Thursday, 7 April 2011

Royal Ghosts at Fotheringhay

In 1452 a boy named Richard was born in the Great Hall of Fotheringhay Castle to the Duke and Duchess of York. His father, also Richard, was Protector of England while the king, Henry VI, was going through a spell of weak-mindedness. However, York’s stern and uncompromisingly honest rule did not suit Henry’s wife, Queen Margaret, who preferred a free-spending court and was not too fussy where the money came from.

In 1460, Richard Duke of York tried to solve the impasse with Queen Margaret by persuading the council of lords to appoint him Prince of Wales and successor to King Henry. Margaret refused to see her son disinherited in this fashion and gathered an army. She ambushed York and his eldest son, Edmund, at Wakefield in Yorkshire on 30 December. Both men were killed, and Margaret moved on hoping to seize York’s other three sons: Edward, George and the boy Richard.

Edward, a clever and notoriously charming youth, moved too quickly for them. He gathered his own army, then hired some lawyers who managed to prove to the satisfaction of Parliament that he was the true king of England. He raced north to crush his enemies at the Battle of Towton, although he was outnumbered by two to one. He was then crowned as King Edward IV.

Only then did Edward arrange the funeral of his father and brother. The bodies were taken to lie in state in the great hall of Fotheringhay Castle. Then, in solemn procession, the coffins were carried out of the castle and along the village street to the beautiful church of St Mary and All Saints. There they were buried, and there they lie to this day. Edward lavished money on the church, installing one of the finest double-canopied pulpits in England and rebuilding the tower to include the impressive octagonal lantern tower that stands today.

The ghosts that lurk here are from the magnificent funeral that Edward held for his father and brother. The sound of trumpets, lyres and other instruments mingles with the gentle singing of mournful hymns. The sounds have been heard intermittently ever since that sad day in 1461.

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