During the English Civil War, Exeter was besieged twice, once by the Royalists, and later by the Parliamentary forces.
According to an article by Robert Hodkinson of the Sealed Knot, royalists accused the parliamentary leader the Earl of Stamford of ‘resorting to the worst kind of men to fill his ranks and dredging the local gaols for recruits: ‘when the Earl of Stamford was last at Exeter he tooke divers Turkes out of Launceton goale [sic] and listed them (forsooth) for King and Parliament’ (quoted in Peachey & Turton, 23).’
These ‘Turkes’ could have been from what we now call Turkey, or from anywhere else in the Ottoman empire. They were probably Barbary corsairs, pirates of the same sort that took Joseph Pitts prisoner twenty-five years later.
The painting is of the Siege of Basing House, by Ernest Crofts