the earlier Tudor period, shows how the hardships of enforced confinement revealed the best and worst of Basing’s defenders. It was a “garrison of all the talents,” she writes, and included individuals whose backgrounds as artists, scientists and merchants open vistas into a tumultuous age. The fight for Basing House becomes a prism to view the English Revolution, a much-debated episode encompassing the execution of Charles I in 1649 and the monarchy’s replacement by a decade-long republic. For bewildered witnesses, it truly was a world “turned upside down.”

Highlighting key flashpoints, Ms. Childs traces the gradual polarization of loyalties and the inexorable slide into war. The stubborn, duplicitous Charles Stuart believed in his divine right to rule as he pleased, but Parliament refused to bend to his will, suspecting him of seeking to revive the elaborate “papist” rituals of the pre-Reformation Catholic Church. As tensions escalated in London, the king’s swaggering Cavalier supporters confronted gatherings of Roundheads (a mocking reference to the city’s short-haired apprentices who favored Parliament).

Ms. Childs charts the Civil War’s unspooling tragedy with insight and compassion. Shocked by the opening clash at Edgehill, in October 1642, Parliament’s commander in chief, Robert Devereux, Earl of Essex, was unable to compose the customary postbattle report. After experiencing the carnage, the earl’s “mind and body shut down.”

Link to the rest at The Wall Street Journal