Williams 68 in Oxford June 2017 – Arleen Heiss (Bob Heiss)

Photo by Carmen LozanoLecture, Church, Castle: Three Fascinating Keys to the English Civil War

Professor Diane Purkiss (Fellow and Tutor of English at Keble College, Oxford)

We gathered in the Cartoon Bar of the Randolph Hotel for our choreographed march across the street to the Ashmolean and a lecture on the English Civil War.

Our lecturer was introduced as a Professor of English Literature of Keble College, Oxford. What?! We quickly learned that Diane Purkiss is also a noted historian of English Civil War, early witchcraft, the role of women in conflict, and the history of food. She was as entertaining as she was scholarly in her lecture.

Professor Purkiss vividly portrayed the strategic blunders of Charles I dealing with such crucial matters as the resurgence of Roman Catholicism in England, and in abandoning London and then trying to raise an army. Her discussion of the fundamental differences between the Royalists and Parliamentarians provided helpful insights, and she drew fascinating parallels regarding the dangers that seemingly irreconcilable internal divisions pose for countries—then and now. I truly wanted to sign up for her next course on the English Civil War. I did the next best thing, I ordered a copy of her book, The English Civil War: A People’s History.

The English Civil War became a bit more vivid with our afternoon tours accompanied by Diane Purkiss. We travelled to the Cotswolds and visited St. John the Baptist Burford Church. At the church we viewed a plaque commemorating three Levellers shot there by Oliver Cromwell’s soldiers.

Our next stop was Broughton Castle near Banbury in North Oxfordshire. Of special interest was our visit to a secluded room at the very top of the Castle where secret meetings were held to plan resistance to the Royalists. It was very easy to imagine the fear that accompanied such meetings. Unfortunately, the Royalists did attack and capture the Castle after the nearby Battle of Edgehill in 1642. (I read the pamphlet.)

Our day was complete with a visit to the Castle tea room and further insights into the role of food in Britain. A very sweet ending to a fascinating day.

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