Spooktacular stories: tales of ghosts and other hauntings in the Royal Palaces

31 October 2013 - 05:00pm
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Ghosts of wives and lovers, hauntings from scorned staff, frightful sounds, creaks and coughs. This is not a new film at the cinema or a book: These are the haunted Royal Residences.

Buckingham Palace

It is said that on the rear terrace of Buckingham Palace, a monk draped in a brown cowl haunts at night. A monastery once stood where Buckingham Palaces is located. The monk supposedly died in his cell and from time to time frequents the rear terrace.

What goes bump in the night at Buckingham Palace?

What goes bump in the night at Buckingham Palace?

There is another ghost that has been sighted at the Place: King Edward VII Private Secretary Major John Gwynne. As the story goes, the Major divorced his wife and the elite looked down on his decision. He was not able to deal with the proverbial ‘scarlet letter’ he wore, so in an act of desperation, shot himself in the head in his first floor office. It is there, the Major has been sighted.

Windsor Castle

A few miles from Buckingham Palace, at Windsor Castle, spirits reside there too. There are numerous books and sites that claim over 25 ghosts have been reported.

There is one ghost that not only Her Majesty has witnessed, but Princess Margaret and other Royal Family members: Queen Elizabeth I. She has been seen in the library of the Castle and her footsteps have been heard walking across the floor, when she suddenly appears.

It is also said that Henry VIII walks through the Cloisters. A distinct dragging sound is present as it is believed it is the King walking with his ulcerated leg dragging across the floor.

Windsor Great Park also has some haunting: Herne, Richard III huntsman. Considered an omen for bad luck, it is ill advised to seek out the ghost of Herne.

The Palace of Holyroodhouse

A Royal Residence since 1369, Holyroodhouse is well known for the 1566 murder of David Rizzio. Rizzio was said to be the lover of Mary, Queen of Scots. When news reached her husband, Lord Darnley, an order for Rizzio’s murder was declared. The murder occurred in front of the 7 months pregnant Mary in her dining room. It is said that to this day the blood stains reappear no matter how much cleaning occurs.

Mary Queen of Scots lover David Rizzio haunts Holyrood.

Mary Queen of Scots lover David Rizzio haunts Holyrood.

Lord Darnley is also said to frequent the Palace. He roams his living quarters where he met his untimely death due to an explosion.

One other spirit roams the gardens, and that is the naked Agnes Simpson. Simpson was charged of witchcraft, stripped and tortured until she died in 1592.

Sandringham House

Sandringham House, the Christmas gathering home for the Royal Family has had a few incidents of the ghoulish kind as well. In the 1980s, Prince Charles reported unexplained blasts of cold air during one holiday. It is also noted that some of the clocks move randomly and books have tumbled off the shelves.

Footsteps may be heard, odd sounds and lights turning on and off have all been reported at Sandringham.

Hampton Court Palace

Considered to be so very ghostly, Hampton Court has its own Haunted Gallery. Catherine Howard is said to scream in the Haunted Gallery. After her adultery accusation in 1542, Howard who was the 5th wife of Henry VIII was under house arrest. It is said the screams are Howard running down the hall to plead for her life to the King before being taken to The Tower.

“I often walk down the Haunted Gallery and, for some inexplicable reason, feel as if something is not quite as it should be,” says State Apartment Warder Ian Franklin via the Historic Royal Palaces website.

Howard is not the only wife of Henry VIII that seems to grace Hampton Court Palace. Jane Seymour has also been sighted. She walks through the Clock Court, in a white robe carrying a candle on the 28th of June, Henry VIII’s birthday.


Known as The Grey Lady of Hampton Court, Dame Sybil Penn was a servant to the Tudors. Dame Sybil was Prince Edward’s nurse, and nurse of Elizabeth I when she battled smallpox. Unfortunately, Dame Sybil died from smallpox shortly after aiding Elizabeth.

Dame Sybil has haunted the State Apartments and Clock Court since her tomb was disturbed and moved in 1829 during a church rebuild.

Kensington Palace

Stories of ghosts run amok at Kensington Palace. In my interview with Princess Margaret’s biographer, Christopher Warwick, he described many of the oddities that have occurred at the Palace.

Many a ghost tale in Apartment 1A.

Many a ghost tale in Apartment 1A.

Now that The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge along with Prince George have taken residence in Apartment 1A, rumours one again are flying. It is noted that Prince George’s nursery may have some visitors.

“Prince George’s nursery is in Apartment 1A of Kensington Palace, which has been notorious for ghost sightings,” writes royal biographer Andrew Morton.

The Tower of London

Of course, the Tower is the iconic setting for all things gruesome and ghoulish. This history of torture, execution and other ghastly tales makes the Tower the perfect end to this piece.

People are not the only ghosts traipsing around the Tower. A grizzly bear supposedly has caused quite a stir according to Historic Royal Palaces. “Legend has it that, many years ago, a huge ghostly bear appeared by the Martin Tower, scaring a guard so badly he dropped dead of shock.”

Many others have been reported to roam the grounds of the Tower. Anne Boleyn walks around supposedly carrying her head.


Henry VI, Lady Jane Grey and the Countess of Salisbury have been sighted at one time or another as well.

James I’s cousin, Arabella Stuart is also said to be a resident joining the other ghosts. Stuart has been seen in the Queen’s House which is ‘considered to be one of the most haunted buildings at the Tower of London,’ according to Historic Royal Palaces.

Stuart married Lady Jane Grey’s nephew William Seymour in 1610. She did not receive approval from the King. Both Arabella and William were arrested, with William sent to the Tower and Arabella in Lambeth under house arrest.

Arabella devised a plan to escape and meet up with her husband. William was snuck out of the Tower. The plan failed for Arabella though. She was captured and imprisoned at the Tower, whilst William made it safely to France. Arabella died at the Tower in 1615.

The Governor of the Tower Houses from 1994-2006 tells a tale of haunting. “Soon after we’d arrived in 1994, my wife Janice was making up the bed in the Lennox room when she felt a violent push in her back which propelled her right out of the room,” Major General Geoffrey Field via Historic Royal Palaces.

No other story though is as chilling as the infamous Princes in the Tower. Edward V and his younger brother, Richard, The Duke of York were imprisoned at the Tower after Parliament declared their illegitimacy in 1483.

Here is where it gets a bit convoluted. The Princes were never seen again, no record of a funeral or death certificate and two sets of bones were discovered under the White Tower staircase in 1674. There are so many rumours and stories regarding the two princes, that one piece could not do their story justice.

Nevertheless, the two Princes’ ghosts are said to be seen at the Bloody Tower.

Whether one believes in ghosts and spirits roaming the halls, rooms and gardens of the Royal Palaces or not, one wishes everyone a Happy Haunting this Halloween.

photo credit: Ash Loureysimononlywallyg and bobchin1941 via photopin cc

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