Every time I visit my dad’s home in Caerphilly Wales, I spend at least a day ‘inspecting’ my castle. If you wonder why I’ve laid claim to this famous castle, built back in 1271 by the English chieftain Earl Gilbert de Clare, it’s because I grew up hearing stories from Dad who used to play inside it when he was a boy. From the first time I actually saw the castle back in the mid ‘70’s up until now, I feel I ‘own’ a piece of it and thus I have chosen to refer to it as my castle!
Earl Gilbert de Clare’s castle was besieged by Llewelyn, Prince of Wales, back in the late 1200s and Henry III stepped in to enforce a truce after which Earl Gilbert regained possession of the castle.
It was again attacked in 1316 during a revolt by another Welsh lord, Llewelyn Bren. During the 15th century it fell into decay and it wasn’t until 1929 that it was restored by the Marquises of Bute. It’s one of the best preserved castles in Wales and is now protected by the Department of Environment.
The castle has many stories to tell. In one big room there is a tapestry hanging on the wall depicting three women who were noted inhabitants. The first is Alice de Lusignon (1236-1290) the first wife of Gilbert de Clare. As he was away at war much of the time, the lonely queen found comfort in the arms of a local knight. When Gilbert found out he had the knight hanged and annulled his marriage to Alice. In despair she left off the castle walls. It is her ghost who is said to haunt the castle.
I published a story about this famous myths, the Green Lady, a tale that has intrigued me since I first began to visit Caerphilly castle. I’m always aware of her apparition each time I go, watch for her on the walls on a moonlit night, ‘feel’ her presence as I wander the narrow stone passageways and enter the big empty palace rooms.
Eleanor de Clare is the third woman pictured in the tapestry (1292-1337). She was the daughter of Gilbert and Joan. After Gilbert died the castle was bequeathed to his 3 sons but while they were away the castle was besieged by Llewelyn Bren and under Eleanor’s it was successful held out til help arrived. She also survived an unhappy marriage to a dangerous and disliked husband and an imprisonment in the Tower of London.
As you stroll around the long passages and up the winding stairways you’ll see different displays and art work telling the castle’s history. And out front, beside the moat there is an interesting display of siege equipment.