Anne Boleyn, Second Wife of King Henry VIII
Haunting many different locations, Anne Boleyn's ghost is arguably one of the most ubiquitous in England.
In 1536, Anne Boleyn was beheaded on the order of her husband, King Henry VIII. She was indicted on several trumped up charges, including treason, witchcraft, adultery and even incest with her brother. Historians suspect that the real reason for Anne's downfall however was her inability to provide Henry with his much-desired male heir. Therefore he had to dispose of her.
Soon after Anne's death Henry married his third wife, Jane Seymour, who was able to provide him with a son, the future Edward VI. However, throughout the succeeding centuries, several alleged sightings of Anne Boleyn's ghost would seem to suggest that her spirit has not quite departed this world. In fact the ghost of the so-called 'Thousand-Day Queen' is possibly England's most ubiquitous haunting, having been sighted in many different locations, such as her childhood home of Hever Castle, and the Tower of London, where she met her untimely end.
The birthplace of Anne Boleyn is uncertain, although most historians contest that she was either born at Blickling Hall in Norfolk, or Hever Castle in Kent. If it was the former location, she wasn't born at the house that currently stands there as that dates from the Jacobean era. It is believed that she was born at a manor house which previously stood on the site and was owned by the Boleyn family. Local tradition in Cheshire states that she was born in Bollin Hall, a 13th century manor in the county that was demolished in the 1840s. Bollin hall was believed to be one of Anne's many 'haunts'.
Blickling Hall in Norfolk
There are a number of ghosts at Norfolk's Blickling Hall, including Anne Boleyn, who has been witnessed in a phantom carriage with her severed head in her lap.
On every May 19, the anniversary of her execution, Anne's ghost is said to put in a dramatic appearance at Blickling Hall. She manifests at midnight, seated in a phantom carriage which arrives at the hall's gate and slowly progresses up the drive towards the front of the building. People who've witnessed this incredible spectacle describe how the ill-fated queen's severed head is placed in her lap, dripping blood. The carriage is also driven by a headless coachman and six headless horses. A variation on this legend relates how the ghost of Anne's father, Thomas Boleyn, is conveyed around Norfolk in a carriage every May 19, pursued by demons as penance for his inaction during Anne's captivity and failure to prevent her execution.
Hever Castle in Kent
There have been sightings of Anne's ghost at her childhood home of Hever Castle.
13th century Hever Castle is also apparently visited by the spirit of the former queen. Anne spent much of her childhood at Hever which the Boleyn family acquired in the early 1500s. Her ghost has allegedly been sighted on the castle lawns and under a great oak tree where it's said that Henry VIII courted her. She has been seen crossing a bridge over the River Eden in the castle grounds on Christmas Eve as well. Anne is also said to haunt nearby Bolebroke Castle, once used as a hunting lodge by Henry VIII.
It's believed that a young Anne Boleyn first met Henry VIII at Rochford Hall in Essex, the home of her older sister Mary Boleyn. This manor house was initially built in 1216 although it was significantly expanded towards the end of the Tudor epoch. The hall boasts a large room called Anne Boleyn's Nursery, where her ghost is said to still occasionally visit. Her headless spectre has also been seen wandering around the outside of the hall. As well as Rochford, Anne Boleyn is said to number one of the ghosts at Marwell Hall in Hampshire, although her connections with the place are somewhat tenuous. Her ghost has apparently been sighted in the Yew Walk behind the hall. A traditional rumour relates how Henry was at Marwood with Jane Seymour while Anne was languishing in the Tower.
Hampton Court Palace
Hampton Court Palace is reputed to be haunted by three of Henry VIII's six wives, including Anne Boleyn.
The royal residence of Hampton Court Palace is famously haunted by numerous historical figures, both famous and obscure. The palace was founded by Cardinal Wolsey although it came into the possession of Henry VIII after the cardinal fell out of favour with the tempestuous monarch. As well as the ghost of Henry VIII, Hampton Court Palace is haunted by three of his six wives, including Anne Boleyn. Around the end of the 19th century, a servant at the palace witnessed an otherworldly female dressed in blue walking dolefully from room to room. The servant recognized the ghostly woman as Anne Boleyn from portraits she'd seen at the palace. When she was married to Henry, Anne resided at Hampton Court. She also lived at Windsor Castle, another royal residence harbouring a variety of ghosts, including that of the ill-fated queen, who has been seen looking through a window in the Dean's Cloister.
Anne spent her final days in the Tower of London, the forbidding medieval fortress on the north bank of the River Thames. Here she was confined until May 19 1536, when she was escorted to a specially erected scaffold on Tower Green. She was executed with a sword, as opposed to the more traditional axe; the executioner having been sent for from Calais at great expense. Anne's was a private execution, although it was still observed by a large audience. Her head was lopped off in one fell swoop, although it was noted that when the head was held aloft to the crowd, the mouth and eyes still moved. Her body was subsequently bundled into an arrow-chest and buried under the chancel in the Chapel of St Peter ad Vincula, the church within the confines of the Tower. Her severed head was placed under her arm.
The Tower of London
Anne Boleyn was beheaded at the Tower of London on May 19, 1536.
Anne was one of many people to die a violent and traumatic death within the grim confines of the Tower of London, generally considered the most haunted building in England. Among the many ghosts said to still walk the ancient fortress, Anne's is possibly the most widely reported. One of these reports dates from 1817 and tells of how a sentry on duty at the White Tower - the central Norman keep and oldest part of the fortress - expired from a heart attack brought about by a terrifying encounter on a staircase with a spectral lady of whom he believed was Anne Boleyn.
In 1864, another sentry at the Tower noticed an ominous mist emanating from the Queen's House. When he went to investigate he saw an unearthly figure slowly emerge from the mist. As the figure turned to face the sentry, he noted that it resembled a woman attired in Tudor dress and wearing a strange-looking bonnet. To his horror, there was only a black void where her face should have been. As the headless woman loomed towards the guard, he plunged his bayonet into it, however the weapon just passed straight through the ghastly apparition. He then fainted and was awoken some time later by an irate superior who had him court-martialled. The guard was subsequently reprieved however when his story was corroborated by two other sentries who witnessed the whole incident. A similar encounter between a hapless guard and a headless lady occurred in 1933 at the same location.
An incident dating from the late 19th century is perhaps the most spectacular sighting of the long-dead queen. It recounts a strange night at the Tower when an officer caught sight of an eerie light coming from an upper window of the Chapel of St Peter ad Vincula. The officer fetched a ladder and climbed up to investigate. He was greeted with an astonishing vision. A large procession of figures attired in Tudor dress slowly proceeded around the interior of the church, and at the head of the party was none other than Anne Boleyn herself! Before the officer had a chance to recollect his senses, the entire procession vanished into thin air leaving the church in darkness.
There is an old legend that Anne Boleyn's body doesn't actually lie in the Tower's chapel but is instead buried at Salle Church in Norfolk. The story relates that soon after she was interred at the Tower, her corpse was exhumed and secretly removed to Salle Church, where it was buried under a black slab near the tombs of her ancestors. Whether there is any truth to this tale is highly debatable, although it has predictably given rise to Salle Church becoming another one of the ghostly queen's many 'haunts'.
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Weir, Alison (2010) The Lady In The Tower: The Fall of Anne Boleyn, Vintage.