The Mistletoe Bride & other haunting tales by Kate Mosse

I am a huge fan of Kate Mosse and her beautiful novels as anyone who follows my site will know from my reviews of Labyrinth, Sepulchre and Citadel. Her latest new release is a short story collection where I discovered the urban legend of The Mistletoe Bride. I just love it when you find a new book and there is an unexpected connection to the nineteenth-century.

“I hear someone coming.

Has someone caught the echo of my footsteps on these floorboards? It is possible. It has happened before. I pause and listen, but now I no longer hear anything. I sigh. As always, hope is snatched away before it can take root.

Even now, after so long, I cannot account for the fact that no one ever ventures into this part of this house. I do not understand how I am still waiting, waiting after all these years. Sometimes I see them moving around below. Sense their presence. Bramshill House has been home to many families in my time and, though the clothes and the styles and the customs are different, it seems to me that each generation is much the same. I remember them all, their faces alive with the legends of the house and the belief that it is haunted. Men and women and children, listening to the stories. The story of a game of hide-and-seek.

I pray that this will be the day. The end of my story. That, this time, someone at last will find me. But the halls and the corridors beneath me are silent again.

No one is coming.

And so then, as always, I am carried back to that Christmas so very long ago.”

The urban legend, myth, folklore behind The Mistletoe Bride began with a poem, ‘Ginerva’ by Samuel Rogers in his book, ‘Italy’ published in 1823. I checked my copy of Italian Folktales by Italo Calvino to see if there was an Italian based similar myth but couldn’t find a correlating story.  ‘The Mistletoe Bride’ is a story of a newly married couple married in a large farmhouse where she grew up. After the wedding the guests played a game of hide and seek where the groom was it.  The bride wanting to win, went into the manor house, ran up to the attic, found an old trunk and hid in it. Nobody could find her including her husband who just figured she grew tired and went to sleep. After everyone went home, he began looking for her but couldn’t find her anywhere. She was never found until a few years later when her mother died. The woman’s father was looking through his wife’s things collecting dust in the attic when he found an old chest. The lid was closed and the old lock was rusted shut. Eventually, he opened the lid and was terrified to see his daughter’s corpse there in the chest. When she hid there, the lid had closed and the rusty parts of the lock had latched together, trapping her inside. She suffocated to death. 

The tale of The Mistletoe Bride was gaining popularity in the nineteenth century, so much so that it was popularized in song, ‘The Mistletoe Bough’ written by T.H. Bayley in 1884 where singing it around Christmas began a yearly occurrence in English households throughout England.
  The Mistletoe Bough by Thomas Haynes Bayley (song, 1884) 

The mistletoe hung in the castle hall
The holly branch shone on the old oak wall.
The Baron’s retainers were blithe and gay,
Keeping the Christmas holiday.

The Baron beheld with a father’s pride
His beautiful child, Lord Lovell’s bride.
And she, with her bright eyes seemed to be
The star of that goodly company.
Oh, the mistletoe bough.
Oh, the mistletoe bough.

“I’m weary of dancing, now,” she cried;
“Here, tarry a moment, I’ll hide, I’ll hide,
And, Lovell, be sure you’re the first to trace
The clue to my secret hiding place.”

Away she ran, and her friends began
Each tower to search and each nook to scan.
And young Lovell cried, “Oh, where do you hide?
I’m lonesome without you, my own fair bride.”
Oh, the mistletoe bough.
Oh, the mistletoe bough.

They sought her that night, they sought her next day,
They sought her in vain when a week passed away.
In the highest, the lowest, the loneliest spot,
Young Lovell sought wildly, but found her not.

The years passed by and their brief at last
Was told as a sorrowful tale long past.
When Lovell appeared, all the children cried,
“See the old man weeps for his fairy bride.”
Oh, the mistletoe bough.
Oh, the mistletoe bough.

At length, an old chest that had long laid hid
Was found in the castle; they raised the lid.
A skeleton form lay mouldering there
In the bridal wreath of that lady fair.

How sad the day when in sportive jest
She hid from her lord in the old oak chest,
It closed with a spring and a dreadful doom,
And the bride lay clasped in a living tomb.
Oh, the mistletoe bough.
Oh, the mistletoe bough.

The belief is that the setting of the story and song must be Minster Lovell Hall a manor house belonging to Lord Lovell located in the village of Minster Lovell in Oxfordshire.  One interesting note about Minster Lovell Manor House was that Lord Lovell was a close friend of Richard III who awarded him the post of Constable of the Royal Castle of Wallingford and Chamberlain of the Royal Household. Interesting that this true story based upon myth, the Lovell family might date back to Richard III and such historical times.

Minster Lovell Hall, Oxfordshire,England. Supposed site of The Mistletoe Bride


Great post and now I must buy the book! What an interesting story.
Kevin Marsh said…
Hello Kimberly,

I, as you know, like Kate Mosse and her books. This one looks good.
What a lovely story The Mistletoe Bride is although its a frightening tale of jollity gone wrong.

Hope you are feeling better.

Kind regards
Kimberly Eve said…
Hi Melinda,
So glad you liked it. I forgot to mention that Kate Mosse's new release, The Mistletoe Bride is a UK release but I found it on Abebooks for $20 hardcover!

Hi Kevin,
I was thinking of you and wondering if you've bought this one yet! It is a frightening tale. I just kept thinking, 'that poor family!' Yes, feeling a bit better. Thank you. Thank you both for stopping by and leaving comments.
Jeanne_Treat said…
Nice post. Interesting story. Shared.
Kimberly Eve said…
Hi Jeanne,
Thanks for commenting and sharing. So glad you enjoyed it! Much appreciated.