She Wolf of Castle Rising

Picture (c) by John Ashley Photography

Isabella murdered her husband so her son locked her up in a Castle. It is perhaps understandable why it was that Edward had his mother imprisoned for almost thirty years; after all she had murdered his father. Given that Edward was also King of England as his father had been before him, he had to be seen to punish his father's murderer, even if she was his mama.

The Isabella we speak of is Queen Isabella the wife of Edward II, renowned for her fiery temper and beauty she became known as the She-Wolf of France. She had been a Princess of France and so beautiful that she was originally called 'Isabella the Fair'. At the tender age of 12 she was sent as a bride to England. Upon arriving on English shores the young Isabella was greeted by one Piers Gaveston who had been sent by her husband Edward the II to greet her. Young Gaveston stood before Isabella bedecked in jewellery, jewellery that had been given to Isabella by her father the King of France as a wedding gift. 

So began the pattern for the next 17 years of her life. Isabella did her duty and bore him children. As she was not only beautiful but also intelligent she regularly assisted her weak husband in ruling the English kingdom and with a much firmer hand. Earning herself the new nickname of She Wolf of France. Finally Isabella decided she had had enough and took herself a lover one Roger Mortimer. Mortimer raised an army and fought against the king’s army and defeated them the King was captured and imprisoned in Berkeley Castle. Isabella then took the throne of England.

Originally Isabella had hoped that his father, Edward II would die of natural causes. Helped along of course by a bit of starvation, some torture and the fact that the room underneath his dank dungeon in which he had been placed was kept filled with putrid carcases, resulting in a noxious stench. But eight months on and Edward II was still very much alive. So one night on the orders of Isabella, fifteen men entered his dungeon in Berkeley Castle, held him down and inserted a red-hot poker into his bowels. So ended the life of Edward II, but what had driven Isabella to such action.

Roger and Isabella enjoyed a brief period of power but then her son, another Edward, took control in 1330. One of his first royal commands as King was to have his mother's lover Mortimer executed but he was unable to issue an order to have his mother put to death.

So instead he convicted her of treachery and had her imprisoned at Castle Rising. Conflicting accounts are given about Isabella's confinement. Some say that she enjoyed all the trapping of a dowager queen. Certainly bills have come to light that appear to show that she was kept in considerable luxury with lots of ladies in waiting, knights and squires to wait on her during her imprisonment.  But her son did decree that she should never be allowed to show her face in public again.  To this end, it is rumoured that a tunnel was built linking Castle Rising to the Red Mount Chapel at Kings Lynn. This tunnel was used by Queen Isabella in order that she could worship at the Chapel without breaking the decree of her son, though it would have been a round trip of over twelve miles.

Other stories imply that as the years went by, Isabella became more and more deranged, and took to roaming the battlements of Rising late at night bewailing her fate and her lovers death. When she died rumours began to circulate that her ghost had taken on the form of a huge wolf with fur as white as driven snow. This wolf would materialize late at night and prowl the battlements howling and baying at the moon. To this day on nights when there is a full moon, the wolf is said to still roam the battlements at Castle Rising and bay at the moon.

Many a person has claimed that Castle Rising is indeed haunted and not just by mad Isabella. Considering its venerable age and the turbulent periods of history it must have witnessed, it is hardly surprising that trapped shadowy figures from its past to still roam its ruined corridors and staircases. So if one of them happens to be a giant white wolf with dripping fangs and fiery eyes, who are you or I to question what form a long dead queen and murderess may take..