Sir Edward Waldegrave. (1517-1561)
In January 2011 my Muse paid me a long overdue visit. With him was a very dour looking gentleman dressed from feather hatted head to booted and spurred feet in Elizabethan costume.
This was, I learned, Sir Edward Waldegrave, one time squire of Borley, staunch Catholic and recusant. And if the legends were to be believed, one of the ghosts of Borley. And no wonder he felt the need to still be lurking around his former home. Imprisoned in the Tower by Elizabeth 1st for continuing to hear Mass at his home, Borley Hall, he suffered terribly during his incarceration there.
He was plagued by frequent illnesses and possibly even suffered the agony of ‘the rack’, but such is the sparsity of information about his imprisonment and even as to how he died, we cannot be sure. However, there is a letter extant, written by the Earl of Oxford to Sir William Cecil which suggests that some form of force was used to extract a confession from Edward.
Sir Edward died in the Tower on September 1st 1561 possibly of a chronic illness made worse by the conditions of his imprisonment. But, there is no absolute proof as to the manner of his passing and there are still those who think he may have been executed. Admittedly, it’s a slim possibility, but it presented me with the ideal scenario for my story.
Executed for his beliefs, buried by Protestant rites in a Protestant chapel (St Peter ad Vincula) it would have been intolerable for the Catholic Sir Edward, so no wonder he walked the grounds of his former home seeking some form of retribution.
The Sir Edward in my story ‘Twenty Three Steps to Borley’ is beheaded. He spends his final hours praying that his soul will return to his beloved Borley Hall after his death. And on the morning of his execution, and accompanied by his faithful valet and friend, William he counts the steps he takes to the block. The final one being the moment the axe strikes and sets his spirit free.
Of course, the Edward of my story bears no resemblance whatsoever to the marble effigy of Sir Edward on the Waldegrave memorial (above) in Borley Church. My fellow is dark and extremely handsome and a little younger than the real Edward Waldegrave. The only thing they have in common is their height. Both the real and the fictional Edward are/were very tall.
And how do we know that EW, the real one was tall? Well, an occupant of the rectory was said to have had a somewhat alarming encounter in a corridor with a very tall man with a swarthy complexion and dressed in 16th century clothes. Sir Edward? Who knows, but it is possible I suppose.
Then, a month or two after finishing Twenty Three Steps, I had a moment which all authors experience at some time in their writing careers…..What If? What if the faithful valet William has harboured a secret love for his master and friend for years, only confessing to Edward two days before Edward is due to die.
Enter Ned & Will.
Top, The Waldegrave Memorial in Borley Church
Centre, Borley Hall in the 1940s
Above, Encounter with Edward?
Read more about Borley Rectory and Sir Edward Waldegrave in this fascinating book;
The Enigma of Borley Rectory
All images, Google Images