Tuesday, 14 October 2008

Anne Boleyn And Her Many Afterlifes

King Henry VIII accused his second wife Anne Boleyn of infidelity, although the truth in that accusation is disputed as Henry probably got rid of her so he could move on to his next prospect, and those accusations began the process that ended in Anne losing her head. Whether or not she put herself around in real life is open to debate, but in the afterlife she seems to be living up to expectations.

On the 19th of May 1536 Anne was put to death (sorry... hacked to death by a sword) on Tower Green by the Tower of London. But such a trifling incident was, it would seem, not going to get in the way of Anne Boleyn living her afterlife to the fullest.

In 1817 a sentry at the Tower encountered Anne's ghost. So shocked was he at her appearance, that he shortly afterward suffered a heart attack and died. She next made her appearance in 1864 when:

"a soldier encountered Anne and fainted, he was then court-martialled for being found asleep on duty. The soldier at his post near the Lieutenant's Lodgings was met by a white figure, and made the appropriate challenge, "who goes there?". When he received no response he trust his fixed bayonet into it. He recalled a piercing shock when a "fiery flash" ran through his weapon, dropping his rifle and then no more. At his trial the sentry described the spirit, "It was the figure of a woman wearing a queer-looking bonnet, but there wasn't no head inside the bonnet." Many witnesses came forward with testimony of having seen a headless spirit that evening near the Lieutenant's Lodgings. The most sensational testimony was that of an officer who had been in his room in the Bloody Tower. Having heard the challenge he went to his window and saw the whole scene exactly as the sentry had described and added that the headless spectre walked through the bayonet and then the sentry who collapsed. The court-martial found the soldier not guilty and he was acquitted."
A similar incident occurred in 1933 when she was again challenged by a guard, and promptly walked straight on to his bayonet. He made a "tactical withdrawal" and fled screaming to seek help.

If the stories are to be believed she is most likely to be encountered in the corridors of the White Tower, which is in fact not a tower as popularly known but the large white square building many refer to as the Tower of London. As an aside that is quite wrong, the Tower of London is in fact a complex of buildings surrounded by walls and a moat.

Others say you're more likely to find her proceeding from the Queen's House to the Chapel of Saint Peter ad Vincula and then up the aisle to her grave.

But don't worry if you miss her there. Head down to St. James Palace and to the Chapel Royal. Here's an account of a Captain of the Guard who having seen a light burning in the locked Chapel in the night, found a ladder and saw this scene:

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.

From Ghostly Visitors: A Series of Authentic Narratives By Spectre Stricken,

Now should you suffer the extreme misfortune of missing out on any Royal Ghostly activity here, don't despair! Head down to Kent and visit Hever Castle. Here you'll find Anne Boleyn in an even more sombre guise. Supposedly, a black coach can sometimes be seen racing up the avenue towards the castle pulled by six, large black headless horses.

Hever Castle was the seat of the Boleyn family and Anne spent some time here in her youth. An oak, beneath which Anne and Henry courted, still stands in the grounds and her ghost is said to appear beneath it at Christmas time and can also sometimes be seen walking the bridge that crosses over the River Eden within the castle grounds.

If you've missed this spectacle there's nothing to worry about, she often puts on a repeat performance at the place of her birth; Blickling Hall in Norfolk. Here the same coach and headless horses (although only four this time) can be seen once a year dropping Anne off at the entrance to the building, through which she then wanders until dawn.

Anne Boleyn also spent some time at Rochford Hall in Essex and the locals report a headless female ghost.

Rumours persist she haunts Hampton Court, also supposedly haunted by Henry's favourite Jane Seymour and the headless Katherine Howard. I can only imagine the ghostly bitchfights the three of them might be having in that place (or perhaps they've formed the Second, Third And Fifth Wives Club), no wonder Anne feels the need to spread her wings a little and travel around a bit.

Why is Anne Boleyn's ghost so widely reported? There is somewhat of a cult of Anne Boleyn in this country, and she is definitively the most well known of Henry VIII's wives. It's hardly surprising her name is brought up when anything out of the ordinary is spotted. I'd love to know how so many made the positive identification of Anne? There are, obviously, no photographs and the pictures of her are all in that Tudor style which renders her looking exactly like every other Tudor era woman. How on Earth can they be so sure it's a the ghost of Anne Boleyn??

I don't know... isn't it somewhat a coincidence that the most well known Queen of Henry the VIII also happens to the be the most prolific ghost? Sure her life ended in tragedy, but I feel not so tragic as many a fair maiden met back then, after all she'd played the game and knew what to expect, unlike others who have met far more gruesome deaths. Why should they be any different to her? Why aren't they cavorting around the country enjoying their afterlife? Hmm.. suspicious...

But I leave you with two pictures to dwell upon, taken by CCTV at Hampton Court. I don't think it's Anne but it sure looks like something I wouldn't want to meet in a dark alley. More details here.


Anonymous said...

WHAT an interesting blog! I'll have to visit again! I love ghostie stories and have been fortunate enough...or maybe unfortunate...to have had some strange experiences of my own.

Gee said...

Jae how tempted were you to squeeze in a pun about "not losing your head"? C'mon, you must've been, even if only a little bit.

Great post.

Jae said...

Oh a scale of one to ten of temptation to pun I'd say.. 11! :D It was hard not to...

pregnancy said...

what are the last two picture tell us?? please talk about it more..

Susan Sheppard said...

It is Henry the VIII. Don't know why this occurred to almost no one. It is quite clear to me, he was a disturbed and brutish man and it shows.