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History Mysteries: Murder at Berkeley Castle

Updated Wednesday 18th January 2006

The murder of a jester occupies the attention of the History Mysteries team. But who has the last laugh?

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Jester and Miranda Copyrighted image Icon Copyright: Used with permission

Charles Berkeley wants us to solve the mystery of the last jester’s death at his family seat. The story goes that one evening, in the early 18th Century, the Berkeleys and their guests, including the Earl of Suffolk’s jester, were having dinner in the Great Hall when the 60 year old jester, Dicky Pearce, toppled from the minstrels' gallery to his death. Can they solve a murder mystery nearly 300 years old?

First Nick Barratt gets on the case in Gloucester archives and Miranda decides to see what she can find out about jesters. Jonathan searches for Dicky Pearce’s grave but something isn’t adding up; Nick has a death certificate but no coroner's report and the tomb stone doesn’t fit the story.

Miranda meets a present day jester and a clue hinting at architectural changes in the castle leads Jonathan off to the site of Dicky’s death. He uncovers pieces of the history of the Great Hall and again things just aren’t adding up. Nick is searching the local papers of the time and there is no mention of his death.

Could this mystery be a bit of a shaggy dog’s story?

Finally Nick tries the castle archives and Miranda meets with castle archivist but little evidence is appearing. Even Nick is stumped… or is he?

When the three of them meet up to discuss theories one solution seems to fit all the evidence. Jonathan believes the Dicky Pearce murder is a legend and Nick has the evidence to back it up.

How will Charles react to this new revelation?

  • This is an episode from the BBC/Open University co-production History Mysteries, first shown on BBC Two in January 2006.






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