The White Lady of Kinsale: A Haunting Irish Tale of True Love Ending in Sorrow
The White Lady of Kinsale is a famous Irish ghost story. The tragic tale takes place in Charles Fort, where people have seen the phantom of a young bride wandering the site where she and her beloved met their fate.
The History of Charles Fort
Kinsale is a seaside town situated in County Cork, in the southwestern part of Ireland. Due to its strategic location, the town played a prominent role in Ireland’s history. During the 6th century, a monastery was founded by St. Multose on the site that would eventually develop into the town of Kinsale. When the Vikings arrived in the 10th century, Kinsale was developed into a trading port, and continued to play this role when the Anglo-Normans landed in the 13th century. Kinsale continued to prosper in the coming centuries, and by the end of the Medieval period, could be counted as one of the most important towns on the south coast of Ireland.
Charles Fort. (Nigel Cox/CC BY SA 2.0)
In 1601, a Spanish military expedition landed in Kinsale. At that time, the Nine Years’ War (also known as Tyrone’s Rebellion, and not to be confused with the Nine Years’ War of the 1690s) was being fought by the Irish against English rule in Ireland. The Spanish supported the Irish, and the 1601 expedition was supposed to make contact with the Irish rebels in order to attack England from Ireland. This did not work out as planned, and Kinsale was soon besieged by the English. The Siege of Kinsale lasted from October 1601 till the beginning of 1602, and was won by the English besiegers. This siege was the last battle in the Nine Years’ War.
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In the decades following the war, the English began to build fortifications on the coast to prevent Kinsale from being captured by enemies so easily in the future. Around 1677, the Earl of Orrey ordered the building of a new fort to command the Ringcurran Point on the eastern side of Kinsale Harbor. The fort was named Charles Fort, in honor of Charles II, the King of England at the time of the fort’s construction. The fort was designed by the renowned architect William Robinson, and utilized the most advanced fort design that was available at the time.
Although the fort protected the town from any attack from sea, it had one serious flaw. While inspecting Charles Fort in 1685, the military engineer Thomas Phillips pointed out that the fort was vulnerable to land attacks, as it was overlooked by higher ground. Five years later, Charles Fort was besieged for the first and last time in its history, and as one might expect, it was a land attack. Cannon batteries were established on the high ground above the fort, and after a siege of 13 days, the defenders surrendered.
The location where the White Lady of Kinsale allegedly jumped from Charles Fort. (The Speckled Bird/CC BY SA 4.0)
The White Lady of Kinsale Ghost Story
At some point of time in the fort’s history, a ghost story was attached to the site. The incident allegedly took place sometime during the 17th century and involved the commander of the fort, his daughter, and her husband, who was one of her father’s officers. The stories do not mention the names of these characters, though one source states that the commander was supposed to be a man named Warrender.
In any case, the commander of the fort had a daughter, who fell in love with one of the father’s officers. After a short period of courtship, the two got married. On the night of their wedding, the couple took a stroll on the fort’s ramparts and spotted a single white rose growing below. A sentry on duty volunteered to get the flower as a wedding gift for the couple, if the officer would take his place while he was gone. The officer agreed, and the sentry went off to get the rose. For one reason or another, the sentry took much longer than expected, so the officer sent his wife back in and continued to stand guard.
On the night of their wedding, the couple took a stroll on the fort’s ramparts and spotted a single white rose growing below. (Pixabay License)
As a result of all the festivities that day, the officer grew tired and dozed off. Not long after, the commander was making his rounds and saw the sleeping officer. As was the protocol of the day, he shot the sleeping officer, realizing only too late that it was his son-in-law. Seeing what he had done, the commander committed suicide by jumping of the ramparts. When the new bride woke up, she went to look for her husband, and saw his corpse. Looking over the ramparts, she saw the body of her father as well. The bride, unable to bear her grief, jumped of the ramparts herself, and her ghost, dressed in a wedding gown, is said to haunt the fort ever since.
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Sightings of the Lady in White of Kinsale
Unlike many other ghost stories, the details of the Lady in White of Kinsale story are rather thin. For instance, characters in this tale are not even named and the date when the incident not even mentioned. Moreover, there is no other evidence to suggest that these events actually took place.
A ghost bride, like the White Lady of Kinsale. (Pixabay License)
Nevertheless, some claim to have seen the ghost of the White Lady of Kinsale (also known as the Lady in White of Kinsale). Up until 1921, Charles Fort was in use and soldiers and their families used to live there. In one story, a nurse saw the Lady in White standing over a sleeping child. In another, the White Lady was seen looking over a bannister by the daughter of a sergeant. The girl’s father and his colleague, who were with her, however, did not see the ghost.
Top image: A ghost bride, like the White Lady of Kinsale. Source: (kharchenkoirina / Adobe Stock)
By Wu Mingren
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Murphy, S., 2017. The White Lady Of Kinsale. Available at: https://myrealireland.com/cork/white-lady-kinsale/
O'Regan, A., 2018. The haunting figure of the Lady in White of Kinsale. Available at: https://www.irishcentral.com/roots/history/haunted-ireland-lady-white-kinsale-cork
Smith, M. K., 2018. One of Ireland's most tragic Irish ghost stories - The White Lady of Kinsale. Available at: https://www.irishcentral.com/roots/history/irelands-most-famous-ghost-white-lady-kinsale-charlesfort
www.discoverireland.ie, 2019. Charles Fort. Available at: https://www.discoverireland.ie/Arts-Culture-Heritage/charles-fort/370