Mary Ambree

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Mary Ambree (fl. 1584) was an English army captain who participated in the liberation of the Belgian city Ghent during the war against Spain. She is frequently mentioned in ballads.[1]

In 1584 the Spanish captured Ghent, and Captain Mary Ambree, along with several other Dutch and English volunteers, fought to liberate the city. It was said that she was avenging her lover, a sergeant major who died during the siege.[1]

"Then captains courageous, whom death could not daunt,
Did march to the siege of the city of Gaunt,
They mustered their soldiers by two and by three,
And the foremost in battle was Mary Ambree."[2]

She was a popular subject of ballads during the 17th-century from 1620s onwards. Ambree was the subject of the English ballad that provided the title for Rudyard Kipling's well-known novel, Captains Courageous.[3] The ballad was preserved by Thomas Percy in the Pepys Collection.[4]

A female French Legionnaire in the book Sowing Glory by P.C. Wren was referred to by the pseudonym of Mary Ambree in order to protect her identity.[citation needed]


  1. ^ a b Commire, Anne, ed. (2002). "Ambree, Mary (fl. 1584)". Women in World History: A Biographical Encyclopedia. Waterford, Connecticut: Yorkin Publications. ISBN 0-7876-4074-3. (Subscription required (help)).
  2. ^ Black-letter copy in the Pepys Collection, from Mary Ambree, in Reliques Of Ancient English Poetry, Edited By THOMAS PERCY.
  3. ^ [1] from text notes on, based on those written by Leonee Ormond for the OXFORD WORLD'S CLASSICS edition of Captains Courageous
  4. ^ Full text of the ballad may be found on this site, which notes that it is taken by Percy from a piece in the Pepys Collection.

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