I’m a goth girl, there’s just no growing out of it. I love dark stories and tormented characters. Castles cloaked in mist and midnight, spirits haunting the halls in search of love long-lost. Which brings me to Wales and Caerphilly (or Caerffili) Castle.
Built in 1268 by an Anglo-Norman Lord “Red Gilbert” de Clare, Lord of Glamorgan (can’t you just feel a story coming on?), Caerphilly secured the land and prevented lowland south Wales from falling into the grip of Llywelyn ap Gruffudd, Prince of Wales. I’m itching to go into the details of the castle, but since you’re probably not here for a history lesson, I’ll restrain myself. Let’s just say the castle was grim, dark, and drafty, not exactly party central.
Gilbert married Alice de la Marche, French niece of King Henry II. And what is a lonely princess to do, trapped in a dreary castle while her hubby’s off battling Welsh princes? Throw shin-digs, of course. Lady Alice wasn’t about to sit on the battlements twiddling her thumbs, waiting for entertainment. She organized jousts and feasts to jolly it up. Locals were invited, as well as neighboring Welsh nobility.
I suppose staying faithful might have been hard in those days. Alice probably didn’t have a say in marrying de Clare. We don’t know if she loved him or even respected him. He could have been a complete jerk. And when a young, handsome Welsh prince by the name of Tew Teg Gruffydd waltzed in, maybe his charm swept her off her slippers and into his arms. I wonder how many novels this true tale of history has inspired? Moving on.
Alice couldn’t resist the “wild Welshman.” Can’t you just picture them sneaking off into dark corners for a kiss or planning a secret rendezvous in the tower? The thrill and danger of being caught? But cheating never pays. Spurred by a guilty conscience, the fling was confessed to a monk—some stories claim Tew confessed and others Alice, although from a writer’s perspective, I’d like to think it was Tew.
Then…dun, dun, dun—betrayal. The monk leaked the information to Lord de Clare. Some stories say Gilbert locked Alice in a tower for her crime, others say she was shipped off to relatives in France (the locked in the tower version is way more romantic). Whatever the case, Tew didn’t appreciate the monk’s betrayal. At all. He had his vengeance by hunting the mouthy monk down and hanging him.
Sadly, Alice and Tew never reunited, for Gilbert had Tew assassinated. I’m thinking de Clare was a jerk since he had Tew killed not for having an affair with his wife, but for hanging the unscrupulous cleric.
After Alice’s death, her spirit returned to Caerphilly Castle. Residents call her the Green Lady because she appears in flowing green robes (green is the color for magic in Celtic mythology, much beloved by supernatural creatures, such as fairies). She can be found gazing to the north from the battlements or floating from tower to tower in search of Tew the Fair. Security guards won’t go to the flag tower due to the overwhelming scent of Lady Alice’s perfume that lingers there.
Tragic ends like this one give me an urge to rewrite the story, to give it the HEA Alice and Tew never had. What’s your favorite gothic story? Have any forlorn tales from history inspired a story in you?