The Siege of Loyalty House: A Story of the English Civil War (Hardcover)
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An immersive and electrifying account of a defining episode in the English Civil War that illuminates the human experience—and human cost—of this devastating war.
It was a time of puritans and populism, witch hunts and civil war.
Between 1643 and 1645, Basing House in Hampshire, England, was besieged three times. To the parliamentary Roundheads, the house symbolized everything that was wrong with England: it was the largest private residence in the country, a bastion of royalism and excess. Its owner, the Marquess of Winchester, reportedly had the motto Love loyalty etched into the windows. Winchester refused all terms of surrender. When he discovered his brother plotting to betray the house, he forced him to hang his accomplices. When the garrison divided along religious lines, Winchester expelled all the Protestants.
As royalist strongholds crumbled around the country, the Winchesters—and Basing House—stood firm. The famed architect Inigo Jones designed fortifications; gamekeepers became snipers; and the women hurled bricks at the besiegers. 'Loyalty House', as it was known, became the king's principal garrison. But the drum of the parliamentary army beat ever louder—and closer—and in October 1645, Oliver Cromwell rolled in the heavy guns.
The Siege of Loyalty House tells the story of these dramatic events, not only recounting the sallies and skirmishes, but the experiences of the men, women, and children caught in the crossfire. What was it like to be under siege, lying in bed with shells crashing through the window? What was it like to conduct a siege, sleeping on frosty fields, receiving news of sick children at home from desperate wives?
Ultimately, the story of Basing House is the story of England in the 1640s: a tale of brother against brother, of women on the frontline, of radicalism, iconoclasm, and fanaticism. It is a tale of destruction and derring-do, courage and cowardice, and a house on fire—the true end of an era.
About the Author
Jessie Childs is the award-winning author of God's Traitors (winner of the PEN Hessell-Tiltman Prize for History) and Henry VIII's Last Victim (winner of the Elizabeth Longford Prize for Historical Biography). She has written for several journals, including the London Sunday Times, the Guardian, and the London Review of Books. Her television contributions include the BAFTA-nominated Elizabeth I's Secret Agents (PBS) and two BBC series on Charles I. Jessie lives in England.
Praise for The Siege of Loyalty House:
"Brilliant. Original. Gripping.”
— Antonia Fraser, New York Times bestselling author
"In this stunning feat of historical reconstruction, Jessie Childs brings England's brutal civil conflict to life. A work of deep scholarship, The Siege of Loyalty House is gripping, moving, unputdownable.”
— Thomas Penn, author of The Brothers York: A Royal Tragedy
"Beautifully written and gripping from first page to last. A sparkling book by one of Britain’s finest historians.”
— Peter Frankopan, New York Times bestselling author of The New Silk Roads
"She is a gifted narrative historian, eloquent, graceful and witty; the stories she tells are the ones we all should know.”
— Hilary Mantel, New York Times bestselling author of The Mirror & the Light
"Extraordinary: meticulously researched, beautifully written, and heartbreakingly relevant. I urge you to read it.”
— Helen Castor, author of Joan of Arc and She-Wolves
"Perhaps just because the history is so painful, and to some almost incomprehensible, the English Civil War has never really registered in British history as powerfully as it should. That will change with Jessie Childs' extraordinary The Siege of Loyalty House: a thrilling, immersive read, especially searing in our own tormented and besieged times. Her beautiful writing drops the reader deep in the war, sees it through a cast of extraordinary characters from both sides of the terrible conflict, but most of all, shines with a compassionate understanding of human courage, folly, obstinacy and frailty, at times almost Tolstoyan in its emotional intelligence and literary power.”
— Simon Schama, author of The Story of the Jews and Rough Crossings
"Jessie Childs is one of the finest historians working today; her illuminating, deeply researched, and beautifully written books are never anything short of superlative, and here she does it again. This is a vivid, thrilling story, rendered in delicious prose.”
— Suzannah Lipscomb, author of A Journey Through Tudor England
"Extraordinary. Exhaustively researched and beautifully (and wittily) written, a thrilling and immersive tale that offers the reader a rare window into the terrifying events of the English Civil War when religion and ambition divided families, friends and neighbours. One of the finest books I've read for years, a stunning achievement.”
— Saul David, author of Devil Dogs and The Force
"A spectacular work of scholarship, this is epic, vital history, sweeping from the great trends and ideas of the time to the individual details of vividly lived lives. This brilliant book takes you into the heart of the English Civil War, the brutal struggle for the sympathies of a country, the men who fought, the women who tried to survive; this is blood, desire and struggle on the page, taking you deep into the seventeenth century world; you can feel its beating heart.”
— Kate Williams, author of The Betrayal of Mary, Queen of Scots