King Henry VIII famously had six wives, but what he wanted most was a male heir. Henry’s first two wives, Katherine of Aragon and Anne Boleyn, tried in vain for sons, but each only bore a single daughter. Henry divorced Katherine for Anne, and the former queen died alone in January 1536. Accused of witchcraft and adultery, Anne lost her head on the chopping block just a few months later. The two former queens reportedly haunt several English properties, but they aren’t alone. Legend has it Jane Seymour, Henry’s third wife, roams Hampton Court Palace, searching for the baby she left behind.
Jane Seymour served both Queen Katherine and Queen Anne and witnessed both women’s downfalls. Nevertheless, she and Henry were betrothed on May 20, 1536, just one day after Anne’s execution. The two married 10 days later. Unlike the vivacious Anne, Jane was regarded as a meek and chaste woman, and her motto as queen was “Bound to obey and serve.”
For more than 25 years, King Henry had hoped and prayed for a son, but fate seemed to work against him. Both Katherine and Anne suffered miscarriages, and Katherine even bore a son in 1511, but the infant died less than two months later. Henry’s only living children at the time of his marriage to Jane was Katherine’s daughter, Mary, and Anne’s daughter, Elizabeth. His luck was soon to change.
Jane got pregnant a few months into the marriage and gave birth to a son, Edward, on October 12, 1537. Henry and the kingdom rejoiced, and the baby was christened three days later. Jane, however, was gravely ill and died at Hampton Court palace on October 24. Legend has it the former queen never truly left the palace that was the site of her son’s birth as well as her death.
Today, Jane’s former apartments at Hampton Court Palace aren’t open to the public. However, some visitors and staff say they’ve seen the queen’s ghost ascending a set of stairs on the anniversary of Edward’s birth. During these annual appearances, Jane reportedly wears white and clutches a candle as she climbs the stairs. The ghostly queen doesn’t interact with the living or seem aware of their presence in any way. She simply walks up the stairs and disappears. Legend has it she’s searching for her baby son. Had she lived, Jane would see Edward crowned king at age nine and buried at age 15.
If Jane’s ghost does inhabit Hampton Court Palace, she’s not alone. Anne Bolyen and Henry’s fifth wife, Catherine Howard, also reportedly haunt the property, along with many other spirits.
What do you think of the legend of Jane Seymour?