The Siege of Loyalty House: A Civil War Story by Jessie Childs - review by Linda Porter

Linda Porter

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The Siege of Loyalty House: A Civil War Story


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William Waller was born in the last years of the 16th century, at a time when the glories of the earlier decades of Elizabeth I’s rule were beginning to be tarnished by economic problems, religious dissent and the first whisperings of concern about the extent of the royal prerogative. Nearly half a century would pass before a combination of these factors exploded into civil war. In between, Waller fought alongside fellow Protestants in continental Europe during the vicious, wearying battles of the Thirty Years’ War. He and his friend Sir Ralph Hopton helped Elizabeth Stuart, the daughter of James I, escape to safety from Prague in 1620, when her husband, briefly king of Bohemia, was defeated by Catholic forces at the Battle of White Mountain. They were young men then, united in belief and enthusiasm for their cause. By the 1640s, they were on opposite sides of the political divide, to the bitter regret of both. At the beginning of the Civil Wars, Hopton reached out to his old comrade, asking if they could meet, but Waller, with infinite regret, declined. His response contains some of the most famous words of the Civil Wars: ‘That great God, which is the searcher of my heart, knows with what a sad sense I go upon this service and with what a perfect hatred I detest this war without an enemy … We are both upon the stage and must act those parts that are assigned us in this tragedy. Let us do it in a way of honour and without personal animosities.’

The entry of Scotland into the conflict through the Solemn League and Covenant revived Parliamentarian hopes and the spirits of Waller. In the autumn of 1643 he was back in Hampshire, intending to bring about the swift capitulation of Basing House, a Royalist stronghold occupying a key position

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