A Brief History of Muncaster Castle

The Richards. Photography by Tiffany Black, Blackbirdphoto.com.

The Richards. Photography by Tiffany Black, Blackbirdphoto.com.


This week, I made a dispassionate decision to put the podcast on sabbatical in order to devote my life to telling ghost stories of my ancestors, the Penningtons of Muncaster Castle. This is a project I have been researching for 10 years — 30, if you count the endless hours of Blackadder I watched as a child or my own personal paranormal experiences, 800 if you count my genetic memory imprinted across the castle grounds.

The Baroness & the Fool began in earnest two years ago at Cicily JanusWriting Away mountaintop retreat. There at a cozy oak table in the company of literary lovelies, I realized my responsibility as “the Pennington with the pen.” Incidentally, that is the very same moment I realized I am in love with Graham. I called him up and said, “I need you to go with me to my family’s castle, and also I am in love with you.”

Since then, we uprooted our entire lives in order to be together and bring you these stories. Please enjoy this construction paper tale introducing the adventure at hand.

Follow along on our journey from the modern comforts of electronic mail.



Audio Essay: Discovering My Pennington Pedigree

Artwork by Graham Richards

We hope you are enjoying our recent blitz of audio essays.  Each week, Graham and I collaborate on a new enhanced story for your viewing/reading/listening pleasure.  This week, I wrote and recorded the essay, then Graham wrote music, etched the picture above, and transformed all the bits and pieces together to fit on your favorite reading device.  We are navigating new territory, and we appreciate your continued feedback.  Thank you for encouraging us by sharing our stories with your friends.

Download “Discovering My Pennington Pedigree” as ePub (iBooks).

Pre-order your digital copy of our enhanced storybook with your $10 Kickstarter Pledge.

Thank you for listening!

I always wanted to be English.  Alas, I was born in Chicago and reluctantly raised in Texas.  My American childhood was spent living in an imaginary version of Great Britain.  Fueled primarily by an early obsession with Robin Hood and The Black Adder, homeschool enabled my Anglophile curiosity to go unchecked for years.  Armed with a library card and mild social anxiety, I pieced together a colorful history of the slapstick Motherland so happily abandoned by our forefathers.

Our basement was musty enough to emulate a dusty old castle.  My sister and I would fashion courtier bustle’s out of sleeping bags and if our brother got in the way, we’d keep him captive under the pool table until he agreed to answer to his serf name, Baldrick.  Once my loyal subjects were in order, I would go outside to Sherwood Forest, climb up a tree with a book between my teeth, and carefully avoid other children until dinner.

I spent the whole of my education attending any school that offered even a single course in British culture, making me as fickle with majors as Henry VIII was with his wives.  I studied theater for Shakespeare, Literature for Austen, and History for the Tudors.  Though I was of legal drinking age, I holed up in my room for a solid week to devour the first four Harry Potter books.  Today my mind is consumed by genealogical research of my Pennington heritage.  I seek to better understand the influential role my family had in English history as the lords of Muncaster Castle.

In 1208, the wildly unpopular King John granted Alan de Penitone 23,000 acres of prime English countryside.  I can’t help but wonder what Sir Alan did to curry such favor with the sworn enemy of Robin Hood.   During the War of the Roses in 1464, King Henry VI sought refuge at Muncaster.  Sir John Pennington was rewarded for offering sanctuary with the gift of the King’s drinking bowl, known today as the Luck of Muncaster.  According to legend, the Penningtons will lord over Muncaster as long as the bowl remains unbroken.