The Green Lady of Caerphilly Castle

Sprawling across an impressive 30 acres, Caerphilly Castle is Wale’s largest castle. It began its life as a medieval fortress built between 1268-1271, by Gilbert de Clare. The castle’s design is based on a “concentric ring of walls, something not seen in Britain before. It also has an extensive ring of water defenses and huge gatehouses. This mammoth stronghold remains a striking testament to the Anglo-Norman domination of the area.” Its impressive age, size, and strength is legendary enough...but there is a ghost that haunts these halls. She is known as  the Green Lady of Caerphilly Castle.

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This story begins with Alice de la Marche of France, the niece of Henry II and wife of Earl Gilbert de Clare. Alice was a woman with refined tastes, a passionate nature, and had a bit of a wild side. This wild side caused some friction between her and her husband, as she “came to resent her husband’s warring disposition.”

On a seemingly normal day, Gruffudd the Fair (who was also Prince of Brithdir) visited the castle. He immediately caught Alice’s eye and she quickly became enamored with this handsome, well-spoken prince. Before long, the two were lovers. Unfortunately for the secret couple, Gruffudd, unable to handle his guilt, confessed his secret relationship to a monk. This monk was loyal to de Clare, who he quickly informed.

Seeing red due to his anger, he immediately sent his wife back to Franche and ordered his men to hunt down Gruffudd.

Gruffudd, who was forewarned of de Clare’s search, also succumbed to anger and revenge. He hunted down the monk that shared his secret with de Clare and hung him from a tree. Not long after this excursion, de Clare’s man caught up to him. Just a short time later, Gruffudd would also be hanging.

Soon after, a page was sent to inform Alice of her lover’s demise at her husband’s hands. Unable to handle the fact that she helped cause her lover’s death, she dropped dead. Although she died in France, it is said her ghost returned to Caerphily Castle to haunt its great ramparts.

After a few weeks of investigating the Lady in White stories, I was surprised to come and find an interesting sub-genre of Lady in Green stories. Although the above story does share some similar stories to Lady in White stories, Lady in Green stories seem to 1) take place in castles and 2) involve some royal or noble lineage.

Back to Alice, though. She is dressed in green, representative of her husband’s envy, and she wanders the halls in silent solitude. Some say she is stuck in purgatory for her sins, others say she is waiting to meet once again with Gruffudd, and still more say she is still in shock...even all these days later.

Other accounts also give her a unique ability -ability to turn herself into ivy. If you spy her through her guise and she likes you, she will reach out to shake your hand and vanish shortly after.

The cover image is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license. You can view it here.