King Henry VIII may have had six wives, but Anne Boleyn is arguably the most famous. Henry was so smitten by the dark-haired beauty that he declared himself head of the English church, invalidated his 24-year marriage to Katherine of Aragon, married Anne, and then banished the heartbroken Katherine to the palace she reportedly haunts. Despite all this, Anne too eventually lost the king’s favor. However, Anne wasn’t banished. She lost her head on the chopping block and now haunts several English properties.
Though Henry pursued Anne for more than six years, the two were married only three. Anne gave birth to a healthy daughter (the future Queen Elizabeth I) early in the marriage, but Henry was desperate for a male heir. When Anne failed to deliver, Henry’s passion waned, and his eyes soon strayed to Jane Seymour, Anne’s cousin and lady-in-waiting.
In 1536, Henry’s officials arrested Anne on charges of adultery, incest, and treason. The queen allegedly had affairs with a number of men, including her own brother, though she denied the charges (which were almost certainly false). Nevertheless, Anne lost her head, and Henry was betrothed to Jane just one day later.
A restless Anne Boleyn reportedly haunts at least six English sites: The Tower of London, Hever Castle, Windsor Castle, Hampton Court, Rochford Hall, and Blickling Hall.
The Tower of London
Anne was imprisoned in the Tower of London for 17 days before her beheading on May 19, 1536. She was buried at the church of St. Peter ad Vincula onsite, and allegedly haunts the church and the tower fortress itself.
On one occasion, a guard noticed an eerie light shining from inside the old church. When he climbed a ladder to investigate, the guard saw people parading down the aisle. At the head was an elegant woman resembling Anne Boleyn. Before the guard could rush inside, the procession and eerie light abruptly disappeared.
In 1817, a sentry allegedly died of a heart attack after seeing Anne’s ghost on the stairs. In 1864, several soldiers witnessed a headless woman in white darting around the fortress. Some say Anne’s ghost still roams the site of her execution, severed head in arms.
Anne also reportedly haunts Hever Castle, her childhood home, particularly around Christmas. Legend has it the ill-fated queen wanders the garden of the castle, favoring a huge oak tree that she and Henry often strolled under in the days of their courtship. In August 2015, a tourist snapped this blurry photo which allegedly shows Anne’s bony hand pointing towards a fireplace.
When not haunting another English site, Anne’s ghost appears in the Dean’s Cloister at Windsor Castle. Sometimes she just sits at a window, weeping. Other times, she runs down the hall screaming, cradling her bloodied head. Some say Henry haunts Windsor as well.
Hampton Court Palace
Legend has it Anne also haunts Hampton Court Palace, roaming the corridors in a blue or black dress (with or without her head). If true, Anne’s ghost may encounter the ghost of her replacement, Jane Seymour, or Henry’s fifth wife, Catherine Howard. Both women allegedly haunt the palace.
They say that when Anne was executed, the floors and walls of her former home turned blood red. Twelve days after Christmas, Anne reportedly roams the halls of Rochford, wearing white and (once again) carrying her head.
Though headless wanderings and ghostly processions are creepy, Anne saves her most dramatic haunting for Blickling Hall. On the anniversary of her execution, Anne arrives in a phantom carriage pulled by four headless stallions and a headless coachman, or so the stories go. She is of course clutching her severed head. Upon arrival, Anne’s ghostly companions disappear, and Anne wanders the property until sunrise. Perhaps she comes to see her father, Thomas, whose headless ghost also haunts the historic property.
What do you make of the Anne Boleyn tales? Does Henry VIII’s second wife truly haunt the palaces she once called home? Or are the stories nothing more than fanciful legends?