Tuesday, 2 September 2014

The most famous ghost in all Gloucestershire

The most famous ghost in all Gloucestershire

The most famous ghost of all Gloucestershire came about because of a death both gruesome and untimely. In 1327 King Edward II found himself deposed by his wife, Queen Matilda, working with her lover Roger Mortimer the Earl of March. The king's eldest son was proclaimed to be King Edward III, but he was barely a teenager at the time and real power lay in the hands of Matilda and Mortimer.

The coup had been organised for a mixture of personal and state reasons. Matilda resented the homosexual lovers taken by her husband, while many noblemen detested the fact that so much money and favours were heaped on the young men while the king neglected the hard work needed to run a kingdom efficiently. At first the new regime was popular, but soon difficult questions began to be raised about government finances and Mortimer's new found wealth. Some began to wonder if the kingdom had not been better off under Edward II after all. Mortimer and Queen Matilda decided that Edward had to die.

At the time the former king was being held prisoner in luxurious apartments at Berkeley Castle. A team of brutal men were sent to the castle with orders to do away with poor Edward in a fashion that would leave no marks on his body to indicate that murder had been done. The killers decided to force the ex-monarch, he was a strong man, to the ground under a solid timber door then to ram a red hot poker up his rectum. It was a gruesome and painful death, but did indeed no leave mark on the body. As murder was done, the agonised screams of the dying man echoed out of the castle and woke up the villagers living nearby. When the death was announced next day it was clear that Edward had been murdered.

The royal body was taken to Gloucester Abbey, now the cathedral, and buried in a tomb as cheap as Mortimer thought he could get away with. However, the secret was out. Before long the leading nobles turned against Mortimer and Matilda. Young Edward III organised a coup that put him firmly in power. His mother was hustled off to a perpetual, if comfortable imprisonment while Mortimer was executed without delay. Edward then came to Gloucester and ordered that his father's modest tomb be replaced with the splendid affair that remains to this day.

Meanwhile the good folk of Berkeley continued to have their slumbers disturbed by the ghostly screams and wails of the spectral king. On rare occasions the funeral procession of the king was seen leaving the castle and heading towards Gloucester.

It is by far the most famous haunting in Gloucestershire and one of which people across the kingdom have heard. The majority of the county's ghosts are less spectacular and linked to local people of more humble means. However they are entwined into the story of the county as much as the mortals who live here now. Gloucestershire would not feel so rooted in the past were it not for its ghosts, spectres and phantoms.

from "Haunted Gloucestershire" by Rupert Matthews

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