The Ghost of Anne Boleyn
Intro to The Ghost of Anne Boleyn
In recent times, the interest and intrigue in the story of Anne Boleyn (King Henry VIII's second wife) has grown immensely. With novels and popular television shows most likely sparking the imagination of many, Anne Boleyn has become quite a well-known name in history and popular culture. But for centuries now, before mainstream society knew her name well, the ghost of Anne Boleyn has haunted more than one place in England.
Who was Anne Boleyn, really? And why would her ghost haunt so many places in England to this day, after five centuries following her death?
Let's explore the captivating and ultimately tragic life and death of Anne Boleyn, short-lived Queen of England.
For her behavior, manners, attire, and tongue...she excelled them all.— Lancelot de Carles
A Brief History of Anne Boleyn's Life
Anne Boleyn was estimated to have been born sometime between the years of 1501 and 1507. No one quite knows her exact birthdate or year. Unfortunately not a whole lot of information is known of Anne Boleyn's childhood, but we do know that Anne Boleyn spent some time in France (between six and seven years) in her teens, as an attendant to the French Queens. She had acquired this job through her older sister, Mary Boleyn.
Some claim that it was in France where Anne Boleyn first crossed paths with King Henry VIII. Apparently he had a rendezvous with the French King, King Francis I when Anne first laid eyes on him. At this point, King Henry VIII was young, fit and handsome (unlike his later years, might I add). Eventually, Anne's sister went back to England and left her to attend the Queen Claude in France for some time.
In 1522, Anne Boleyn returned to England as well, in preparation for a marriage to the earl of Ormonde. This marriage didn't work out as planned, and Anne Boleyn ended up flirting with another handsome man known as Henry Percy. At this point, she had come to be an attendant in the court of the Queen of England, Catharine of Aragon. Well, you can guess how Anne Boleyn and King Henry VIII came to know each other after that...especially if you've read or learned anything about the reputation of King Henry VIII. Let's just say he really liked the ladies of the court and his Queen's attendants...I mean really liked them.
When King Henry VIII started courting Anne, it is believed that he asked her to be his "mistress", but Anne wasn't having it! She wanted to be his Queen or nothing at all...so she denied his advances until King Henry VIII had split permanently from his wife, Catharine of Aragon. Of course this caused a big uproar with the Church, as annulments (or divorces) were not a thing that the King was supposed to be doing. Eventually this would lead to the English Reformation...but we won't go into those boring details here.
In 1533, Anne Boleyn and King Henry VIII were married in secret, as Anne was "with child"...Henry's child, of course. She became Queen of England, despite many members of the court holding sort of a grudge against her and many people in England spreading nasty rumors about her. Anne Boleyn gave birth to a little girl, though the entire country (including herself) was expecting a boy as an heir to the throne. King Henry VIII was no doubt disappointed, and so Anne Boleyn knew that she must give birth to a son for Henry or she'd eventually be given the boot, too (just as Henry's first wife had).
After at least two more pregnancies, and both of them ending in miscarriages or stillbirths...Anne began to panic. She knew her life was in danger if she couldn't give King Henry VIII a son to eventually take his place. And during Anne's panicking and trying times with her pregnancies, you can bet that King Henry VIII had taken a keen liking to one of Anne's attendants...by the name of Jane Seymour. Naughty boy, wasn't he?
In 1536, Anne Boleyn (as a plot from some of the miserable men of the court who hated her) was accused of horrible things, crimes which anyone who was close to her knew were false accusations. Adultery, witchcraft, and treason were the charges. The adultery was said to have been between Anne and five other men, one including incest with her own brother. She was said to be a witch and carried the mark of a witch - a "sixth finger" (though this has never been proven). Treason was a charge brought up for Anne's supposed plot to murder her husband, King Henry VIII.
Anne Boleyn, alongside of her brother, were tried and convicted of the charges brought up against them. You can guess that Anne was distraught...and probably didn't care whether she lived or died, at this point. To have the person you love so much accuse you of such terrible crimes would be enough to break anyone's heart into pieces...to leave you as an empty shell. Anne was killed by beheading at the Tower of London.
Anne Boleyn's body was put into a chest and then thrown into an unmarked grave in the Chapel of St. Peter ad Vincula. Eventually her body would be found by Queen Victoria and placed in a marked grave in the chapel.
Rock me asleep
Bring on my quiet rest
Let pass my very guiltless ghost
Out of my careful breast
Ring out the doleful knell
Let it sound
My death tell
For I must die.— Anne Boleyn
The Ghost of Anne Boleyn
The most famous haunting place of the ghost of Anne Boleyn is the Tower of London...the place where she was beheaded. Many documented sightings of the ghost of Anne Boleyn have been made from accounts there. Guardsmen are the usually witnesses, and have reported seeing the headless ghost of Anne Boleyn roaming the tower and the Chapel since the early 1800's. Two guardsmen claim that Anne Boleyn has walked right into their bayonets, after one guard told a story of thrusting his own weapon through a headless ghost. Her white image has been seen walking between the Tower and into the Chapel...and eventually sinking back into her grave under the Church.
On Christmas Eve, the sorrowful ghost of Anne Boleyn is said to haunt Hever Castle in Kent. (Hever Castle is where Anne Boleyn grew up). The ghost of Anne Boleyn has been sighted many times here and she is said to take walks, stopping to stand under an oak tree where she and King Henry VIII courted. Legend also has it that the ghost of Anne Boleyn likes to walk across a bridge and drop a sprig of holly into the water. Is this her spirit's ghostly nod to Christmases past or to the Christmases that she never had the joy of experiencing in later life?
On the anniversary of her death, the headless ghost of Anne Boleyn is said to ride towards one of her supposed childhood homes in Norfolk, England on a carriage pulled by headless horses. It is said that her very head sits in her lap...looking outwards...trying desperately to find her home and family. Unfortunately, her home in Norfolk has since been destroyed and a new building has been placed over the site where her home once stood.
Is the ghost of Anne Boleyn in search for her head or is she in desperate search for a sense of peace? She was used and accused in life, but maybe one day she will ascend to a better place and know what it's like to be treated as a real Queen...and not yesterday's trash as King Henry VIII had treated her. As creepy as a headless ghost might be, the stories of the ghost of Anne Boleyn are truly sad stories...a woman who wanted nothing but to please her husband and could never fulfill that simple wish.
© 2011 Nicole Canfield