Ghosts on Film: Hampton Court Palace

See them walking hand in hand
Across the bridge at midnight
Heads turning as the lights flashing out
Are so bright
And walk right out to the four line track
There’s a camera rolling on her back
On her back
And I sense a rhythm humming in a frenzy
All the way down her spine…

Ghosts on film
Ghosts on film

The Great Gate at Hampton Court Palace via Wikimedia Commons. Luke Nicolaides.

This week, we’re looking at London’s Hampton Court Palace. Hampton Court is a 16th century royal palace originally built in 1514 by Cardinal Thomas Wolsey, the chief minister of famous wife-collector-and-murderer, King Henry VIII. After Wolsey fell out of favour with the ferocious king, he gave Henry the palace as a form of penance and it quickly became one of his favourite residences. The palace is currently in the possession of the crown, Queen Elizbeth II, and is one of only two remaining palaces from Henry VII’s sizeable collection.

Henry VIII, Hans Holbein the Younger c.1537

While the palace has been in use by the monarchy ever since – and is a considerable public draw today – public interest and infamy lies within the tumultuous Tudor era. Arguably the most commonly referenced event in Hampton Court’s history relates to the imprisonment and/or death of three of Henry VIII’s unfortunate wives. To begin, the rarely-seen Anne Boleyn.

Anne Boleyn c. 1550

The apartments above the palace’s gatehouse, intended to house Anne Boleyn, were still under construction when the queen was led to the tower to be executed. Anne was held at Hampton Court, awaiting her execution as her husband busied himself with the next fertile object of his affections. Anne is a particularly mobile spectre, seen across many countrywide royal haunts (partially pardon the pun),  but supposedly spends many hours walking down the corridors of Hampton Court wearing a blue or black dress, screaming. Similarly, and fittingly, she is occasionally seen running corridors while clutching her own severed head.

The ‘ghost’ of Jane Seymour, as depicted on a postcard c.1900

Henry VIII’s ‘beloved’ third wife, Jane Seymour died a few days after giving birth to Prince Edward in October 1537. Her ghost is said to be less dramatic and vengeful than the two that accompany her, but wanders around the rooms in sorrow, described by Hampton Court as ‘a sad white wraith carrying a lighted taper’.[1]While Henry was thrilled to finally have the male heir he had so longed for, he was devastated at the death of his ‘perfect’ wife. Jane is said to appear on the Silverstick Stairs, a staircase that once led to the room in which she gave birth and later died. Her apparition is far less frequent than others, appearing only on the anniversary of her son’s birth. Jane was also the only one of Henry’s wives to join him in his royal tomb at Windsor castle.

Another ghost c1900, this time of Catherine Howard

Most famously, Henry VIII’s fifth wife, Catherine Howard was executed on (generally considered false) accusations of adultery and treason in 1542. She is said to haunt the palace in a particularly unmissable, vocal style, gaining her the nickname ‘The Screaming Queen.’ Catherine, aged only 19 was beheaded at the Tower of London in 1542 but was arrested at Hampton Court. Upon her arrest, she broke free from the guards and ran, screaming down a corridor, since called the Haunted Gallery, viscerally screaming for the king to be merciful.

She was accosted before finding Henry, who was praying in the chapel, and never saw him again. Her ghost is said to repeat this screaming journey in perpetuity, never reaching her cruel king.

Catherine Howard’s ghost as depicted on a postcard. c1900.

Catherine’s ghost continues to pop up in snaps to this day. In 2015, coach driver Trevor Tye was visiting the palace when a photo taken of the palace’s marble staircase appeared to show the ghost of the queen. The pictures were sent straight to the press where, with the help of some circles, the ghost is ‘clear’ for all to see…

Ghost, pixels or staff, you decide… Images via The Mirror/Mercury Press

Hampton Court is not only the home to royal spirits, but of their servants too. The ghost of ‘The Grey Lady’ (I’m sure there’s some legal requirement for all historic buildings to have a grey lady of some form) is said to be the ghost of Sybil Penn, servant to four Tudor monarchs and wetnurse to Edward VI. Her death came at the hands of smallpox through her devotion to her duties. When Elizabeth I caught the pox in 1562, Sybil nursed her throughout her illness, but while Elizabeth recovered, Sybil contracted the disease and died shortly thereafter. There were supposedly no reports of a haunting until her tomb was disturbed in 1829, after which sightings of a ‘grey lady’ were frequently reported. Supposedly, the servant is also linked to the sound of an old spinning wheel, which could never be attributed to a living cause. Apparently these mysterious sounds, emitting from behind a wall, were vindicated when during renovations, an old spinning wheel was unearthed in the same spot.

Images via News Group Newspapers

The Grey Lady is a popular ghost in tourist snaps, appearing in a somewhat malevolent form in 2015 where Holly Hampsheir took a picture of her young cousin in the King’s Apartments. Beside the young girl appears to be a huge figure, thought to be a woman in a grey/black dress. What do you think? Personally, I think it looks like a beer garden’s parasol covered in hair, but I can see the spooky element.

The Fire Door Ghost. Image via hrp.org.uk



[the less-than-dramatic footage can be found here –
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7sjzjyfPJqA ]

In 2003, CCTV at the palace caught the image of a supposed spectre throwing open some fire doors. Many say this to be the ghost of Henry VII, as staff and security were accounted for and the clip was shown around the world to great acclaim. However, today, many are sceptical saying that the image could well be an actor or elaborately dressed staff member leaving in style, or sneaking a crafty cig behind his employers’ back.

Would love to know your thoughts on these right royal spectres.

Kate x

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Sources/Further Reading:

https://onthetudortrail.com/Blog/anne-boleyn/ghost-of-anne-boleyn-the-stories/

https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2983597/Eek-ghosts-royal-palace-eerie-photo-Hampton-Court-s-Grey-Lady-building-s-curator-says-s-jam-packed-spooks.html

https://pdsh.fandom.com/wiki/Ghost_of_Anne_Boleyn

https://www.facebook.com/TheGorgeousHistoryGeeks/posts/-the-tudor-ghosts-a-guest-post-by-lissa-bryan-in-honor-of-halloween-i-thought-id/3451521574945483/

https://www.mirror.co.uk/news/weird-news/ghost-henry-viiis-wife-caught-7080555

[1]https://www.hrp.org.uk/hampton-court-palace/history-and-stories/historic-hauntings-at-hampton-court-palace/#gs.awl5wq

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