Sunday, 8 August 2010

Spooky Sunday

As well as Steve and Fall fan Louise, I spent a couple of days with my friend Tim and his family over in Lincolnshire. On the Sunday we went to the bucket-and-spade resort of Huntstanton just over the border into Norfolk and en route, at my request, called in at Castle Rising. Every castle in Britain has a haunted reputation but Castle Rising is one of the better known.
We didn't go inside the castle, although one day I hope to do so, since I understand it is very well preserved (though a ruin) and ornately decorated. But it's impressive enough from the outside, standing as it does inside massive earthworks, an idea of the scale of which you can get from the picture. Built in the 12th century, it later became the prison of Queen Isobella, 'the she-wolf of France', who together with her lover Mortimer arranged the horrible assassination of her husband Edward II. When her son grew old enough, he staged a coup, executed Mortimer and had his mother locked up here. Apparently, she went mad with rage and grief and frustrated ambition and her ghost is said to go screaming round the ruins after dark.
Or at least, that's the legend. Richard Jones, author of Haunted Castles of Britain and Ireland (2008) states that the execution of Mortimer and the imprisonment of Isabella by Edward III is a myth. Indeed, according to Jones, Isabella lived at Castle Rising in splendour and was free to go where she pleased. Perhaps the story grew up around the cult of Edward II's martyrdom: people just didn't like to think she'd got away with it. Jones does confirm, however, that visitors 'have been shocked by the sound of hysterical cackling near the top floor' and that residents of the nearby village have had their nights disturbed by 'ghostly screams and maniacal laughter coming from the castle'.

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