Corfe Castle: Intrigue With A View
From a wicked stepmother to tales of dungeons and terror, Corfe castle has many stories to tell. I parked in the museum visitor lot and walked quite a way (ok, it just seemed like a long walk – I was tired) up to the castle ruins at the top -you will know it is the top by the end of the walk – of the hill. It is thought that people have been using the hill for a long time. In fact, the word Corfe is an Anglo-Saxon term which means “pass” or “cutting.”
A Wicked Stepmother
According to the guidebook, Anglo-Saxon King Edward was out hunting in 978 when he decided to visit his half-brother and stepmother at Corfe. His stepmother, Elfryda, supposedly ordered Edward to be stabbed, which he was, in order that her son, Ethelred, could become king. She should have waited until Ethelred was ready to be a king first. His policies were so ill-advised that he was saddled with the moniker, Ethelred the Unready.
King John and Corfe Castle
Corfe was known to be one of King John’s favorite castles. He made improvements to both the castle’s defenses and its royal palace. As the Norman castle was quite old by then (built under William the Conqueror) John had the Gloriette built. The Gloriette was a new royal residence, in truth, built for a king. But times were not all good at Corfe. It also served as the prison for Princess Eleanor, John’s niece. If you would like to read more about the exploits of King John, I highly recommend Sharon Kay Penman’s novels. Here Be Dragons would be a good start!
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