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

A sinister spectral figure sometimes is seen drifting along this battlements walk in Carisbrooke Castle. Guesses gather like mist around the mystery of its identity.
Photo Image of Carisbrooke Castle Battlements above King Charles' prison room.
Carisbrooke Castle Battlements above King Charles' prison room.

Ghost King of the Castle

Ghost-hunters guess the ghost of the castle battlements is King Charles I, for understandable reasons. Imprisoned here for a year and doubtless burdened by a maximum weight of grievance to this old castle.

But those who have been frightened close-up say the ghost is a big figure, and insist it must be keen-eyed bowman Peter de Heyno who defeated an invading French army with a single shot; spirit-sentry stepping up in defence against an enemy.

Some hazard a wager it is the ghost of a careless army captain who imprisoned the children of a king.

Most Haunted island

Photo montage of Charles I, Elizabeth and Henry Stuart
Elizabeth and Henry Stuart were imprisoned in Carisbrooke Castle where their father King Charles I was held captive.

Children in the Castle

Following the fall of King Charles I, wife Henrietta Maria and their children escaped into exile abroad. All except two, youngest son Henry and daughter Princess Elizabeth aged fourteen. Oliver Cromwell ordered them held captive.

The decision was taken by Parliament to send them to Carisbrooke Castle, where their father was imprisoned for a year before his trial.

The children arrived during Thursday 13th August 1650, met by the new commander of the castle - Colonel William Sydenham, one of Cromwell's favoured officers, a fierce God-fearing Puritan.

Elizabeth clever and sensitive, Henry in total shock at his father's last and parting words describing the horror that was about to happen to the king of England.

The House of Commons debated on what to do with the royal captives: "Bind the boy to a good trade," suggested Cromwell. Elizabeth was to work as an apprentice to a button-maker in Newport. Henry to a shoe-maker.

Elizabeth Stuart

While imprisoned in Carisbrooke Castle Elizabeth described in writing her last sight of her father. She could have done so in different languages.

She last saw her mother years before. February 1642 the queen set out for Holland with her eldest daughter Mary, betrothed to the Prince of Orange, to raise supplies for Charles' assistance in his struggle with parliament.

Princess Elizabeth never saw her mother or sister again.

She and Henry were passed from house to house; passed on with lower budgets until she arrived on the Isle of Wight with a fever. And when it rained, cold and hard on the Monday after their arrival - August 19th - Sydenham's men were slow to stop play on King Charles' rain-soaked bowling green.

Next day Elizabeth complained of a headache and fever which worsened. During the first four days she was attended by Dr. Bagnell a physician from Newport, and from London Dr. Treherne sent a physician with some of his own prepared remedies. Despite all best efforts Elizabeth's condition worsened.

She passed from life alone in her room on Sunday 8th September 1650.

Exploring the haunted Isle of Wight

Princess Elizabeth Profile

Born in St. James' Palace London 20th January 1635 Elizabeth was the second daughter and fifth child of Charles I and Henrietta Maria.

Inherited his melancholy temperament and her delicate physicality, from early childhood years Elizabeth's constitution was not robust.

Royal physician noted: '...sad, and somewhat liable to complaints of the spleen.' When in 1640 there was a plan to engage her to the Prince of Orange, the Secretary of State wrote she might probably expire before their contract was completed.

But she was clever. 'She proved a lady of parts beyond her age,' observed Fuller, '...the quickness of her mind making recompense for the weakness of her body.' So great was her progress that before she was eight years old she could read and write five languages beside her own - Hebrew, Greek, Latin, Italian and French. She read the Scriptures in their original tongues.

Princess Elizabeth's COD

According to Sir Theodore Mayerne, summoned to help but arrived too late: "She died of a malignant fever, which constantly increased, and she being far distant from physicians and remedies."

Another account by Heath was critical:

"...The Princess Elizabeth, coming from bowls with her brother complained first of her head and having lain sick a fortnight, died. Little care was taken of her, the place affording no learned physician..."

Elizabeth lay cheek resting on a Bible, the last gift from her father.

Examination of her remains revealed Elizabeth died of Rickets, a disease generally caused by a lack of vitamin D, which softens the bones, and relatively unknown to English practitioners at the time.

Henry followed the borrowed coach to Newport, watched his sister's funeral. He remained imprisoned in the castle until 1652 when Cromwell permitted him to join what remained of his family in Holland.

Princess Elizabeth's Letter

During imprisonment at Carisbrooke Elizabeth wrote out her father's last words before he was taken away:

Illustration of King Charles saying "Goodbye" to Elizabeth and Henry.
King Charles saying "Goodbye" to Elizabeth and Henry.

'What the king said to me 29th of January last, being the last time I had the happiness to see him,' she wrote.

"He told me that he was glad I was come, for, though he had not time to say much, yet somewhat he wished to say to me, which he could not to another, and he had feared 'the cruelty' was too great to permit his writing. 'But sweetheart,' he added, 'thou wilt forget what I tell thee.'

Then shedding an abundance of tears I told him that I would write down all he said to me. 'He wished me,' he said, 'not to grieve and torment myself for him, for it was a glorious dxxth he should dxe, it being for the laws and the religion of the land.' He told me what books to read against Popery.

He said that, 'he had forgiven all his enemies, and he hoped God would forgive them also;' and he commanded us, and all the rest of my brothers and sisters, to forgive them also. Above all, he bade me tell my mother that 'his thoughts had never strayed from her, and that his love for her would be the same to the last;' withal, he commanded me and my brother to love her, and be obedient to her.

He desired me 'not to grieve for him, for he should dxe a martyr; and that he doubted not but God would restore the throne to his son, and that then we should all be happier than we could possibly have been, if he had lived;' with many other things, which I cannot remember.

His majesty also bid me send his blessing to the rest of my brothers sisters, with commendations to all his friends. So after giving me his blessing, I took my leave. Reliquae Sacrae."

Photo image of warrant for Charles I
Warrant for the King

Another World is Possible - the Underworld

Ghost hunters gathered at the start-of-winter party in Carisbrooke's fantastic restaurant Valentino's, gamble guesses as to the identity of the castle's battlements ghost.

Careless Captain William Sydenham is on the list of lost spirit candidates. Some insist God got it right to condemn him to pay penance in eternal rounds of Carisbrooke Castle's walls.

Objectors to Sydenham haunting the battlements say others did worse to the innocent than casual neglect of a princess. "Bad behaviour causes a ghost," insist the moralists among the ghost-hunting community.

In Valentino's the debate continues, and some nights when Italy's old Gods of Rome are spoken of, people hush and pause thoughtful on what happens to the evil dead in the Underworld, Pluto's correctional facility.

And agree. Safer to be a ghost of a castle's battlements, than down there.

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 Castle and other life and death matters, read this book. Now available from Amazon.

Book cover link to purchase Ghost Encounters Life and Death from
Now available from Amazon
Useful Links

Princess Elizabeth Stuart


Valentino's Restaurant