Ghosts in My Family Tree (Part I)

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My mother and I have recently started to build our family tree and my first thought was: Ohhhh. I wonder if I’m related to an actual ghost?! In this two-part series, I explore two haunted stories I came across during my genealogy research. We will start with The She-Wolf of France.

About the She-Wolf

I will briefly touch on the life of Isabella of France as (1) I am still learning about her and (2) much of her biography is contested. Isabella of France (1295 – 22 August 1358) was queen consort of Edward II of England and played a key role in his disposition in 1327.

After King Edward II’s favorite Piers Gaveston (earl of Cornwall) was murdered by a jealous baron in 1312, Isabella tried to make peace between the king and the rest of the barons. Instead, Edward started hanging out with the Despenser family and Isabella was not a fan. In 1325, she refused to return to England after taking a trip to France (with her son, Edward III) to handle a dispute. During her time away, she became Roger Mortimer of Wigmore’s mistress

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Isabella landing in England with her son, the future Edward III in 1326 // Public Domain, Wikimedia Commons

In 1326, Isabella, her lover, and some barons invaded England. The Despensers fell and Edward II’s throne was taken away. Edward was eventually murdered and Roger Mortimer (and Isabella) were implicated. During this chaotic time, Mortimer basically ruled as king and made a lot of people angry. In 1330, Edward III (King Edward II’s son) had him seized, put in the Tower, named a traitor, and hanged.

Edward III basically sent his mother into retirement, ending up at Castle Rising Castle in Norfolk. It is a common misconception that Isabella was a prisoner. She actually roamed around and enjoyed “regal splendor” (Jones 74). According to legend, she was “racked by violent dementia” (Jones 74) and/or possibly had a breakdown due to the death of her lover. This is where the haunting comes in. 

Her Ghost

Although she died at Hertford Castle (also haunted), Isabella haunts Castle Rising where “the echoes of her last troubled years are still said to rebound through the corridors of the Castle” (Jones 74). Visitors have heard hysterical laughter. The village nearby has also heard screams and laughter coming from the castle in the early morning hours.

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Engraving of the ruined keep in 1782, by William Byrne // Public Domain, Wikimedia Commons

I hope I can stay in the village someday and wake up to the sound of my very distant grandma’s ghost screaming into the morning.

Sources

Encyclopedia Britannica 

Johns, Richard. Haunted Castles of Britain and Ireland. London, New Holland Publishers, 2005.

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