It’s almost Halloween! Therefore break out the ghost stories! Yay!
Given that Henry VIII and his six wives are still immensely popular centuries after their deaths, it is hardly surprising that people still claim to have seen them, haunting various palaces and castles. Ghosts are thought to remain in places of importance, especially if a person died in particularly emotional, violent or neglectful circumstances which accounts for most of Henry VIII’s wives. It is something of a coincidence that Anne of Cleves, who lived a relatively peaceful, drama free life (divorce notwithstanding) and who died of natural causes at old age is apparently resting in peace with no ghostly sightings of her ever reported.
Of all the residences, Hampton Court Palace supposedly houses the most restless royals with apparent sightings of Henry VIII, Anne Boleyn, Jane Seymour and Catherine Howard (not in the same room I might add). Most of the ghosts apparently move around together with Henry and Anne Boleyn appearing at Windsor, while yet another Anne Boleyn stalks a ‘repentant’ Jane Seymour at the latter’s home of Marwell Hall.
Catherine of Aragon
Henry VIII’s first wife, Catherine of Aragon, died on 7th January 1536 at Kimbolton Castle. She had been living there since 1535, the second home she had been banished to for refusing to grant her husband a divorce. At the time there were rumours that she had been poisoned by Anne Boleyn or Henry VIII or both. While her body was being prepared for burial her heart was found to be discoloured with a black growth upon it (modern experts believe that this was probably cancer).
Although she was buried at Peterborough Cathedral, Catherine’s ghost haunts the place of her confinement and death; Kimbolton. While there, Catherine limited herself largely to one chamber which is where her ghost has supposedly been seen, though it has also been sighted walking along the inner gallery. The castle is also thought to be haunted by the ghost of a child who died after falling from the battlements.
Henry’s second wife, Anne Boleyn, held his interest as his mistress for six years but had just a brief reign as Queen. Henry had her executed on charges of adultery, incest and high treason at the Tower of London. On the morning of 19th May 1536 Anne was beheaded by a French executioner using a sword. Perhaps as the result of the violent manner of her or because it is widely thought she was innocent Anne’s ghost supposedly haunts a number of locations, more than any other Tudor ghost.
- The Tower of London: A ghostly Anne has been seen wandering in the tower grounds always headless, though occasionally with her head under her arm.
- Hever Castle: Anne’s ghost is thought to return to her childhood home, especially around Christmas time, where she wanders the castle and sings melancholy songs. Most commonly she supposedly appears on Christmas Eve crossing the castle’s bridge over the River Eden near to where Henry VIII first courted her.
- Blickling Hall: Blickling belonged to Anne’s father Thomas Boleyn and may have been Anne’s birthplace. In rather dramatic fashion, a headless Anne apparently arrives at the Hall on the anniversary of her death in a carriage drawn by a headless coachman. Thomas Boleyn is also thought to haunt Blickling.
- Hampton Court Palace: Wearing a blue dress, Anne has been seen walking within the castle.
- Marwell Hall: Henry VIII and Jane Seymour spent some time before they were married, yet Anne is thought to appear behind the hall, haunting the Yew Walk.
- Windsor Castle: Another popular Tudor haunt, Windsor Castle is apparently home to a number of ghosts. Anne haunts the Dean’s Cloister, once again with her head under her arm.
Henry’s third wife, Jane Seymour, managed to finally deliver the male heir that Henry so desired. Unfortunately the labour was a difficult one, lasting three days. Although Jane survived the ordeal long enough to witness her son’s christening three days later, it became increasingly obvious that she was not recovering. She fell seriously ill, probably from an infection contracted during labour and died on 24th October 1537 at Hampton Court.
Jane supposedly returns to Hampton Court Palace on the anniversary of her son’s birth – the 12th October. She has been sighted walking in the cobbled grounds and on the stairs near a gallery usually carrying a candle, dressed in white. She also haunts the Seymour house of Marwell Hall though she remains indoors (probably wise if Anne Boleyn is outside).
Let’s jump to Catherine Howard (Anne of Cleves seems to be quite happy resting in peace with no ghostly sightings of her). Catherine was married to Henry for less than two years before she was found guilty of adultery with Thomas Culpepper and executed at the Tower of London on 13th February 1542. Shortly before her death Parliament had passed a bill making it treasonable (and therefore punishable by death) for a queen consort to fail to disclose her sexual history to her husband. Until this bill passed Catherine had been awaiting judgement since November of the previous year at Syon Abbey.
When the accusations first emerged Catherine was placed under house arrest. Legend has it she managed to escape her guards and instead fled down the ‘Haunted’ Gallery at Hampton Court Palace where she found the king at prayer. Screaming her innocence she became hysterical and repeatedly banged on the doors until she was dragged away, still screaming. Her screams allegedly can still be heard along the gallery in question, and many people have apparently felt overcome by emotion at the spot. Catherine herself has been seen walking across the gallery towards the Royal Pew before being apparently pulled away, moving backwards and screaming. She has been seen to a lesser extent at the Tower of London.
Catherine Parr, the last of Henry’s wives survived Henry despite a sometimes turbulent marriage. Shortly after his death, against conventions, she married Thomas Seymour. She fell pregnant for the first time, despite three previous marriages, but died shortly after childbirth at her home of Sudely Castle, where she was also buried. There were rumours that her husband had poisoned her so that he could marry Catherine’s stepdaughter the Lady Elizabeth, but this is thought to be unlikely.
Catherine apparently roams the grounds of Sudely dressed in a green dress, however a younger Catherine is thought to haunt Snape Castle, the primary home of her second husband. While the Sudely Castle spirit is supposedly quite melancholy, her counterpart at Snape is described as a peaceful, happy ghost dressed in blue which inspires a feeling of calm in those around her.
Henry himself died on the 28th January 1547 at Whitehall after a long history of illnesses which left him obese. He was buried in St. George’s Chapel at Windsor Castle along with his third wife; Jane Seymour.
His spirit is supposed to haunt both Windsor Castle and Hampton Court. At Windsor he wanders the castle groaning in pain as a result of the ulcer on his leg, while at Hampton Court his ghost was apparently caught on security tape in 2003. Henry VIII’s daughter Elizabeth I has also been sighted at Windsor wearing black, while her footsteps can be heard crossing the library.
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