Article, Tudor

Henry VIII and his Six Ghosts

It’s almost Halloween! Therefore break out the ghost stories! Yay!

The final episode of 'The Tudors' showed Henry confronted by the ghosts of his first three wives. If legend is to be believed, he shares a haunting ground with Anne Boleyn, Jane Seymour and Catherine Howard. While Catherine of Aragon and Catherine Parr haunt the places of their deaths.
The final episode of ‘The Tudors‘ showed Henry confronted by the ghosts of his first three wives. If legend is to be believed, he shares a haunting ground with Anne Boleyn, Jane Seymour and Catherine Howard.

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

Catherine's spirit apparently occupies only the one location, despite her attachment to her husband, even after their separation.
Catherine’s spirit apparently occupies only the one location, despite her attachment to her husband, even after their separation.

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.

Anne Boleyn

Anne Boleyn is probably one of the most popular of Henry's queens. Perhaps, unsurprisingly, this is why she has been sighted in so many places.
Anne Boleyn is probably one of the most popular of Henry’s queens. Perhaps, unsurprisingly, this is why she has been sighted in so many places.

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.

Jane Seymour

Anne Boleyn has seemingly followed Jane in the afterlife, even to her own home. The legend says that Jane's ghost is repentant and will not rest until Anne forgives her. Good luck.
Anne Boleyn has seemingly followed Jane in the afterlife, even to her own home. The legend says that Jane’s ghost is repentant and will not rest until Anne forgives her.
Good luck.

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).

Catherine Howard

Many visitors to the gallery reported feeling cold near the spot where Catherine made her plea. Rather anti-climatically the cold air was found to be a draft.
Many visitors to the gallery reported feeling cold near the spot where Catherine made her plea. Rather anti-climatically the cold air was found to be a draft.

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

Another of Catherine's wards, Lady Jane Grey, also met a violent end. Her ghost allegedly haunts the Tower of London.
Another of Catherine’s wards, Lady Jane Grey, also met a violent end. Her ghost allegedly haunts 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 VIII

While Henry and his wives are restless, the rest of his family are far more peaceful. Both his parents and brother have no ghosts, neither do his children Edward VI or Mary I.
While Henry and his wives are restless, the rest of his family are far more peaceful. Both his parents and brother have no ghosts, neither do his children Edward VI or Mary I.

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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7 thoughts on “Henry VIII and his Six Ghosts”

  1. Whilst Henry had six wives and most of them were beheaded it is not surprising they haunt various Royal Houses. When we look back in history, it is amazing how many are now ghosts, for they have not passed over and in a sense are stuck half-way…

    1. Personally, I think that a lot of these sightings aren’t really sightings at all, just used as tourism to boost the trade. But also the idea of Anne Boleyn stalking Jane Seymour in the after life is very appealing.

    2. “Henry had six wives and most of them were beheaded” this is not true. he had six wives, and only two were beheaded. and the idea that Anne B. is vengeful toward Jane S. in the after life, is just silly. they all made mistakes, and were just trying to survive in the time that they lived.

  2. Nice! I remember thinking about a post like this last year but I opted for ghostly appearances in-novel only, so I’m glad someone did this one ;). Poor Anne of Cleves — she always gets left out of everything, doesn’t she? The most I could find of her was an alleged haunting at Anne of Cleves house (http://www.delcoghosts.com/Anne.html) but while she did own the place it doesn’t seem like she ever actually visited it, making it an odd choice of haunting venue if the ghost *is* her). Now I’m thinking I should write a ghost story for Anne of Cleves, just to help her out — I think I could have it ready by Halloween!

    1. Thanking you very much! A lot of ghostly stuff happens in The Tudors too which I thought about writing of, but then thought nah let’s just do the “actual” hauntings.
      I think you should write something for Anne of Cleves! Poor Anne! I couldn’t find anything relating to any ghost so I’m glad that you managed to find something even if it is highly unlikely. Neglected even in death!
      In other news I am totally going to make a start on that page 😛 I thought it’d start with the ‘royal rapists’ seeing as they’re so popular lol thinking of calling it ‘Did x rape y?’

      1. I’m playing with ideas for a day-before-Halloween post on the ghost of The Other Anne — hoping to turn it into something good (also that I didn’t blow my one decent idea with my Anne Boleyn ghost story last year). Shall we just do a wordpress site for Royal Rapists? I’m unsure on a name — so many of these guys aren’t royal but they’re close to royalty, so it might be close enough. Maybe something in there to indicate lack of actual evidence for guilt. Royal (non) rape? Did X rape Y could be good. We should also get the word out so people can submit their nominations — I’ve heard that Richard III fiction has a decent number of not-really rapists in there (never Richard, weirdly enough).

      2. Ooooh I await with anticipation! I’ve not written a story about ghosts…though I did once write a story about the ghost of a river. Yeah. I’m just that cool 😛
        D’you know I was thinking last night that it’s such a large subject (thank you modern historical fiction) that a separate blog would be awesome. I am loving the Royal Rapists though, I think because most of the people who feature are members of the royal court we could get away with it 😛
        Well Richard is heading for the sympathy vote at the moment now that Gregory has cast him as the perfect uncle. I’m actually working on something called ‘The Problem of Sympathy’ as Richard’s role as a loving uncle really doesn’t fit with…you know…a lot of that history we have 😛
        I’ve had a few ideas for separate blog, but I thought as we communicate mostly through comments I could just pass you my email: sarah@thehistoricalnovel.com 😀

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