The Haunting of Hampton Court Palace

     Hampton Court Palace was once the home of the kings and queens of England.  Just a few examples would be Charles the I, Elizabeth the I and, the most famous, Henry the VIII. (Of course one must include his six wives as well.)  The Palace has had many owners, and the owners have found themselves with many unusual tenants sharing the Palace with them.  As it turns out they were sharing their home with the specters of the past.  At one point in time even King Henry, himself, had reported seeing ghosts walking the halls of his home.  (No doubt due to large amount of people that he had put to death.

     Thomas Wolsey, (later titled Cardinal Wolsey), built the Palace itself, as a summer home during the reign of Henry the VIII.  The mansion did not become a palace until after Henry VII took over ownership and began to add onto the original building.  The mansion became Henry’s home when Wolsey mistakenly told Henry, that anything he owned belonged to Henry.  Apparently Thomas Wolsey was not expecting Henry to take him up on his sentiment, but the king assumed that Wolsey had made a gift of Hampton House.

     The actual building of Hampton Court Palace began in 1514, and was almost completed in 1925.  The King eventually promoted Sir Thomas Wolsey to the station of Cardinal.  For a while all was fine between the two men.  Unfortunately for Wolsey, he was unable to obtain a legal divorce for Henry from his first wife, Catherine of Aragon, because of this he was charged with treason and stripped of all his possessions.  Thomas Wolsey died penniless in 1530, before Henry could take the once prominent Cardinal Wolsey to trial and execute him.

     Many Kings and Queens have inhabited Hampton Court Palace, starting with Henry the VIII, Edward the VI, Elizabeth I and continuing on through to George III.  Just as the Kings and Queens filled this palace so do it’s ghosts.  The specters of the past reliving their history.

     Many of the ghosts seen at Hampton Court are thought to be those of Henry, his wives and others connected to him.  One explanation of the haunting is related to the fact that Henry focused all of his love, hate, rage and fears on the great halls of the palace and the people surrounding it.

     As mentioned in the first paragraph, Henry experienced some haunting of his own.  He reported seeing Herne the Hunter, of local legend, however, some historians believe that he spoke of this specter to convince himself and others that his conniving actions were understood by those of the other world and that Herne should be seen as the protector of the king.  Henry was also haunted by a few of the clergy that he had killed during his violent reformation of the church.  He also claimed to be the first person to see the beheaded ghost of his second wife, Anne Bolelyn.

      King Henry, however, is not the only person to be haunted in the palace.  Other residents and visitors have reported seeing shades and haunts while in the palace.  The most persistent sightings are those of Anne Bolelyn and Jane Seymour.

     In descriptions of sightings related to Anne Bolelyn one finds accounts of her both with and without her head.  There have even been accounts of sightings where Anne is carrying her own head.  Those who have seen Anne Boleyn in the palace describe her as walking slowly, looking bitter, but at the same time mortified by her unfair fate.  Also many of the people who have seen her apparition describe feeling her age-old anger, grief, dread and fear of dying and being forgotten.

      The other most popular sighting at the palace is that of Lady Jane Seymour, and her story is quite sad.  She was the third wife of Henry the VIII.  They were betrothed within 24 hours of the beheading of Queen Anne.  Unlike previous queens she did not have a formal coronation.  In 1537 Jane became pregnant with her first and only child by the king.  In early October the only son the Henry would ever have was born.  Unfortunately his mother, Jane Seymour, died on October 24th, from complications of his birth.  Her ghost has been seen roam in the Clock Court and in the Silver Stick Gallery wearing a white robe and carrying a lit candle, perhaps she is searching for her son.  An interesting note to this story is that Jane Seymour was the only Queen to be buried with Henry in his burial vault.

     Another of Henry’s wives is also said to be seen in the palace.  This would the King’s fifth wife, Catherine Howard.  Catherine is not really believed to be a ghost, but rather more of a psychic impression.  A psychic impression is a reenactment of a particularly traumatic event, described as an echo in time.  In Catherine’s case this would be her reaction to hearing the news of her sentence of death by beheading, for committing acts of high treason against the king.  (In other words having affairs with younger men and getting caught.)  Catherine has been reported seen running through the gallery and corridors, apparently she is still pleading and screaming for her life to be spared.

     Kings, Queens and Clergy are not the only ones to be seen walking the palace halls, there are others who visit those remaining in the corporeal world.  There is the story of the Grey Lady; this woman is believed to be Sybil Penn, the nurse of Henry’s children, died of Small Pox in 1632.  She has been seen wandering the halls of this palace, and often felt or seen watching over the children residing there.  She has been described by those who have witnessed her countenance as a smiling personage, and completely inoffensive.  Apparently her spirit was quiet until the removal of her remains from St Mary’s Church, which had been badly damaged during a storm in 1892.  Suddenly her voice was heard in the hallways and once again those residing in the palace could hear the whirring of her spinning wheel.  When Mrs. Penn first began haunting the palace, the owners where dumbfounded by the source of the sound of the spinning wheel. Upon further investigation a secret room was found sealed off behind one of the corridor walls, and in this room they found what is believed to be Mrs. Penn’s spinning wheel.  One thing that I found odd about this story was that in all the accounts that I have read no one mentions why the room was sealed off, nor did anyone question why the spinning wheel was there, nor was there any mention of any other objects occupying the room.  

     Other specters inhabiting the palace that deserve honorable mention are two soldiers who had haunted the main courtyard. At some point of the English Civil War, a small skirmish was fought at the castle and unfortunately a good amount of the troops were injured or killed.  The two soldiers in the courtyard are believed to have been part of that skirmish.  During some of the repairs and renovations on the castle two skeletons were found in the courtyard.  The remains of the unknown men were removed from the courtyard and given a proper burial.  There have been no further reports of the soldiers in the courtyard since then.  Hopefully these two men have finally found their peace.

     Another ghost reported in the palace is that of a young boy dressed in 17th century garb.  The brother of the owner of the castle saw him at that time, and a friend.  The child appeared before the men in broad daylight during a garden party.  He pushed past the gentlemen standing on the stairs, who quickly followed him only to find the child nowhere in sight by the time they had reached the top of the stairs.  The gentlemen described the child’s behavior as that of a person who lived in the palace and was used to being in charge.

     I also found a brief mention of a tourist who had seen a young woman in what the tourist had described as, old fashioned dress, walking along with the crowds touring the palace.  The tourist did not think much of this young woman until she noticed her walk through a young soldier on crutches.  The young woman apparently passed through the young man without his even noticing.  Upon reporting what she had seen to the constable stationed on the grounds, she was told that many other tourists had reported this specter over the years.


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