The Curse of the Royal Forest of New Forest

The Curse of the Royal Forest of New Forest
The Curse of the Royal Forest of New Forest

National Park New Forest (New Forest) in the English county of Hampshire can be called one of the most beautiful places in the British Isles. Its vast expanses are home to picturesque fields, small villages, and, of course, legendary thickets with age-old trees. But still, despite the stunning panoramas, this place has been considered cursed for several centuries. Rumor has it that in addition to deer and cute ponies in the New Forest, you can often meet monsters and ghosts.

Brutal Conqueror

The new forest in the southeast of Hampshire owes its curse and name to its unusual appearance. After all, he was landed here on a royal whim. A few years after the conquest of England, the newly-minted ruler William the Conqueror suddenly discovered that there were no hunting grounds suitable for him on the captured island. He solved this problem in an original and radical way. Having looked at a suitable place, the crowned Norman ordered to drive far away from the chosen territory of the peasants from 36 (!) Villages, destroy their houses and plant an "uncountable set" of adult (!) Oaks on the vacated lands. The order of the monarch was carried out in record-breaking short lines, and, oddly enough, almost all the trees brought from different parts of England successfully took root in a new place.

The legend says that, leaving their native lands, the people exiled to nowhere cursed the king and his man-made thickets, tirelessly repeating that the new forest would certainly take revenge, if not the ruler himself, so his descendants. And this prophecy was exactly fulfilled after several decades.

Those peasants who managed to preserve their homes near the royal lands, too, soon bitterly regretted it. For them, William the Conqueror has developed a special draconian code of laws regulating the behavior of "vile smerds". According to these laws, the poor fellows were not only forbidden to hunt animals that lived in the forest, but also to drive away wild boars and deer that wandered into their area. They gouged out their eyes or cut off their hands. In addition, the "lucky ones" were not allowed to fence their arable lands and gardens with fences, as they interfered with his majesty's hunting.

Black prophecy

Despite all of the above royal "favors", the curse did not touch William the Conqueror. He enjoyed hunting in his man-made lands until his death, and the reckoning for the atrocities fell on the heads of the ruler's descendants. The first victim of the New Forest was the king's son Richard, who was beaten to death with horns by a wounded deer. It was said that this happened under very strange circumstances. The driven beast, pierced by several arrows, lay on the ground, bleeding. But when the prince approached him to examine his prey, the dying animal suddenly jumped to its feet and tore the hunter to pieces.

Less than a year after this tragedy, another Richard, the nephew of William the Conqueror, died in the new royal lands. This time the arrow, fired by the hand of an unknown archer from the thicket of the forest, became the instrument of Providence.

Poor Rufus

The most famous victim of the man-made royal lands was the son and heir of the Conqueror, William Rufus (Red), who succeeded his father - on the English throne. The death of this monarch was accompanied by ominous omens, which were well remembered by the witnesses of those events. On the eve of the fatal hunt, the king saw in a dream how a scarlet stream of blood splashed into the sky from his hand and flooded the sun. But Rufus did not attach any importance to this dream, just like the letter of a good friend, Abbot Cerlo. In his message, this sane old man and good shepherd implored the ruler to stay away from the New Forest in the near future, referring to a bad vision of one of the brothers of the monastery, which he headed. After reading the correspondence, the king only mockingly said that he did not understand at all "why it is necessary to waste ink in order to inform that the monks are dreaming." After that, he went hunting.

The king was accompanied by the knight Walter Tyrrell, who witnessed the tragedy. According to his story, Rufus was chasing a large deer.Having driven the animal, the king fired an arrow, but it, having made an unthinkable pirouette, hit the trunk of an oak tree and, bouncing back, stuck into William's heart. Of course, such a fantastic "suicide" is hard to believe, but Tyrrel, who was suspected of murder, somehow managed to prove his case and escape royal justice. In addition, this knight, many years later, word for word repeated the previous testimony during his deathbed confession, when it was already pointless to lie and dodge.

The fatal curse was confirmed by another amazing incident.

The deceased king was buried by grieving subjects in Winchester Cathedral. And exactly one year later, one of his towers, the one under which the body of Rufus rested, collapsed for some unknown reason.

They say that today the shadow of the slain king can be found in the New Forest. And if you believe the stories of eyewitnesses, this red-haired ghost with an arrow sticking out of his chest sometimes leaves the place of his death and looks into the windows of pubs and houses of the surrounding villages.

Goblin, pixies and ghosts

There is another legend. The place where the New Forest was planted has always been considered "bad". They say that long before William the Conqueror, evil creatures lived here - pixies, who caused people a lot of trouble. So, it was a pleasure for these insidious monsters to shoot a poisoned arrow at a person who wandered here, from which the poor fellow began to convulse or refused to arms and legs. It was possible to recover from this ailment only with the help of a special potion, the secret of which was not known to every village healer.

They say that it was these inhabitants of the "bad" place that helped to take root in the oaks brought here by the order of the Conqueror, as they liked his idea.

However, the main evil of the New Forest for many centuries was considered the devil Lawrence, the keeper of the local thicket. The favorite amusement of this "shaggy devil" was the following joke. Taking the form of a horse or a man, Lawrence lured an unsuspecting passer-by into the swamp, where he left him for certain death. He also sometimes turned a hunter or a woodcutter who worked in the forest into invisibility, after which he laughed loudly, looking at the suffering of the unfortunate.

In Hampshire, the name of the goblin hooligan, whose pranks did not please the local peasants at all, even became a household name. So, about a person laughing for no apparent reason, they say: "Lawrence possessed him."

And yet the main attraction of the New Forest is its ghosts. People believe that a great many of them live here among the age-old trees. On stormy nights, ghostly entities get out of the forest thicket, laugh terribly, rage, swing on the branches of trees, and then scatter throughout the district.

But, unlike King Rufus, basically all ghosts are unnamed, and only one of them is well known to the locals. Rather, one is the witch Mary Dore, who at the end of the 17th century lived near the village of Bewley, located next to the forest. They say that this lady spoiled relations with her neighbors so much that none of them wanted to pay for the witch's funeral when she died. Since then, she has been wandering through the forest as an ethereal ghost, guessing a chance to take revenge on the offenders.

From the end of the 16th century, on moonlit nights in the New Forest, you can see a procession of ghostly monks emerging from the trees, moving towards the cemetery of the town of Brimore, located nearby. After wandering here for some time among the graves, the humble monks return back. Locals believe that this intimidating walk is made by the brothers of Bewley Abbey, who died during the Reformation.

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