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Brilliana Conway was born in Brill, near Rotterdam in the Netherlands, the source of her unusual name, where her father Sir Edward Conway served as Lieutenant Governor. She was brought to England with her family as a child in 1606. In 1624, she married as his third wife the Puritan statesman Sir Robert Harley. They had three sons and four daughters, all of whom survived to adulthood. During the English Civil War, she took charge of his estates and remained at their home, Brampton Bryan Castle, although she preferred the safety of London. Lady Harley refused to allow Royalist troops to enter and garrison the castle in July 1643, and she was besieged there with her children and servants for seven to eight weeks, until she was relieved by Parliamentary forces. For her bravery, she's celebrated as a heroine of the period. However, Lady Harley's health suffered from the ordeal and she died in late October 1643, at approximately age 45. Brilliana Lady Harley also is famous for her letters, some 375 of which survived, which show her to have been an educated, literary woman, at home in several languages.
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