The Hampton Court Ghost

The Tudor Palace at Hampton Court

Anne Boleyn's Gateway, Hampton Court Palace
Anne Boleyn's Gateway, Hampton Court Palace | Source

Hampton Court Palace

Hampton Court Palace is a testament to the enduring appeal of the Tudors. It may have been massively extended by William and Mary, but the elegant Baroque extension isn't what draws people to the Palace. The allure of Hampton Court Palace is its place in history as the backdrop to the turbulent times of three people; Henry VIII, Anne Boleyn and Cardinal Thomas Wolsey.

Within the redbrick, towered walls of Hampton Court these three ambitious, vibrant and cunning people played out one of England's greatest dramas: the King's Great Matter. The resolution of the drama led not only to a break with the Roman Catholic Church, but also to Wolsey's downfall, Anne's eventual disgrace and execution and Henry's slide from the perfect renaissance prince into a bitter tyrant.

In view of the magnitude of the events and the size of the personalities, it is surprising then that these three have not left their spiritual imprint upon the Palace. Apparently they have not. The shades that haunt Hampton Court Palace do not include Wolsey's, Anne's or Henry's. Instead, it is another Tudor who does the haunting: the Hampton Court ghost is Catherine Howard, Henry's fifth wife.


Miniature of Catherine Howard

Portrait reputed to be Catherine Howard
Portrait reputed to be Catherine Howard

Other Hampton Court Ghosts

Catherine doesn't haunt the Palace alone. Here are a few of the other ghosts who have been spotted:

  • Jane Seymour, Henry's third wife. She reappears on the anniversary of the birth of her son, Edward VI, holding a candle.
  • Mrs Sybil Penn, the nurse of young Edward VI. She is seen working at a spinning wheel. A spinning wheel was found bricked up in the walls some years ago.
  • An unknown Georgian man.

Catherine, the Rose Without A Thorn

Catherine was a granddaughter of Thomas Howard, the Duke of Norfolk. Despite this impressive connection, no one thought her of enough importance to record her birth date; it is thought she was born between 1518 and 1525. Her father, Lord Edmund Howard, was a brother of Lady Elizabeth Boleyn, Anne Boleyn's mother. Hence she and Anne Boleyn were first cousins.

Catherine's early life was spent in the care of her step-grandmother, the Dowager Duchess of the Norfolk, who had a very relaxed attitude to the supervision of Catherine and the other young girls in her household. It seems likely that Catherine had at least one, probably two, lovers whilst in her teens. Nevertheless, her family connections allowed her to gain a coveted position at court in the household of the new Queen, Anne of Cleves.

Henry had taken an instant dislike to his fourth wife and was eager to put her aside. He was all the more keen on becoming single again when his eye fell on young Catherine Howard. Catherine's relatives seized the opportunity and pushed her forward, hushing up her previous liaisons.

Henry swiftly married Catherine once the annulment of his marriage to Anne of Cleves was settled. He was besotted by his new wife, whom he considered pure and innocent, his "rose without a thorn". Sadly, rumours that she was anything but innocent soon began to filter through the Court. She did nothing to scotch the rumours when she began a dalliance with a handsome young courtier, Thomas Culpeper. Her fate was sealed when she appointed one of her former lovers, Frances Dereham, as her private secretary. Within two years of her marriage to Henry, she was charged with adultery and treason. The evidence against her was corroborated by Culpeper and Dereham who were tortured at the Tower. Henry was finally a broken man, destroyed by the betrayal of his perfect rose.

The Ghosts of Hampton Court Palace

Who Was the Coolest of Henry VIII's Wives?

Ever wondered which of Henry's wives was the coolest? Henry may have thought Catherine was hot, but she wasn't cool! Find out which one of Henry's wives I think is coolest (and why) and cast your own vote too.

The Coolest of Henry VIII's Six Wives

Catherine's Final Days at Hampton Court Palace

Once charged, Catherine became frantic. She was kept away from the King and confined to her own apartments at Hampton Court Palace. However, in a desperate attempt to appeal to Henry for her life, Catherine managed to slip away from her guards and make her way to the King's Chapel at a time when she knew Henry would be hearing Mass. She ran down the Gallery and reached the doors of the Chapel and began banging on them, imploring Henry to see her. She was kept out until her guards caught her and dragged her back to her rooms, whilst all the while she screamed out Henry's name.

On 13 February 1841 a pale but composed Catherine was helped onto the scaffold to be beheaded on Tower Green within the Tower of London. She had spent the previous evening practising laying her head upon the block so that she didn't embarrass herself by getting it wrong. Her body was laid in an unmarked grave near to her cousin, Queen Anne Boleyn, in St Peter Ad Vincula's Chapel.

Hampton Court Location

A markerHampton Court Palace -
Hampton Court Palace, 75 Bridge Rd, Surrey KT8 9AU, Surrey
[get directions]

The Haunted Gallery

The scene of Catherine's final attempt to melt Henry's heart, the Gallery, is the site where her spirit makes itself know. So many people have been affected by her presence that the Gallery is now known as the Haunted Gallery. Over the years people have heard her screams and banging on the chapel doors, seen her fleeing along the corridor with her hair streaming behind her and been overcome with such emotion that they have fainted.

Amongst those who have heard the mysterious screams are some current residents of the Palace. Although the Royal Family have long quit the Palace, some of its apartments are occupied on a grace-and-favour basis. Occasionally, the apartments' occupants have reported being disturbed by shrieking from the Gallery. Tourists can also be affected; in 1999 during two separate evening tours, two women fainted on the same spot in the Gallery. The following year an investigation by the University of Hertfordshire found that people experienced strange feelings in the Gallery at particular spots, not just anywhere.


How Haunted is Hampton Court Palace?

There are lots of haunted places in the world; does Hampton Court make it on to the list of the World's Most Haunted Places?

Hampton Court Palace Ghost Tours

The current custodians of Hampton Court Palace are not abashed at their haunted reputation. Indeed, they now organise special nighttime ghost tours. Whilst these tours do not include a full tour of the Palace they do take in the haunted highlights, including the infamous Haunted Gallery. Places fill quickly, so book in advance. The tour is unsuitable for children under 12.

© 2011 Judith Hancock

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Comments 27 comments

gryphin423 profile image

gryphin423 4 years ago from Florida

I always love a ghost story, but a Tudor one, interesting indeed! Thanks for sharing the story :-)


Judi Bee profile image

Judi Bee 4 years ago from UK Author

Hi Kate - it's my favourite kind of stuff, historical and spooky!

Lovely to hear from you :-)


SanneL profile image

SanneL 4 years ago from Sweden

Hello Judi!

I always had a thing for the "unknown and ghosts" so your hub was quite a treat for me. Hope you have some more British ghosts waiting in lure to be displayed by you. Hehe!

Voted up and very interesting!

Great, great hub!


Judi Bee profile image

Judi Bee 4 years ago from UK Author

Hi Sannel - the "unknown" has always fascinated me too, so I expect I shall be writing more spooky hubs. Glad you enjoyed this one, hope to be able to entertain you with more!

Thanks for your comments, always appreciated!


StellaSee profile image

StellaSee 4 years ago from California

Hi Judi actually I went to Hampton Court! But darn, I missed out on seeing any ghosts...maybe next time! I remember watching cooking demonstrations in the kitchens, the re-enactement of Catherine and Henry's wedding, watching the swans in the lake...Next time I would want to go back during spring/summer when the gardens would be blooming (I went during November).

Anyway, that might have been a bit off topic but great hub and great information! I didn't know Catherine was related to Anne Boleyn, learned something new today. :D


Judi Bee profile image

Judi Bee 4 years ago from UK Author

Hi StellaSee - well, we both have something in common - we went to Hampton Court and missed the ghost! I've been a few times, back in the olden days before they livened the place up with re-enactments, but I still loved visiting. If you go again, you could try to go when the Flower Show is on - never been, but always watch it on the TV, looks beautiful.

Thanks so much for taking the time to comment, much appreciated :-)


Rusti Mccollum profile image

Rusti Mccollum 4 years ago from Lake Oswego, Oregon

Saw this link on your other haunting story and I am riveted! Great job,Great videoes. I am going back to check out your other haunted links.Interesting read .I enjoyed the hauntings so far. On my page I wrote about our haunted house,so I'm a believer.Even my husband believes in ghosts now, after living there! I have some pics taken in sucession that show a strange mist in the middle of the 3!I took those pics and I didn't do anything to those photos.They have christmas pictures on my page.Whatever that was , was right in my face.I was too scared to take anymore pics of that house. So I definitely love your hauntings! Interesting aren't they.


Judi Bee profile image

Judi Bee 4 years ago from UK Author

Hi Rusti - great to hear that you enjoyed my spooky hubs! Since writing them I've been talking to a few people I know who, like you, have their own haunted houses. It's absolutely fascinating! I shall check out your hubs, sounds very interesting.

Thanks for your comments, great to hear your story too :-)


sholland10 profile image

sholland10 4 years ago from Southwest Missouri

After reading your World's Most Haunted Places and knowing our fascination with the ghostly Tudor's, I had to come check, and I was not disappointed. You explained the story of Katherine Howard perfectly. My daughter and I got to visit Hampton Court during the day, and the reference to her ghost was made in the tour. A beautiful palace! Great Hub! Votes and Shares!


Judi Bee profile image

Judi Bee 4 years ago from UK Author

Hi sholland10 - it's such a sad little story, I always feel sorry for Katherine Howard, she was badly used by everyone around her and sadly she didn't have any sense herself. I really like Hampton Court Palace, I keep promising myself that I will go up for their flower show but, as yet, I haven't managed it.

Thanks for your kind comments, I appreciate them :-)


AudreyHowitt profile image

AudreyHowitt 4 years ago from California

I love ghost stories! Thank you for an entertaining read!


Cyndi10 profile image

Cyndi10 4 years ago from Georgia

Very informative and ghostly read. So glad you shared it with us.


Judi Bee profile image

Judi Bee 4 years ago from UK Author

Hi Audrey - ghost stories are always fascinating, in my opinion at least. Glad you enjoyed this one.

Thanks for your comments, always appreciated :-)


Judi Bee profile image

Judi Bee 4 years ago from UK Author

Hi Cyndi - my pleasure! Thank you for taking the time to comment, great to hear from you :-)


wilderness profile image

wilderness 4 years ago from Boise, Idaho

Neat story. Poor Catherine, forever bound to the old castle. It was a different time, back with Henry VIII, wasn't it? Not what we might consider a pleasant time to live.


Judi Bee profile image

Judi Bee 4 years ago from UK Author

Hi wilderness - you're absolutely right, it must have been a dreadful time to live in - rotten food, poor housing, short life expectancy - and yet still it fascinates me!

Thanks very much for reading and commenting, appreciated as always.


GoodLady profile image

GoodLady 4 years ago from Rome, Italy

I always have to read every word of you thrilling series of history scary stories. Love them. Have Pinned and voted and shared.


Duffee profile image

Duffee 4 years ago

Oh this would be a place on my list of places to see whenever I get the chance to travel abroad. I love that you brought a bit of history to the forefront--as I did not know much about Henry's 5th wife. Wonderful hub!! Thanks for sharing :)


Judi Bee profile image

Judi Bee 4 years ago from UK Author

Hi GoodLady - very glad you enjoy reading about my favourite bad people, the Terrible Tudors! Thanks for commenting and sharing too!

Hi Duffee - delighted to be able to share this story with you and glad that you enjoyed it.

Thanks to both of your for taking the time to read and comment, much appreciated!


Natashalh profile image

Natashalh 4 years ago from Hawaii

I live in one of the oldest cities in the US, but none of our buildings are anywhere near this old! It is so cool that such old buildings are relatively commonplace in other parts of the world. I'm not saying I believe in ghosts...but I used to live in a haunted house. Great information about the Tudors and the Hampton Court ghost!


Judi Bee profile image

Judi Bee 4 years ago from UK Author

Hi Natasha - we are (in my opinion) lucky to have such a wonderful built-heritage. I've always loved visiting castle, stately homes and the like - but I was a weird history-geeky kind of kid!

Thanks for your comments, always appreciated.


Janis Goad profile image

Janis Goad 4 years ago

I love these historical stories. I always feel how the strong emotions and suffering that happened in locations seeps into the stones, bricks and wood. Beautiful, but dark.


Judi Bee profile image

Judi Bee 4 years ago from UK Author

Hi Janis - old buildings certainly have an emotional pull for me. I do feel that Catherine Howard's story is particularly sad - she was so young to have been trapped in such a horrible situation.

Thanks for your comments, always great to hear from you.


Hubert Williams 3 years ago

Avery intriguing story which prompted me to search out more tales of the paace and it's special tenants. I almost forgot to comment on your most interesting post. Thank you for presenting it to us.


Judi Bee profile image

Judi Bee 3 years ago from UK Author

Hi Hubert - it is a great story, and it's a beautiful place to visit with or without a ghost. I promise myself every year that I will go back when they have the annual Garden Show there, but never get around to it.

Thanks so much for your comments, glad it led you to some more interesting tales!


Rusti Mccollum profile image

Rusti Mccollum 3 years ago from Lake Oswego, Oregon

I LOVED this hub! It was wonderful to read! History can be amazing! Great job!


Judi Bee profile image

Judi Bee 3 years ago from UK Author

Hi Rusti - thanks so much for the lovely comment, I appreciate it! I agree entirely that history can be amazing.

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