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Discovery of a 400-year-old Portrait of a Heroine of the English Civil War

A Guest Post by Linda Sindt


SOUTHERN OREGON AUTHOR Accidentally “Discovers”

a 400-Year-Old Portrait of a Heroine of the English Civil War

“The Keys to Corfe Castle” by southern Oregon author, Linda Sindt, is now available for pre-order at your favorite booksellers and will be released on 2 August. It includes an abundance of color images of 400-year-old art treasures now in the public domain. During final editing the author accidentally lightened a photographic image of a portrait previously identified as an “Unknown Lady” which is now on display at Sudbury Hall, Derbyshire, United Kingdom. A faded inscription appeared in the upper right corner clearly identifying the subject as Lady Mary [Hawtrey] Bankes, the heroine of her forthcoming novel. (The National Trust of the United Kingdom has not yet changed its identification of this “Unknown Lady,” but is aware of the discovery).

The mostly true “Keys to Corfe Castle” is not your ordinary historical romance novel, although there is plenty of history and a warm touch of romance. In an age of Knights and Castles the starring warrior is -- well – a “Lady.” A very real Lady Mary Hawtrey Bankes inspired a war-weary nation, including even her foes, with her spirited defense of the Castle her husband (a Knight) gave her just before England’s world turned upside down 400 years ago.

Who better to tell this tale of military daring by – yes -- a Lady – than retired United States Air Force Colonel, Linda Sindt? An early trailblazer in toppling barriers to upward mobility for today’s military women, Linda says, “Lady Mary’s voice demands to be heard. In a war that was a prelude to the beginnings of the United States of America, she dared to engage in fierce face-to-face combat with mightily armed Parliamentary forces with her young daughters by her side. Not exactly a then socially OK role for “proper” Ladies! Who could blame them? The enemy (their neighbors) not only wanted to destroy their Castle, but to abolish Christmas!”

Lady Mary’s story is one of tender romance in an era of arranged marriages. It exultantly celebrates family at a time of paramount fear and despair. It is a (slightly) fictionalized but mostly true tale of heartbreaking loss and betrayal – and also of fervent love and hope. The pre-teen to great-grandmother “Ladies” on any gift list will especially enjoy this meticulously researched, easy read.

“The Keys to Corfe Castle” can be pre-ordered on the author’s website at She says, “Apparently, I am a bit of a pioneer in daring to write a novel in technicolor. That has added to the size and the cost. The paperback version will come as two books encased in a box, and may seem a bit pricy -- $29.95 to $34.95, depending on the bookseller. When you think of it as $15 per book it doesn’t sound so steep. Color technology does not yet extend to e-books. This version is more reasonable -- $9.95 -- but the art works will appear in black and white. E-books can also be pre-ordered” online.

The author notes 10% of her proceeds will go to the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network in memory of her late husband of forty years to promote pancreatic cancer research. Anyone facing this dreadful disease can check out the following website for much help and support as well as opportunities to join in the fight for a cure --

The Military Women’s Memorial in Arlington, VA – will also share another 10% of the author’s royalties in special tribute to the inspiring military exploits of Lady Mary Hawtrey Bankes.

A great-granddaughter of Oregon Trail pioneers, the author, Linda (Cornutt) Sindt grew up in southern Oregon. She is a graduate of Crater High School and of now Southern Oregon University. She taught fourth grade at Washington Elementary School in Medford before embarking on her 24-year Air Force career. Following Air Force retirement she served for several years on the Administrative Faculty of Southern Oregon University. This is her first novel.

Author Interview:


What inspired you to write this book? Truthfully? Sheer and utter boredom! I call it my “pandemic baby.” Like the rest of the world I have been “locked in” during the past two years. I entertained myself in this enforced isolation while perched in front of my computer in my pajamas.

What can you tell me about the book? As a pioneer of sorts in integrating women into today’s US military, I was struck by Lady Mary’s daring in actually engaging (along with her young daughters) in direct combat with those who attacked her home. Definitely out of character for your ordinary 17th Century “Upper Crust” housewife! Her story has not been updated for the world at large since the 1800s. I decided modern generations should learn her name.

What did you learn when writing the book? That my previous understanding of the actual characters and religious and political forces that led to the English Civil War and the beginnings of the United States of America was hugely flawed and embarrassingly inaccurate. I call this story “boring history” brought to life and made entertaining.

What surprised you the most? I was astonished at the huge amount of information, including copies of actual letters from the heroine’s family and even household accounts from 400 years ago that are now accessible entirely on the internet! How did they get there? I started out with an imagined plot as to what might have happened, but was forced to change when I banged into the authenticated, recorded facts of what really happened. “The Keys to Corfe Castle” is backed by a more than 425 entry bibliography, mostly accessed via the internet.

What was the most difficult part of writing the book? In a modern society that discourages discussion of religious differences from ”polite” conversation at the dinner table, the truthful telling of this story necessarily deals with three warring religious factions while at the same time holding to the theme of religious tolerance and inclusion for all.

How would you describe your book’s ideal reader? “The Keys to Corfe Castle” is (wholesomely) written at the eighth grade level. Everyone from 13-year-old “Young Adults” to their great-grandparents should find this tale an adventurous and informative easy read.

What is your most memorable moment in writing this book? I have long contended that a portrait now identified by the National Trust of the United Kingdom as an “Unknown Lady” is in fact the most authentic portrayal of the heroine, Lady Mary Hawtrey Bankes. The National Trust has not accepted this theory. In my final editing of this portrait I accidentally lightened a photographic image of the 400-year-old painting and a previously invisible inscription magically appeared that clearly identifies it as being indeed an image of the heroine of this tale. The National Trust has not yet acquiesced in its identification, but I am claiming victory!


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1 comentário

Angello Mutti
Angello Mutti
01 de out. de 2023

Of course, the find is great. Finding portraits or searching for images mid atlantic pictures can be done in a number of ways, depending on your needs and the resources you have. But it is worth it to pour in the historical museum

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