Post by Graveyardbride on May 20, 2019 0:19:02 GMT -5
Is Anne Boleyn England’s Most Active Ghost?
Blickling Hall (above) is a stately Jacobean home located in the village of Blickling, just north of Aylsham in Norfolk, England. Despite its long and intriguing history, the National Trust property is best-known for its ghosts, one of which is that of Anne Boleyn. It is said that at midnight every May 19 – the day the former queen was executed – a spectral coach pulls up to Blickling, the door creaks opens and the hideous phantom of a headless woman with her head tucked beneath her arm steps out. Tradition has it that when the news of Anne’s death reached Blickling in 1536, there were sightings of four headless horses dragging a headless man in several parts of Norfolk. But Blickling Hall is just one of many locations said to be haunted by the spirit of Henry VIII’s second wife, who is, without doubt, one of the most active ghosts in England, haunting at least six different locations.
Salle Church. According to a Norfolk legend, following her execution and burial in London, Anne’s decapitated corpse was exhumed by friends, transported to Salle in the dead of night and reburied beneath the floor of St. Peter and St. Paul Church. If true, this would explain why the specter of the beheaded queen has been seen in the church on numerous occasions.
Marwell Hall. Another location haunted by Anne Boleyn is Marwell Hall, the Medieval Hampshire estate where Henry VIII and Jane Seymour were staying when Anne was executed. People have reportedly seen Anne’s restless spirit strolling about in a part of the grounds known as Yewtree Walk, where it is believed Henry and his bride-to-be planned their wedding. Tradition has it that Marwell was the site of a secret marriage between Henry and his third wife. If Anne’s ghost does walk among the yews on the former Seymour estate, the site of her husband’s betrayal, who could blame her?
Hever Castle. Though Anne’s date of birth is uncertain – some scholars contend she was born as late as 1507, which would make her 28-years-old at the time of her death – it is more likely she came into this world around 1501. Had she been only 28, she would still have been able to bear children and there would have been no reason to dispense with her because she hadn’t borne a son. However, if she were 36 – middle-age in Medieval times – the king would have had reason to believe she was past child-bearing age.
But regardless of when she was born, Anne Boleyn grew up at Hever Castle, a crenelated 13th-century stone edifice surrounded by a moat near Edenbridge, Kent. Today, visitors walk through an ancient house filled with fine furniture, tapestries and one of the best collections of Tudor portraits in the country, all thanks to American millionaire William Waldorf Astor, who purchased the castle in 1903. Astor transformed Hever into a home fit for a queen and the Book of Hours Room contains two prayer books signed and inscribed by Anne Boleyn.
It is believed Anne’s favorite time of year was the Christmas season and for this reason, the ethereal monarch makes a brief appearance every Christmas Day on the footbridge crossing the Eden River. Anne’s spirit has also been seen standing beneath an old oak tree, where, in happier times, she was courted by Henry VIII.
Windsor Castle, home of the current monarch, is the oldest occupied castle in the world and some say it’s also the most haunted. Though Windsor wasn’t the primary residence of King Henry VIII, both he and Anne Boleyn spent time there. Most notably, Anne was awarded the title Marquis of Pembroke at Windsor on September 1, 1532. The following summer, she was pregnant and the king decided he and his new bride would await the birth of their “son” at Windsor. On September 7, 1533, Anne gave birth to a daughter who would become Elizabeth I.
There have been reports of Anne’s ghost at Windsor, particularly in Dean’s Cloister, where she has been seen standing in a bay window, which has come to be known as “Anne Boleyn’s Window.” On one occasion, a witness claimed to have seen the headless queen running down a corridor clutching her screaming head.
The Tower of London. Anne’s execution had been scheduled for May 18 at 9 a.m., but had to be postponed because the French swordsman chosen to behead the king’s wife was unavoidably detained. Accordingly, it was the following day – Tuesday, May 19, 1536, – that a small crowd gathered on Tower Green as the deposed queen, clad in a dark grey gown and ermine mantle, her hair covered by a headdress over a white linen coif, was led to her appointment with the executioner. She begged to be allowed to address the crowd and when granted permission, said;
“Good Christian people, I am come hither to die, for according to the law, and by the law I am judged to die, and therefore, I will speak nothing against it. I am come hither to accuse no man, nor to speak anything of that whereof I am accused and condemned to die, but I pray God save the king and send him long to reign over you, for a gentler nor a more merciful prince was there never, and to me he was ever a good, a gentle and sovereign lord. And if any person will meddle of my cause, I require them to judge the best. And thus I take my leave of the world and of you all, and I heartily desire you all to pray for me. O Lord have mercy on me, to God I commend my soul.” She was then blindfolded and as she knelt at the chopping block, repeated several times: “To Jesus Christ I commend my soul; Lord Jesus receive my soul.”
With one swift swing of his sword, the executioner struck the head of Anne Boleyn from her body. In less than 24 hours, Henry VIII was formally betrothed to Jane Seymour and the two were married May 30, 1536.
Though beheading is a gruesome and bloody way to go, in one sense, Anne was lucky, for the king could have ordered that she be burned at the stake. Not only did he choose the more humane method of death for his wife, he also ordered that she be executed by a skilled swordsman rather than an axe-wielding executioner. When Anne learned she was to die by the sword, she remarked, “I heard say the executioner was very good and I have but a little neck.” Some scholars believe the vengeful monarch allowed his wife a merciful death because he knew the accusations against her were false.
Anne was arrested May 2 and the following 17 days – which she spent as a prisoner in the Tower of London – were probably the most miserable of her life. Is it any wonder her ghost still stalks the Tower? A well-documented sighting occurred in 1817 when a sentry patrolling the White Tower encountered the figure of a woman in white surrounded by a veil of mist. He challenged the intruder, but she spoke not and continued walking, or gliding, in his direction. When the apparition was within reach, he thrust his bayonet at the misty form and though it met no fleshly resistance, there was a fiery flash when something akin to electricity ran up his rifle and gave him a terrible shock that knocked him to the ground and caused him to lose consciousness. Even though several of his fellow guards swore they, too, had seen the headless woman on Tower Green the same night, he was court-martialed nonetheless. One officer who saw what transpired from a window testified that he heard the sentry yelling at the figure to stop and then saw him thrust his bayonet through what had to be a ghost. He claimed the figure kept walking, passing through both the bayonet and the sentry himself before disappearing into thin air. The sentry was found not guilty.
The unhappy ghost has also been seen in Chapel Royal of St. Peter ad Vincul, situated within the Tower’s Inner Ward. In the latter part of the 19th century, guards at the Tower noticed what appeared to be a flickering light emanating from the chapel. Because the building was empty and no one could have gotten past the guards, the Captain of the Guard climbed a ladder to have a look inside and received the fright of his life. What he saw is described in Ghostly Visitors: A Series of Authentic Narratives, written by an anonymous author calling him/herself “Ghostly Specter” and published in 1882:
“Slowly down the aisle moved a stately procession of Knights and Ladies, attired in ancient costumes; and in front walked an elegant female whose face was averted from him, but whose figure greatly resembled the one he had seen in reputed portraits of Anne Boleyn. After having repeatedly paced the chapel, the entire procession together with the light disappeared.”
On the night of May 19, 2014, a throng of ghost hunters gathered at Blickling Hall in hopes of encountering Anne’s headless apparition, but for some reason – perhaps she was scared away by the eager spook-chasers – the black carriage carrying the tragic queen did not stop at Blickling that night.
Sources: The Life and Death of Anne Boleyn by Eric Ives; Britain's Haunted Heritage by J.A. Brooks; Matt Roper, "Britain's Most Haunted Houses – from Headless Anne Boleyn to the Watercress Woman," The Mirror, April 3, 2019; Natalie Gray, "Spook Spotters Turn Out to See Anne Boleyn’s Ghost," ITV Anglia, May 20, 2014; Haunted Rooms; Natalie Grueninger, On the Tudor Trail; The National Trust; The Royal Collection Trust; and Claire, The Anne Boleyn Files, March 19, 2010.