The Hampton Court Ghost
The Tudor Palace at Hampton Court
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
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
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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
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.
Find Out About Hampton Court Palace
- Hampton Court Palace | Official Site
The official website of Hampton Court Palace, managed by Historic Royal Palaces.
© 2011 Judi Brown