There are many stories of enmity between sisters who, for whatever reason, want the same man. Some end in murder; others in broken sisterly ties that persist unto death. The story of Princess Orloff and her hapless sister Rosaleen falls into that last category. The big surprise is–whose death?
Angelica and Rosaleen Parrott were born fifteen years apart to an Irish squire and his mentally unstable wife, at the great house of Shallardstown, in County Waterford. When Rosaleen, the younger, was fourteen, their mother committed suicide.
A couple of years later, while Angelica was away on a trip to Paris and Rosaleen was at boarding school, their father died suddenly. As the estate was entailed, Angelica inherited it. If she died without issue, the estate would pass to Rosaleen and her children.
Angelica was not best pleased with that idea. She was a brilliant, well-educated, rather cold woman, whose chief passion in life was the maintenance of horses. The much younger Rosaleen was, by comparison, a featherhead; petted and indulged by her father and by staff to compensate for her mother’s often cruel and bewildering behavior, she was flighty and immature, and would bear close watching.
Angelica, therefore, began searching for a husband for herself: one who could give her strong sons to follow her at Shallardstown. She would find a gentle, kind man for Rosaleen, settle money and property on her, and all would be well.
Rather as she might study a horse to stand at stud, Angelica studied the men around her, and eventually chose a musclebound oaf of good family but little fortune named Dagan Ferriter for her husband. As she was known to be wealthier than God Himself, Ferriter accepted her business deal with alacrity. Their engagement was to be announced at a Christmas party at Shallardstown.
Rosaleen was summoned home from school for the holidays, and Angelica’s whole plan went to pieces; Dagan Ferriter fell madly in lust with pretty simpering biddable Rosaleen the moment he laid eyes on her. Nothing would do but he must have her, and so he told Angelica, minutes before she was to announce their wedding plans.
Angelica, for a wonder, announced that Rosaleen and Dagan Ferriter would be married in the new year, and gave them her blessing. Once the pair were wed, she sent them off on an extended honeymoon to the Continent, telling them to spare no expense, but to send all their bills to her; she also made them a handsome allowance. Then, she too left Shallardstown, for a visit with friends in London.
There she met a man altogether better suited to her than studly Dagan Ferriter: a Russian prince and breeder of horses called Nicholas Orloff. They were married in April, scarcely three months after Ferriter and Rosaleen, and the prince and his new princess traveled to Moscow to meet his family. If Orloff thought it strange that his wife did not send word of her marriage to her sister and brother-in-law, reportedly living the high life in Italy, or propose to visit them, he didn’t say so.
Angelica made one stipulation upon her marriage. She must, she solemnly told Orloff, be back at Shallardstown by the new year; she had a plan that must be set in motion by then. Orloff agreed.
They began the return trip in the fall, reaching Paris in the third week of December; there, a chest cold Nicholas Orloff had caught on the journey turned to pneumonia, and he was dead within days. Angelica buried him there, and hastened on to Shallardstown.
Once there, she reorganized her household staff from top to bottom, putting the day-to-day management in the hands of a sinister man named William Creed. It was largely due to his strict adherence to her plan, outlined for him when she hired him, that Angelica, Princess Orloff, was able to wreak her vengeance on her sister and the faithless Dagan Ferriter.
She began by cutting off their hitherto princely allowance and refusing to pay any more of their bills, and telling them sharply to come home. When they arrived, horrified and angry, at the gates of Shallardstown, they were met by Creed, who told them curtly that the princess would not see them. She would provide them with a small living allowance, and that was all.
Rosaleen and Dagan never saw Angelica–living–again. The one time they tried to approach her, on her afternoon drive in a horse-drawn landau–an inviolable custom, undertaken, so rumor said, so the princess could take the air–Creed called on them and threatened to cut off even their meager stipend. They never approached her again.
These drives were timed precisely. Each day, at three PM, the horses and landau pulled up in front of Shallardstown, and Creed would escort the princess, always attired in a purple brocade cape, a wide purple hat, and a thick veil, to her seat in it. The coachman would chirrup to the horses, and off they would go, returning to the house at precisely four PM.
Incredibly, this charade went on for thirty years.
In 1872, Dagan Ferriter, by now a raving drunk with a severely arthritic wife and five dead children to his credit, made the mistake of trying to pick a fight with one of Angelica’s house servants in a bar. The man knocked him down, then got in his face and told him that Angelica was dead. She had been dead for years.
The next day, Dagan and several sober companions marched up to the great house to be greeted by Creed, the butler. When they demanded to see the princess, Creed confirmed the manservant’s tale: Angelica, Princess Orloff, had been dead for eleven years.
She had left a letter, dated 1861, in which she explained that she had been determined to avenge herself on Ferriter for ruining her plan to bear an heir (and a few spares) for Shallardstown. To that end, she had made him and Rosaleen totally dependent on her largesse for such living as they had; then, she set out to convince them and the whole countryside that she was living when, in fact, she was dying of a cancerous tumor. Much of the time, her place in the landau had been taken by a lifesize doll, jointed to move like a person and dressed in her familiar purple. Once she was dead, Creed had instructions to continue as if she were still living, with the afternoon drives–a feat he accomplished for eleven years.
Their sudden good fortune did not improve Dagan and Rosaleen’s lives in the least. Dagan drank himself to death within a year, and Rosaleen, having outlived all her children, survived him by only a few more.
Shallardstown passed to a cousin. In later years it served as a Catholic boys school.
It was reported that boys and masters at the school would sometimes see a figure in purple walk down the great staircase. This figure would stop at a glass case which contained an oddity: a horse whip with a malachite handle. The figure would then go out the front door, and sounds of horses and a carriage would be heard.
A later caretaker of the house also reported seeing the figure in purple. This caretaker frequently would find the lid missing from the whip’s glass case, and the whip’s handle warm, as if lately held in a human hand.
James Reynolds told the twisted tale of Princess Orloff’s revenge in his 1947 book Ghosts in Irish Houses.
The late parapsychologist Hans Holzer was so intrigued by Reynolds’s story that, in the 1960s, he went looking for the house at Shallardstown, which was still standing, according to Reynolds, as late as 1937. Holzer never found a trace of it, nor, among the story-loving Irish, did he encounter anyone who had ever heard of it.
Just sayin’–but true or not, it’s a great story of vengeance.