Haunted by a Queen’s Broken Heart

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Most people get into paranormal investigation for their love and interest in the supernatural. For me, that was not the case. Although my family and I shared several unexplainable experiences, it was my love of history that pulled me in.

Paranormal investigation has brought me to historic locations across the United States and around the world. These locations opened my eyes to places and people I never knew existed. Many of their stories, which are stranger than any fiction, have left me amazed, horrified and even inspired. One of the stories that still comes to mind is a famous 12th century English castle, believed to be haunted by a queen’s broken heart.

Castle Rising Castle, built in 1140 AD, is located in the English countryside. This beautiful, old stone structure stands surrounded by a wall of dirt carpeted with grass and wild flowers. Inside its walls lay a labyrinth of rooms connected by narrow passageways and spiral staircases. It is within these passageways, staircases and rooms that people claim to see unexplainable shadow figures, and hear the sounds of footsteps and inconsolable sobbing. To get a better understanding of this supposed haunt, let’s take a look at the life of a previous resident who locals believe is responsible for the activity.

Queen Isabella of France was born to King Philip IV of France and Queen Joan I of Navarre in Paris around 1295. From the time Isabella was an infant, her father had promised her in marriage to King Edward II of England to resolve territorial conflicts between France and England.

As a child, following the death of her mother, Isabella was raised by the family’s nurse. Growing up in palaces around Paris, she was given a good education and developed a strong love for books covering topics such as history, astrology, geometry and romance. She grew to be known for her high level of intelligence, charm, diplomatic ways and beauty. However it was a rare talent she developed of rallying people to follow her that would eventually lead to the fall of her husband.

At the age of 12, on January 25, 1308, Isabella married King Edward II of England at Boulogne-sur-Mer. Their marriage was hardly a story of “happily ever after.” From the beginning of their marriage her husband King Edward was rumored to have questionable relationships with other men he had taken a particular liking to. In many ways he was known to have held these men in higher regard than he did Isabella. It was then up to this child bride to use her intelligence and diplomatic nature to find her place within the marriage and political arena.

Piers Gaveston — a soldier described as arrogant, reckless and headstrong — was the first of her husband’s favorites that Isabella was forced to contend with. Although Edward held Gaveston in his good graces, he was strongly disliked by the English barons and Isabella’s father King Philip IV of France. This led to his brief exile to Ireland. After his return to England, the baron’s dislike for Gaveston caused his execution in 1311 following Edward’s failed campaign against Scotland.

Having narrowly escaped capture by the Scots, and despite the civil war that broke out in England against Edward and Gaveston, Isabella stood by her husband. Turning to her family back in France, she wrote asking her uncles for their support of her husband while she worked to make allies of her own.

During this time of turmoil in England, Isabella gave birth to the future king Edward III and soon found herself once again second in her husband’s eyes.

While Edward looked to get revenge for Gaveston’s death, he found a new favorite and confidant in Hugh Despenser the younger.  Being the same age as Edward, Hugh Despenser also shared common enemies. As England struggled through famine, financial problems, continuous failed campaigns against Scotland led by Edward and his power struggle with the barons, Isabella tried, unsuccessfully, to work with Hugh Despenser. The barons who also disliked Hugh, reached out to Isabella asking her to publicly request that Edward exile him to prevent a war.

The Despenser’s exile was short lived. It wasn’t long before Edward formed a plan to bring back Hugh while defeating the barons. Together Edward and Hugh ruled and imposed a harsh revenge confiscating land, and imprisoning or executing their enemies along with punishing their enemies’ extended family members. They eventually turned their sights on Isabella, leaving her behind to fend for herself during one of Edward’s campaigns against the Scottish. They stripped her of her land and household, arrested and imprisoned her French staff. The custody of her children were given to the Despensers after she refused to take an oath of loyalty to them. Isabella, betrayed by her husband, now looked to take radical actions against him and Hugh Despenser the younger.

As tensions between England and France continued to rise, Isabella saw a chance to act. When Edward refused to pay homage to her brother, King Charles IV of France, her uncle began attacking and taking land under English control. Afraid to leave England — because he thought the barons would use the opportunity to rebel against him and the Despensers — he sent Isabella to France as an ambassador. To mend the tension created by Edward’s disrespect, Isabella agreed to a truce promising her son Edward III would come to France to pay homage in his father’s behalf.

With her son’s arrival, Isabella’s plan was put into action when she refused to return to England. Edward II began sending urgent messages to King Charles for the return of Isabella and his son Edward III, to which Charles responded that the “queen has come of her own will and may freely return if she wishes. But if she prefers to remain here, she is my sister and I refuse to expel her.”

Isabella and Edward’s marriage was clearly over. Dressing as a widow she publicly claimed that it was Hugh Despenser that destroyed their marriage. She then fell in love with Roger Mortimer.

Roger Mortimer was an English lord, husband and father of 12 who had been arrested and imprisoned at the Tower of London by Edward II. Following his escape from the Tower, he fled to France for safety where he was eventually introduced to Isabella. As Isabella worked to assemble a court she also promised her son in marriage to Philippa, daughter of count William I of Hainault, in exchange for a large dowry. With the dowry and a loan from her brother Charles, Isabella and Roger raised an army to defeat their common enemies, Edward II and the Despensers.

After setting sail from France with their army, Isabella and Roger landed in England with little resistance. As their army swept inland, it only continued to grow in size as others opposed to Edward II’s regime joined her forces. As word of Isabella’s success and advance reached Edward, he managed to flee to Wales.  After recovering her children from the Despensers, Edward and Hugh were finally captured.

As punishment, Hugh Despenser was dragged by a horse and presented to Isabella and Roger in front of a large crowd. He was then hanged, castrated and drawn and quartered, while his father Hugh Despenser the elder was captured, killed and fed to the local dogs. Most of Edward and Hugh’s major supporters were executed while those with a smaller role were pardoned. As for Edward II, he was deposed and placed under house arrest for the rest of his life only to die a sudden and mysterious death in which the possibility of Isabella and Roger’s involvement is still debated.

Following the arrest of Edward II, Prince Edward was confirmed as Edward III. Being far too young to lead the country, Isabella was appointed regent. Together, Isabella and Roger Mortimer ruled over England for four years. In those four years the pair became obsessed with accumulating wealth and land, while their former supporters began to question Isabella’s rule and Roger’s behavior.

Isabella’s son Edward III then married and became increasingly annoyed by Roger’s display of power. After working quietly to gather support, Edward III followed through with his plot to take control of England. Surprising Isabella and Roger at Nottingham Castle with 23 armed men, Edward III arrested Roger. Isabella begged her son to have mercy on her lover, and while she avoided execution, Roger was not so lucky. Though Edward III did show him some mercy — by not having him disemboweled or quartered.

After spending a short time under house arrest at Windsor Castle, Isabella moved into her own castle, Castle Rising. It is here that Isabella was reported to have suffered from fits of madness over the death of her love Roger Mortimer.

Isabella was promised in marriage to Edward II as an infant. She was a young woman who had a love for romance novels only to become a queen that was unloved and betrayed by her king. She then gave birth to a son who would grow to execute the only man she ever loved.

Could Queen Isabella be haunting the halls of Rising Castle, still mourning the death of Roger Mortimer? No one could really say for sure, but this is what some locals believe. Learning her story breathed life into what was otherwise just a beautiful stone shell, known as Rising Castle.

Despite Isabella’s flaws and the fact that history has dubbed her as the She-wolf of France, it was hard not to be impressed by her determination and accomplishments. It is also upsetting to think of her still roaming the halls of Rising Castle grieving, hundreds of years after Roger Mortimer’s death.

Kris Williams
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15 Comments

  • Scott Zimmerschied April 28, 2016 at 2:00 am Reply

    Very enjoyable. Thank you. I find the history very intriguing.

    • Kris Williams
      Kris Williams April 28, 2016 at 2:47 am Reply

      Thank you! I did too-love the Queen’s story!

  • ghie April 28, 2016 at 8:30 am Reply

    Queen Isabella was actually the fictitious character that is being portrayed by sophie marceau who had a homosexual husband edward II in the movie braveheart.

    • Kris Williams
      Kris Williams April 29, 2016 at 12:16 am Reply

      Queen Isabella was a real person. She was represented in the movie but yea… Hollywood took it’s creative liberty.

  • Kisha April 28, 2016 at 7:07 pm Reply

    Well done. I love history and it’s nice to see you focused on that aspect. You need a fact based show on the History Channel, or the net. Teach people, share your knowledge. No more reality shows… LOL!

    • Kris Williams
      Kris Williams April 29, 2016 at 12:19 am Reply

      Thank you, Kisha!
      I have always been history focused-that’s how I got the job with GH. They wanted my history research experience to look into the locations we visited. I’ve never been a huge para person-history has always been my passion. LOL I hear you on reality!! I’ve turned down over 14 shows in the last 5 years. 😉

  • Jan May 1, 2016 at 7:20 pm Reply

    That’s a large part of why I watched GHI and ghost hunters. I love learning all the history especially the old castles. Thanks for sharing.

  • James Boyken August 31, 2016 at 12:53 am Reply

    Loved the story. Would love to travel like you are now, but since I can’t you will have to do it for me. Keep the stories and great pictures coming so we all might do a little traveling. Thank you

    James Boyken

  • WDB September 12, 2016 at 11:42 am Reply

    Outstanding stuff, Kris. You’ve been blessed, to be able to visit all of these historic, grandiose locations !!
    I was just listening to the old Darkness Radio podcast with you as a guest and I have to say, it was one of the better shows.
    Best of luck in the future.
    Take care,

    Bill
    Kansas City, MO

  • Roger October 17, 2016 at 1:07 pm Reply

    Great storytelling Kris. All these places go on my bucket list of places to visit. Thanks for sharing.

  • Peter cook October 28, 2016 at 2:05 pm Reply

    I love this story! I have known from a very early age, being a local resident! We used to love going to castle rising and rolling down the hills 🙂

  • Michael October 28, 2016 at 2:34 pm Reply

    Thanks you kris always have interesting things to tell us about and a great to find out more of the world we live in

  • Becky October 28, 2016 at 6:47 pm Reply

    Love the story. I actually have visited Castle Rising. My fb pic with my daughter was actually taken there! It is a beautiful castle, what is left of it. Thank you for the history.

    Becky
    Springfield, IL

  • Melissa S. October 28, 2016 at 7:24 pm Reply

    Hi Kris, Thank you for sharing the history behind Castle Rising! I am enthralled by the beauty and history of castles around the world. I always wonder what lives were lived inside their walls. This story was intriguing and sad all at the same time. Thanks for sharing, I agree that you would be wonderful in a history based show if you did ever want to do TV again. If I got the channel, I would definitely watch! In the meantime I enjoy all you do share with us in your travels and every day adventures. 🙂

  • Mitchell Wilson October 29, 2016 at 6:55 am Reply

    That was amazing to read the actual account and not a romanticized version that normally gets presented, thank you, Kris, I loved it!

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