Anne Boleyn, Henry VIII of England's second wife.
On 19 May 1536, at nine o’clock in the morning, the Queen of England Anne Boleyn, Henry VIII’s wife, who had been locked up in the Tower of London on 23 April, charged with adultery and conspiracy, is taken to the scaffold wearing a white silk gown, the neckline of which is cut very low around her neck. An executioner stands waiting, motionless. Once she has climbed the last steps, surrounded by her four ladies-in-waiting, the young woman discovers the block, the sabre and an open coffin. She does not even blink. With the serenity of the pure, she prays.
The previous day, upon learning that, by the grace of her monstrous spouse, she would be neither hanged, nor burned, but decapitated, she had gently enquired:
“Is the executioner skilled at least?”
Then she had added, touching her neck with her hand:
“It is true that it will not be too difficult for him; it is so slim!…”
The four ladies-in-waiting approach to assist her. She pushes them away, smiling, undoes her headdress all studded with pearls, on her own, leaving only the snood which holds her long, black hair. After which, she kneels and places her head on the block.
Anne Boleyn's execution. When her head had fallen, the Queen's lips were seen to be moving in silent prayer.
As the executioner raises his arm, Anne can be heard to murmur:
“My sweet Jesus, take pity on me!”
Then the sabre falls on the frail neck that had so often been caressed by Henry VIII.
The head bounces and falls into the straw.
The ladies-in-waiting are then stunned to see that the Queen’s lips are still moving in silent prayer.
At this moment, the firing of a cannon makes London shake. Its purpose is to inform the King, inside his White Hall palace, that his second wife is dead and that he can prepare his marriage to Jane Seymour.
The ladies-in-waiting, in tears, immediately take “with much precious care” the head and gentle body of Anne Boleyn, then they put them in the coffin which is whisked off to Saint Peter of Vincula Chapel where the remains are buried with no religious ceremony.
Henry VIII, who is going to marry Jane Seymour the next day, is then thinking that nothing more would be heard of Anne Boleyn, inhumed “like an anonymous shipwreck” and that even her memory would be effaced from people’s minds.
This shows his ignorance of the maliciousness of ghosts.
A few days before her death, Anne had written a poem in which she compares herself, in strangely premonitory fashion, to a “guiltless ghost”. And, since 1536, this “guiltless ghost” has not ceased to haunt England. It is true that, in this country, everyone knows that the innocent are unable to have any rest as long as justice has not been rendered to them.
The first manifestation of Anne’s ghost took place on the night following her execution. A few people from Norfolk, who later assured that they had been horrified – which can easily be admitted – see a carriage drawn by four decapitated horses drive by. Inside was the Queen in a white gown, holding her head in her lap. This appalling carriage arrives at the gates of Blickling Hall, where Anne was born, and disappears suddenly.
From then on, Anne Boleyn’s ghost will never cease to haunt this castle where she had lived as a child, sliding along the corridors, silently climbing the stairs, warming itself by a fireside, traversing walls, travelling through the castle grounds on moonlit nights, making the cords of the psalteries and violas vibrate in the Music Room, or frightening the cats by its unusual light. To the point that the inhabitants of Blickling Hall will very quickly get used to this “presence” and today no-one feels the least bit frightened by hearing, at night, the famous swishing of the silk gown, not even the most fearful of chambermaids…
The principal characteristic of ghosts is ubiquity. Anne Boleyn’s ghost appears therefore in many other places.
It is regularly seen at Rockford Hall, in South-East Essex, a castle which, like Blickling Hall, used to belong to Anne’s family. There, it roams over the lawns during the “twelve days of Christmas”, which is the period that separates the 25 December from Epiphany. These twelve days were considered, before christianism, in Europe’s primitive societies, as a magical period. They began at the solstice, which the Ancient peoples situated on 25 December, and ended when the lengthening of the days became clearly noticeable, that is to say, on 6 January. The Church “christianized” this period by framing it with Christmas and the Festival of the Kings.
Anne’s ghost seems also to like a room in the North-East part of the building known by the name of “Anne’s Nursery”. Not content with screaming, slamming doors and making diverse other noises, it indulges in lugubrious facetiae. It is said that bloodstains appear on the floor, on the anniversary of the day of the execution.
This haunted chamber has naturally attracted numerous spiritists. Some have felt strong emotions there. The writer Charlotte Mason recounts, for example, that during a meeting held one night in 1928, a black cat suddenly fell down the chimney in a cloud of soot, plunging the participants into indescriptible terror. Another time, hands surging from the invisible tore ribbons off a little girl whom wisdom should have commanded to leave at home. Finally, in 1965, the members of an association specialized in contacts with the After-Life were deliciously ill with fear in seeing a headless woman pass among them…
Hever Castle in Kent, where Anne Boleyn's ghost appears each Christmas Eve, crossing the bridge over the Eden River on the twelfth stroke of midnight.
Anne Boleyn’s ghost also appears on Christmas Eve at Hever Castle, near Edenbridge, in Kent. On the twelfth stroke of midnight, it can be seen slowly crossing the bridge over Eden River. It is there that the young woman’s romance with Henry VIII began.
Anne Boleyn’s ghost is sometimes mischievous. It seems to take malicious pleasure in frequenting Merwell Hall, in Hampshire, a castle haunted by the ghost of its rival, Jane Seymour. And some nights, the inhabitants see floating on the lawn the scintillating silhouettes of the two White Ladies. One with a head and one without… Jane Seymour, whom Henry VIII married on 20 May 1536, died the following year, on 24 October 1537, after having given birth to the future Edward VI.
To be continued.