This is one of those stories that has been linked to different places—always some creepy old house or castle—and peoples—always some vaunted family of good pedigree in England. The most likely candidate for the setting is Bramshill House in Hampshire (pictured) and the family involved was the Cope family. The fact that Bramshill House is reputed to be notoriously haunted, one of the most haunted places in all of England, helps support this argument.
The story is preserved in a poem and song written by Thomas Haynes Bayly and Sir Henry Bishop in the 1830s. It tells the story succinctly. (Thanks, guys!)
“The mistletoe hung in the castle hall,
The holly branch shone on the old oak wall;
And the baron’s retainers were blithe and gay,
And keeping their Christmas holiday.
The baron beheld with a father’s pride
His beautiful child, young Lovell’s bride;
While she with her bright eyes seemed to be
The star of the goodly company.
“I’m weary of dancing now,” she cried;
“Here, tarry a moment-I’ll hide, I’ll hide!
And, Lovell, be sure thou’rt first to trace
The clew to my secret lurking place.”
Away she ran-and her friends began
Each tower to search, and each nook to scan;
And young Lovell cried, “O, where dost thou hide?
I’m lonesome without thee, my own dear bride.”
They sought her that night, and they sought her next day,
And they sought her in vain while a week passed away;
In the highest, the lowest, the loneliest spot,
Young Lovell sought wildly, but found her not.
And years flew by, and their grief at last
Was told as a sorrowful tale long past;
And when Lovell appeared the children cried,
“See! The old man weeps for his fairy bride.”
At length an oak chest, that had long lain hid,
Was found in the castle—they raised the lid,
And a skeleton form lay moldering there
In the bridal wreath of that lady fair!
O, sad was her fate! In sportive jest
She hid from her lord in the old oak chest.
It closed with a spring!—and, dreadful doom,
The bride lay clasped in her living tomb!”
So why do they call the ghost of this poor lady the “Mistletoe Bride”? Probably because the first line in the poem mentions mistletoe. It’s interesting, though, because of the link between mistletoe and fertility magic—that old tradition of kissing beneath the mistletoe—and the fact that mistletoe, known as the vampire of the plant world, is in actuality a nasty parasite.