For this year’s first festive tale we visited Bramshill House in Hampshire for the tale of the Mistletoe Bride. The house is rumoured to be the most haunted in Britain, with a whopping 14 resident ghosts! These include a Green Man, a Knight in Armour, a Tennis Player and a Ghostly child. If you check out the video I cover all fourteen of them!
The focus of our story today, however, is on The White Woman. This ghost is said to haunt the Fleur de Lys room and harbours a particularly tragic tale. One set at, and often recited during, Christmas time. Read on for a festive fright to get you in the Christmas spirit for, well, Christmas spirits!
Ghost Stories at Christmas
The tradition of telling ghost stories on Christmas Eve was a hugely popular one during the 18th century. A newly formed middle class with extra time on their hands would need a way to pass dark, cold nights. Nights where anything could be imagined to lurk in the corners of fire lit rooms. Nights where all the family are gathered around the fireplace for warmth. Dicken’s ‘The Christmas Carol’ is clearly the most popular of these festive tales. Another author of note is M. R. James whose tradition of Christmas Eve storytelling at Kings College is a famous one. As are his tales, such as “Whistle and I’ll Come to you My Lad”.
The Misteltoe Bough
This tale begins in Christmas 1727. Anne Cope has just married Hugh Bethell of Yorkshire. Anne is the eldest daughter of John Cope of the aforementioned Bramshill House. After celebrations drew to a close, and before retiring, Anne proposes a game of Hide and Seek. Her guests permit her a five minute head start after which they will hunt for the new bride in her hiding place. Minutes pass and the bride is deemed to be quite the champion. Hours passed and the guests grow concerned. There is neither head nor hair of the bride to be found. Hours turn to days, days to years. Rumours spread that the bride regretted her marriage to Hugh immediately. That she ran away rather than face a life with him. Hugh, however, never gave up on the search for his bride.
We now fast forward to fifty years since the mystery of the vanishing bride on Christmas Day. Hugh is searching the house, as he often did, for clues to her disappearance. He finds himself in the attic. Hugh taps an oak panel that revels a previously unseen door. Through the secret entrance lies a chest. Within the chest, the answer to the mystery. A grisly sight! A skeleton, wearing a wedding dress and clutching a bouquet of mistletoe. Inside the lid, the scratch marks of a poor soul attempting to escape her claustrophobic tomb.
It is said today that Anne’s ghost walks the Fleur de Lys room of Bramshill House at night. Hugh is believed to be responsible for another spirit. That of a man, glimpsed staring at the chest where his bride had remained so close to him all those years.
Points of Contest
There are a few debated points within the story’s claim to authenticity. Beyond the obvious as to whether or not ghosts exist, that is! The story is associated with a number of stately homes in the UK although Bramshill House is the one deemed to be most credible. Although it is said that the chest that stands in the hall today is not the one from the story, the original best having been removed by an earlier owner of the house.
It is also said that the tragic tale did not actually happen to Anne Cope or within the house at all. In fact, it is said that the ghost arrived to the house with the chest itself. The story of an entombed bride true but having already happened. The theory is that the tale pertains to Genevre Orsini, an Italian woman from a well to do family. Genevre too married her beloved in 1727, as Anne and Hugh did. It is said that after Genevre died encased within the chest the chest was sold to an English man and brought to Bramshill. The ghost of The White Woman in this case is thought to be that of Genevre herself.
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