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Ghosts Roam Royal Residencies - let's investigate.
It’s a difficult task to define a ghost and I don’t intend to try. However, inexplicable sightings and things that go bump in the night are an intriguing part of history.
If you’re into spooky goings-on, Britain is the place to keep your eyes peeled. Let’s wander some royal residences, definitely a touristy ghost buster’s paradise.
St James’s Palace - the saddest sighting.
Princess Diana, with her usual flair, was reportedly quick to make a comeback.
At St. James’s Palace, immediately following her death, came a sighting to give you the goose bumps. The sighting is well documented.
The discovery came from a woman who had queued to sign the condolence book. Immediately afterwards, distraught and bewildered she sought out journalists: ‘I have to tell you something. At the end of the hall there's a painting. The light is shining on it and Princess Diana's face is looking out. It's not just me. Everyone's seen her face looking out.'
The painting is a portrait of Charles the First. Numerous people agreed. They all said they definitely saw Diana. They saw the image behind the king’s left shoulder.
Hampton Court Palace
In May 2000 at Hampton Court eerie happenings were reported. Two women visitors fainted in the exact same spot in the gallery while on separate candle-lit tours.
Over time others claim to have seen a ringed hand knocking on the door and heard screams.
These spine tingling moments are credited to Catherine Howard, fifth wife of Henry the Eighth. Her appearances are so frequent they are responsible for the spine tingling name – The Haunted Gallery.
Catherine appears to be a regular prowler - and who could blame her? Barely 20, she was the fifth wife of the fleshy, ulcerated and aged Henry, who referred to her as 'My rose without a thorn' - until he discovered her prickly past and heard tales of current lovers. He was not pleased: ‘Off with her head.'
Young Catherine did not go to the block gracefully. When she was arrested at Hampton Court, she fled from the guards and ran screaming along the gallery to a chapel and Henry.
He ignored her cries for help. It’s said he was busy, prematurely praying for her soul. Or was he planning his proposal to the next Mrs. Tudor?
Terrified, struggling and screaming, Catherine was dragged away from Hampton Court and taken by boat, down the Thames to the Tower of London for beheading.
Visitors say her spirit remains at Hampton Court where she still runs along the haunted gallery, shrieking for help.
A Lady in Grey
Also roaming Hampton Court is the spectre known as the Grey Lady – Mrs Sibell Penn, nurse to Henry the Eighth’s children. She died of smallpox in 1562 and rested peacefully until 1892 when her body was removed from a church following storm damage.
Back at Hampton Court, residents began to hear voices and the whirr of a spinning wheel. A wall was removed to investigate, revealing a chamber containing a spinning wheel, thought to have belonged to Mrs Penn.
Many independent witnesses are said to have spotted her apparition since.
Searching for Answers
In 2003, CCTV cameras were placed at Hampton Court. They captured a mysterious pale figure, wearing a long back coat, tampering with a set of fire doors. Initially officials concluded that the footage may well prove to be evidence that ghosts exist - others claim it as a hoax.
The Tower of London
Now, let’s visit that most haunted place - the Tower of London, where Henry’s second wife Anne Boleyn is a regular visitor.
Apparently Anne went to her executioner in a dignified manner. She knew a thing or two about beheadings. She reckoned the English executioners were a clumsy lot. An uneven chop perhaps. She requested a French chap be brought over to do the job cleanly.
You can tell Henry had a compassionate streak. He granted her wish. The French chop must have been a ripper. The ghost of Anne, who frequently paces the tower, is headless.
A Countess replays her death scene
Yes folks, there’s plenty of action at the Tower. Margaret, Countess of Salisbury, often replays her execution. And little wonder. She was terrified. The man with the axe (presumably English) had difficulty restraining her.
He chased her around, missing several times, before finally striking a number of heavy blows to her head. This whole terrifying scene is said to be replayed in full ectoplasm.
Move over for other hauntings
Should you happen to visit the Tower on February 12, look out for Lady Jane Grey - the Nine Day queen. She often makes an appearance on the anniversary of her death - February 12, 1554.
Sir Walter Raleigh is also said to wander freely around the tower. He’s been spotted by a Yeoman Guard and other sentries. Raleigh knew the tower well. He was imprisoned for many years (1603-1616) finally being beheaded in 1618.
And should screams assail you while visiting the tower, it’s just Guy Fawkes, probably wishing he hadn’t attempted to blow up parliament. His anguish, as he was tortured before being hung, drawn, and quartered, is said to be clearly audible on occasions. Ouch. Can’t blame him can you?
Kensington Palace is known within the Royal ranks as Hoodoo House. It has a history of tragedy and early death including Mary, wife of William the third, who died there of smallpox at the age of 32. William was next, dying in agony after a fall from his horse.
The most frequent spectre wandering the rooms at Kensington Palace is King George the second. He is said to stop and check the weather vane, just as he used to, as he waited for ships bringing news from his native Hanover.
It’s rumoured he suffered from painful haemorrhoids and died after falling off the loo. Perhaps good enough reason to come back and haunt the place. The foreboding connected to Kensington Palace may appear histrionic. However, it was the residence of the ill fated Diana and Princess Margaret.
Ghosts - figments of imagination? Folklore? Tourist attraction? Or the real thing? I don't know. But having a resident ghost is not necessarily a hindrance. As tourists we love them.