A Haunting at Berkeley Castle: King Edward II Returns
The Tortured Spirit of Edward II
Edward II was the son of one of England's most ruthless and no nonsense Kings, Edward I. It was Edward I who tangled with William Wallace and Robert the Bruce and was known as the "Hammer of the Scots." You might remember him from the movie Braveheart. The man was every bit as harsh and clever as portrayed in the movie.
But his son, Edward II, was nothing like his father. He was one of most ineffective, inefficient Kings Great Britain has ever had the misfortune to sit on the throne. His entire reign was without a doubt, a disaster for him and for England.
Edward II was content to making crafts, parading around with his all male entourage and generously rewarding his favorites at court and, oddly enough, he liked to dig ditches. He was more than happy to delegate his responsibilities to others, mostly men that the nobility, his Queen and the people of England in general absolutely hated.
Though Edward fathered 5 children with the Queen and another woman, he was widely believed to be homosexual and/or bisexual which did not sit well with people in those days. He bestowed royal titles on his favorite "likely lads" when he had no business doing so, nor were they deserved by the recipients of such honors. Edward I even exiled his son's favorite boy toy Piers Gaveston until his death when his son quickly called him back to court. This would spell disaster for Gaveston in later years as he is murdered by the Nobles after two more exiles failed to keep him away from Edward and the court.
By 1325, his Queen, Isabella of France, whom Edward often referred to as the "She Wolf of France", was fed up and she took their son, Edward III to France. There, she and her lover Roger Mortimer plotted against the King and set the wheels in motion to depose him.
In 1327, Edward II was overthrown by Isabella and Mortimer and imprisoned in Berkeley Castle where Edward would spend his final days until his hideously cruel death.
A Dungeon From Hell:
Berkeley Castles is nestled in the vale of Berkely. Built out of stone (which one had to obtain permission from the King to build it that way), it was completed in 1153, owned by William FitzOsbern. The castle would eventually come under the ownership of the Berkeley family and remains in their family to this day. For over 850 years it has been occupied by the Berkeley family and is the oldest occupied castle in England.
One did not want to run afoul of Lord Berkeley in the castle's heyday. He was a powerful man and a ruthless enemy. Should you offend his Lordship, you could end up finding yourself imprisoned in the dank, dark fetid bowels of the castle. I'm talking about the castle dungeon of course.
It has no windows. In those days the air was thick with disease and the stench of dead carcasses animals and it's rumored, human bodies as well. Not many who were taken there survived for long.
It was with this in mind, that upon being deposed that Edward II was sent there. Isabella and Mortimer believed that the King would fall ill as many others who had preceded him did and would die soon enough. However, Edward II was made of tougher stuff than that. Edward fell ill and was expected to succumb soon after the onset of his illness but he still managed to survive. He was in excellent health as a King would expected to have been. He obviously had the best everything unlike many of his subjects and it paid off for him. But I'm sure that Edward, given his choice to die ill and the way he did actually die, he would have chosen the former by a mile.
An Unimaginable Cruel Death:
Isabella and Mortimer were not happy. At her wits end, the Queen orders Edward's jailers to take care of Edward's demise anyway they saw fit. He was now at the mercy of Sir John Maltravers and Lord Berkeley himself. His fate was sealed as well was his eminent torture.
On September 21, 1327, as Edward slept in his cell, his jailers charged in and holding Edward face down, they inserted a funnel into his rectum and through it, they then inserted a red hot poker which seared his intestines. It was perhaps a nod to the contempt that so many felt toward the deposed King's homosexuality, plus it left no outward marks on the body. The story was later told that Edward passed away from natural causes.
A Grim Anniversary:
It makes sense that most castles throughout Great Britain are suspected to be haunted. After all, castles were built in the days where it could be expected that one's enemies might come for you in the night or that it might be used during a time of war.These fortresses saw much bloodshed and conflict. There were many untimely deaths met and many emotions of all sorts that could leave their impressions behind which would make these castles vulnerable to hauntings. With the strength of those emotions and all the chaos, I would wonder if most of them weren't dwelling places for the restless souls of those who died there.
Berkeley Castle is no exception. Especially having been around for as long as it has been. Some poor spirits were bound to remain behind, unable to move on. Some may not even know they're dead.
Edward II however seems to only show his presence annually. It is said that on the anniversary of Edward's horrific murder that even if you're standing outside the castle walls (some say even as far away as the road), one can hear his agonized screams of torture as he relives the horror of his death.
So, if you ever have the opportunity to visit the centuries old castle, while you're waiting for Edward to make himself known, stop and say a prayer for the poor, tortured King that he may find his way to the light and that he may finally rest in peace.
Google map for tourist for Berkeley Castle
- Berkeley Castle - Google Maps
Map for tourist for Berkeley Castle