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Women’s War Drama in England in the Seventeenth Century By Brenda Liddy ...

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Women’s War Drama in England in the Seventeenth Century

Introduction

Our women are all on fire, striving through a gallant emulation to outdoe our men and will make good our yielding walls or lose their lives.1

The English Civil War began in 1642 when Charles I raised his standard in Nottingham, and it ended in 1651 when Cromwell defeated Charles II at Worcester. During this period, there was no foreign foe to demonise: Englishman fought against Englishman. This was not just a war between the Cavaliers and the Parliamentarians; the entire nation was involved, from the nobility to the commoners. On January 30, 1649, the whole nation was transfixed by an event which even now could be termed iconoclastic—the beheading of the King of England, Charles I. This spectacular event took place outside the banqueting hall in Whitehall, and as the King’s severed head fell from the scaffold, it is reputed that people dipped their handkerchiefs in his blood, indicating that a portion the public revered him as a quasi saint. As Michel Foucault argues, “the public execution is to be understood not only as a judicial, but also as a political ritual”.2 The King’s death was such a significant event that things could never be the same again; once this Rubicon was crossed, there would be no turning back.