THE MANY GHOSTLY SIGHTINGS OF ANNE BOLEYN
Posted March 20, 2012on:
There are celebrities in the ghost world as much as there are here in the here and now. These are the ghosts of famous people who have been seen on a very prolific basis. When I researched my first ghost book (‘500 British Ghosts And Hauntings’) many years ago I was struck by how often the ghost of legendary highwayman Dick Turpin had been seen for instance. In some parts of England it would seem that there is scarcely an old road or inn that doesn’t boast his spectral presence. Another is King Henry VIII’s second wife, Anne Boleyn.
I think this must be largely down to our ongoing fascination for this lady, who had meteoric rise to power and riches, only to crash again in spectacular fashion. A king risked sacrificing all just to get her into his bed. She was the mother of quite possibly our greatest monarch ever, Queen Elizabeth I. And she came to a tragic end via the executioner’s sword. You only have to look at the amount of books published about her every year, to see that her legendary charisma is as strong now as it was when she was alive.
But also it must be said that I think people get genuinely confused. Perhaps they see a lady phantom in period costume, and instantly assume it’s Anne, when of course it could be just about anybody! Some of the sightings I describe next are very clearly that.
THE TOWER OF LONDON
Some of the most famous sightings of Anne’s ghost occurs in what is possibly the most haunted place in the world, the Tower of London. Anne stayed here twice, the first time was on the night before her coronation in the summer of 1533. She stayed again, in much sadder circumstances, when she was on trial for her life in May 1536, on most certainly trumped-up charges of incest, adultery and witchcraft. She was beheaded on Tower Green on the morning of 19 May, and was hastily buried (her mutilated corpse bundled unceremoniously into an old arrow-chest) beneath the altar in the chapel of St Peter Ad Vincula.
At the end of the 19th century an officer glimpsed a light coming from the chapel, even though it was meant to be locked up. He got a ladder and peered through the window. Inside he claimed he saw Anne (whom he recognised from portraits) approaching the altar accompanied by a posse of knights and ladies. They disappeared as they neared the altar.
In 1864 a guardsman, on sentry duty, saw a figure float out of a doorway towards him. He challenged it, with the traditional “halt! who goes there?” The figure took no notice, and continued towards him. He said that the woman was wearing a bonnet, but didn’t appear to have any head inside it. He lunged at this terrifying apparition with his bayonet, which went right through it. The poor man fainted on the spot. He was later had up for a court-martial, but his colleagues backed up his story, claiming that they too had seen the floating, headless spectre.
At a meeting of the Ghost Club in 1899, Lady Biddulph reported seeing a woman with a carnation tucked behind her ear, looking out of the window of the Queen’s House, and concluded that it was Anne. Also in the late 19th century, a yeoman warder swore under Oath, that he had seen a blueish form drifting towards the Queen’s House, whilst another soldier saw a woman in white emerging from the house after midnight. As she approached Tower Green he was shocked to see she had no head.
HAMPTON COURT PALACE
This beautiful palace was built originally by Cardinal Thomas Wolsey, (who is also said to haunt it). When he fell out of favour with Henry VIII, for failing to secure the divorce that the King craved from his first wife, Queen Katherine of Aragon, Wolsey was pressured to hand the palace over to him. And thus it became another of Henry’s many royal homes. Anne spent a lot of time here, and did most of her cat-and-mouse courtship with the King within its walls.
Anne’s ghost has been seen, dressed in blue, floating along the passageways. Staff at the palace who saw her at the end of the 19th century, reported that she looked sad. As Anne’s life, for all its glamour and excitement, must have been a very traumatic and stressful one, this isn’t surprising.
In 1945 Lady Baden-Powell, who had a grace-and-favour apartment at the palace, wrote in her diary that a visitor had sensed the presence of Queen Anne Boleyn, in a little turret-room which Lady Baden-Powell said Anne had used as a private praying-room. Although in her book about Anne’s final months, ‘The Lady In The Tower’, Alison Weir points out that this can’t have been true, as Anne’s apartments were in another part of the palace.
Anne isn’t the most frequently sighted Tudor wife to be seen at the Palace though, that accolade goes to Henry’s fifth wife, the pathetic little Catherine Howard. Catherine was Anne’s cousin, and she too came to a tragic end on the scaffold. Her ghostly screams here are one of the most legendary hauntings in the whole of England. Catherine was very young, and frankly, not overly-blessed with brains. Like many young girls, she was obsessed with clothes and boys, but was most likely thrust into the role of Queen by her ruthlessly ambitious family, a role for which she was spectacularly unsuited.
When the King found out that his precious little girl, his “rose without a thorn”, had been carrying on behind his back with a childhood sweetheart, he had her condemned to death. The terrified girl, on learning of her fate on 4 November 1541, ran screaming through the Long Gallery, desperate to reach Henry, so that she could beg him for mercy. The powers-that-be though suspected that the King might relent when he saw her, and forcibly kept her from reaching him. Catherine was beheaded on 13 February 1542, and her terrified screams have been heard in the palace ever since. One resident at the palace claimed to hear her on such a regular basis that she became a routine part of palace life! She is said to be most often heard during the autumn months.
BLICKLING HALL, NORFOLK
As far as I know no one knows for certain where Anne Boleyn was actually born (and her date of birth has never been verified either), but Blickling Hall is usually cited as the place. At midnight on the anniversary of her death, she is said to make a dramatic return, travelling up to the house in a carriage pulled by headless horses, dressed all in white, bathed in a red glow, and cradling her head in her lap! Anne’s brother George is also said to return. He was executed a few days before Anne, on the charge of committing incest with his sister. He is said to return to the house being dragged by horses, whilst neatly cradling his head in his arms.
Blickling was rebuilt over a hundred years after Anne’s death, but that doesn’t stop her ghost being seen indoors as well. She was seen by a house steward in 1979, having apparently just been browsing through a book of portraits by Hans Holbein (although he never painted Anne). In 1985 Steve Ingram, an administrator at the Hall, heard light footsteps approaching the bedroom in his flat late one night. He thought at first that it was his wife, until he realised she was lying asleep next to him. The next day his colleagues pointed out the date to him: 19 May.
HEVER CASTLE, KENT
This almost classic fairytale castle, including moat and drawbridge, was where Anne spent a great deal of her childhood. King Henry VIII was said to have courted her in the rose garden here. Part of the film about their love affair, ‘Anne Of The Thousand Days’, starring Richard Burton and Genevieve Bujold, was shot here. Although Hever is very haunted, Anne’s ghost isn’t terribly in presence here. She is said to be seen on Christmas Eve, crossing a bridge over the River Eden on her way to the Castle. A wraith-like figure in white has also been seen in the castle gardens, thought to be her.
SALLE CHURCH, NORFOLK
Anne is also said to appear here, where her ancestors are buried, every 19 May. Popular author Norah Lofts, a local woman with a strong interest in Norfolk mysteries, related how she was once told that a sexton had kept a night-time vigil watching out for her ghost. He didn’t see Anne, but he reportedly saw a hare dashing about. Curiously, hares were once associated with witchcraft. A witch was thought to be able to transform herself into a hare, and of course Anne was regarded as a witch by her enemies.
This isn’t the entire catalogue of Anne’s ghostly sightings by any means, but some of the ones I’ve left out are simply too outlandish to be taken seriously, such as Anne haunting a house she most certainly never visited, or a shoe shop, just because it’s 40 miles from Blicking Hall! But if you are lucky enough to be out and about in any of these places mentioned on 19 May, keep an eye out for Anne’s ghost. You never know …