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Carisbrooke Castle. Ghosts of the Isle of Wight, with Margo Williams.

Some Carisbrooke ghost hunters wonder if the ghost of their castle's battlements is the penitent spirit of Lord Woodville, last and most catastrophic Lord of the Isle of Wight.
Photo image of battlements, Carisbrooke Castle. isle of Wight.
Haunted battlements, Carisbrooke Castle. Isle of Wight.

Last Lord of the Isle of Wight

1485, first year of King Henry VII’s reign, early into the period known as the Renaissance, Sir Edward Woodville, a relative of Henry’s wife-to-be, Elizabeth of York, was appointed Lord of the Isle of Wight.

It seemed like a good idea at the time.

Most Haunted island

Henry VII's Isle of Wight

A period of peace commenced in England following Henry Tudor's (Henry VII) accession to the throne in 1485.

The marriage in 1486 between Henry and Elizabeth of York, put an end to the murderous squabbling - the Wars of the Roses - between their two houses of Lancaster and York.

Following end of hostilities England's economy improved. Towns filled with busy artisans, labourers in villages enjoyed fair wages and constant work. A carpenter's weekly earnings purchased either a lamb, half a calf, a gallon of wine, or a bushel of wheat. Land increased in value, small landholders rose into a numerous and important 'middle' class.

King Henry fostered trade and encouraged commerce, he exalted the burghers - town citizens - while humbling what remained of the barons, until he succeeded in investing the English monarchy with the attributes of the most absolute despotism, and left for his son, Henry VIII an uncontrolled and unresisted power.

In the Isle of Wight, island boroughs were prosperous, populous and independent. Newtown covered several acres, Newport rapidly extending on every side.

Sir Edward Woodville

Edward moved into the old Norman fortress on Carisbrooke hill and for the next three years busied himself as best he could; until in 1488 his lordship heard of a fight about to happen in Brittany.

Traders crossing the channel told of how the Duke of Brittany was threatened by the King of France, Louis XIth, who wanted the province and the duke's only child, Anne, heiress of Brittany.

Only the castle fool thought the idea of getting involved was a bad one. 'You are a fool, fool!', scoffed Sir Edward. 'Only an idiot cannot see that King Henry wants the duke to resist France, victory for Louis would make him too powerful and so disturb the balance of power politics in Europe. I shall seek the king's permission to go to the aid of the duke.'

Sir Edward sought permission from the king to do so and support the effort.

Henry refused.

Surely Nay Means Yay, Verily?

Sir Edward returned to the island and in the great feasting hall gathered his noble knights and gentlemen friends for deep discussion on such serious matter.

Illustration of 15th century soldiers
'Is that someone else's armour?' asked Sir Fredrick.

'Of course, the king isn't actually against the plan', reasoned Edward. To which much clanking of armour sounded over the brave knight's conclusion. 'No! he simply wants the King of France to think English troops will not become involved. But secretly wants it to happen.'

'Huzzah! roared the knights.

Sir Edward thumped the table and according to historians rallied his men with this spirited speech. The feasting hall quietened to a wet-whiskered hush,

'Know ye not that it is in a just and politic cause we draw our swords?' roared Woodville. 'This wily King of France, this man who consorteth with buffoons and barbers who heedeth no principle of law or right, and is dead to all chivalrous influences, seeketh to possess himself of the good duke's lands, and of his daughter, the fair Anne, lawfully espoused to Maximilian, the ruler of the Low Countries, our trustworthy ally.'

'Huzzah!' roared the knights.

'I still don't think it's a good idea,' muttered the fool.

'Silence fool!'

' And if his crafty designs ripen into success, see ye not what a dangerous foe would hold the seaboard of the Channel and threaten the peace and safety of our shores? Wherefore knights and gentlemen gather ye round my standard, and let us show the men of France that we are the sons of those who conquered at Poitiers, Crecy and Agincourt!'

'Huzzah, huzzah!' the hall erupted in clank and spittle.

The Fool's Farewell

However, Elizabeth of York heard news of Edward's plans and wasn't so sure the king actually did want it to happen.

'Are you sure you can win this fight?' asked Elizabeth. 'His stylist is very good.' 

But nothing could dissuade brave Edward, as from all parts of the island men came to join the fight, from families rich and poor. They totalled four hundred, all issued with white surcoats decorated with the red cross of St. George. Among those who rallied to the call were the great families of old Wyght: Russells; Hatfields; Gorges and Trenchards; lords of Standen; de Glamorgan; de Evercy; and the Lisles.

Four ships awaited them at St. Helens where they boarded.

The fool counted them aboard, keeping to himself his opinion that their lances were not long enough, and should really have something pointy on the end, and waved them off.

'So long fool,' they chorused as the wind filled the sails.

Old illustration of the Sailing of Sir Edaward Woodville's fleet.
The sailing of Sir Edward Woodville's army.

Sir Edward's army crossed to Brittany where he was joined by 1600 of the duke's soldiers, all dressed the same, so the French army would be fooled into thinking they faced a professional army. They marched until they spied the French army near St Aubin.

The French noted their ranks, surprised by the lack of coordination in their step. Thought of their own beloved relatives cruelly defeated on the muddy battlefields of Crecy, Poitiers and Agincourt, and charged into the fight.

The Battle of Saint Aubin

According to reports only one boy escaped to bring home the bad news of their annihilation at the hands of the French.

Virtually every Island family was affected by this mad assault, and King Henry fumed.

Sir Edward Woodville was the last Lord of the Isle of Wight. After his death, the crown never again bestowed it upon any individual. Its government was made a 'military appointment' and the captain or governor was answerable to the crown.

The land belonging to the castle he held by virtue of his office and could not bequeath it to his children. In short the Isle of Wight ceased to be independent and became as much an integral part of the realm as York or Devon.

For which calamity Carisbrooke ghost hunters suspect Lord Edward is Carisbrooke Castle's battlements ghost due to the quality of his grievance and the disaster he wrought upon the Isle of Wight. Most of its greatest families and dynasties foundered and were lost completely due to his stupidity.

Exploring the haunted Isle of Wight

Those who survived hoped accountability would be somewhere in his destiny, a deep and hot destination better than the cold windy heights of the castle battlements.

Thank you for your company on this short tour of Isle of Wight mysteries and haunting. If you would like to know more about Margo Williams' investigations in Carisbrooke and other royals and rogues, read this book. Now available from Amazon.

Book cover link to purchase Ghost Encounters Royals and Rogues from Amazon.co.uk
Now avalable at Amazon.co.uk
Useful Links

Edward Woodville

Battle of St. Aubin