Naturally, it is at the Tower of London that Anne Boleyn’s ghost is the most assiduous. For nearly five centuries, it has even been its principal and most famous lodger. To the point that its apparitions are mentioned in reglementary fashion on the register of the Tower’s guards. When you flick through this official document, you notice that the spectre of the young Queen lurks in all the corners of the ancient building. It is signalled in the White Tower, in the Green Tower, in the King’s House, at Saint Peter of Vincula Chapel, even on the rooves…
During the XVIIth and XVIIIth Centuries, it seems to have been curiously attracted to decapitations. Several times, the judges claimed to have seen it prowling around the executioners, at the moment when they were proceeding with a decollation.
Sometimes, it walks surrounded by “people” of its own kind and participates in strange ceremonies, as was reported a few decades ago by an officer at the Tower. This man was making a round at night when he noticed that the windows of the chapel were lit by a strange light. Intrigued, he went to get a ladder, climbed up to the window and looked into the nave. What he saw almost made him fall off the ladder. Anne Boleyn, resplendant in Tudor embroideries, was leading a procession of ladies and lords who were slowly and silently moving up the centre aisle. When these people arrived at the choir, the vision gradually evaporated as the light disappeared.
For other guards, the meeting with Anne Boleyn’s ghost almost had very unfortunate consequences. One Winter evening in 1933, the guardsman in faction in front of the Tower saw a white form appear before him. After the usual challenges, the man approached the apparition and saw that it was Anne Boleyn’s headless silhouette. Terrified, he fled screaming.
This abandon of his post, which should have caused him to be arrested, had an unthinkable conclusion for any country outside Britain. His superiors noted in their report:
“The post being known to be haunted, the guard has only been reprimanded.”
A young soldier of the Sixtle Rifles, who was in service at the foot of the Bloody Tower, underwent an even more gruelling adventure: noticing a White Lady approaching him, he charged with fixed bayonet and fell unconscious to the ground after having seen that his weapon had traversed the wandering lady through and through without meeting any resistance.
When he was found lying on the ground, at the changing of the guard, it was thought that he was drunk and he was called to appear before a Court Martial. There, he described his combat with Anne Boleyn’s ghost. The military judges listened without a blink, just as they later heard two officers who had come to recount that they too had seen the Queen’s spectre, that same evening. And the young soldier was acquitted…
Is it the fact of having had its existence implicitly recognized by the British Court Martial that gives assurance to Anne Boleyn’s ghost? It could be believed so, for it behaved itself, some time ago, so unexpectedly, that the very dignified Society for Psychical Research was astounded. The members of this honourable company, who had been studying for a long time the deeds and gestures of this headless ghost and knew all its habits, had always had only courteous and even agreeable relations with it. However, on the evening of 24 December 1979, a photographer working for the S. P. R. went to place himself and his camera loaded with ultra-sensitive film, near the little bridge at Hever Castle where the young Queen was in the habit of appearing every Christmas Eve.
He had been waiting for quite a while when, on the twelfth stroke of midnight, a white, scintillating spot surged from the shadows and gradually took the form of a headless woman. The young man, delighted, took a photo. He didn’t have time to take another: the ghost, at astounding speed, rushed in his direction and passed straight through him. Very upset, the reporter turned around and saw the form slide over the bridge and disappear.
The next day, he wanted to develop his one and only photograph, but he found, stunned, that the ghost, by traversing his camera, had, in an inexplicable way, completely exposed the film inside it.
England is filled with roaming spectres. It even has a “Ghost Guide” where the one thousand, one hundred and sixty visitors from the After-Life, recognized as authentic by the “Ghost Club”, founded in 1862, are listed. And it not rare that people announce, in the property section of the Times, that their house, which is for sale, is agreeably haunted. Which is seen as a characteristic which could interest a possible buyer…
In 1953, a certain Mrs Muriel Ward had the following text inserted:
“For sale XVth Century presbytery in good condition, with a great choice of friendly ghosts. Price: 7,500 pounds.”
A buyer having presented himself, Mrs Ward added that, among the “friendly ghosts” there was a monk, an elderly lady who came to have breakfast every Christmas and a group of joyful young men from the XVIIth Century surging from a coach every 15 September to organize some festivities in the presbytery…
Anne Boleyn is not the only famous person whose ghost is seen. Her brother, Lord Rochford, who was executed two days before the Queen, can also be seen apparently at dusk, near Blickling Hall, passing by on a galloping horse. Both the cavalier and his horse are decapitated. Another family ghost: that of Thomas Boleyn, Anne’s father. He haunts the Norfolk countryside on the anniversary of his daughter’s death, and the good people explain that he is expiating the sin of having attempted nothing to save her… Then there is Jane Seymour who, curiously haunts Marwell Hall, as we have already seen, with Anne, whom she replaced in the affections and in the bed of Henry VIII. Then, there is the unfortunate Jane Grey who had been proclaimed Queen of England at the death of Edward VI and who, nine days later, was condemned to be decapitated by order of Mary Tudor. She was just seventeen.
Since then, her ghost frequents the Tower of London where she died, and its apparitions are generally announced by the English Press. Certain French newspapers also mention them, as is proven by this article taken from France-Soir on 14 February 1957:
A GHOST DRESSED IN WHITE VISITS TWO SOLDIERS AT THE TOWER OF LONDON
London, 13 February
Two solders of the guard at the Tower of London saw, yesterday morning, a ghost moving at the top of the “Salt Tower”, which is 12 metres high, and one of the darkest and most sinister of this dark and sinister fortress.
The first of them heard, at three o’clock in the morning, an object fall onto the roof of his shelter, at the foot of the Tower. Courageously, he bounded outside, raised his eyes and “saw a white form between the crenelles”…
The second guard, called to look, was incredulous at first, but when he too raised his eyes, he was stunned: “By devil, you’re right!”
Yesterday was the 403rd anniversary of the execution of Lady Jane Grey.
To be continued.