The Royal Ghosts of Windsor

Windsor Castle

Windsor Castle is haunted by several royal ghosts, including King Henry VIII and Queen Elizabeth I.

Windsor Castle is reputedly very haunted. Standing near the town of Windsor in the county of Berkshire, this ancient castle is one of the official residences of the Queen. It is also thought by some to be the home of many ghosts, including the spirits of several famous royals.

Having stood for almost a thousand years, Windsor Castle is the oldest occupied castle in Europe. It was founded by William the Conqueror after his victory at the Battle of Hastings, and has been used as a residence by almost every other English, and later British, monarch since. Henry I married his second wife, Adeliza of Louvain, at the castle in 1121; Edward III and Henry VI were born here in 1312 and 1421 respectively, while Prince Albert passed away in the Blue room in 1861. The castle has altered over the centuries to meet the changing tastes and demands of successive monarchs, slowly evolving from a mighty fortress into a royal palace.

In 1897 Lieutenant Glynn, a young officer of the Grenadier Guards, had a very alarming encounter in the Queen’s library. It was late at night, and he was alone in the library reading a book when he suddenly became aware that someone else had entered the room. Glancing up, he caught sight of a darkly attired woman glide silently past him before disappearing into the next room. Intrigued, the lieutenant got up and followed his strange visitant but on arriving in the room, she was nowhere to be found, and there was no other exit.

Lieutenant Glynn was even more unsettled when he realised he recognized the woman. She was none other than Elizabeth I. The ghost of the long-dead Tudor queen has also been witnessed by Edward VII and George VI; the latter claimed to have encountered her several times in the early days of the Second World War. Queen Victoria’s eldest daughter said she’d seen Elizabeth’s ghost too, as had a servant girl in 1926.

Anne Boleyn, Henry VIII’s second wife, is also said to haunt the castle. The mother of the future Queen Elizabeth was unable to provide Henry with a male heir so he, eager to be rid of her, levelled a number of trumped up charges against her, including adultery, treason and witchcraft. Found guilty, the ill-fated Anne was taken to the Tower of London where she was beheaded in 1536. Her wandering ghost has been sighted at a variety of different locations, including the Tower, Blickling Hall in Norfolk, Hampton Court Palace, and her childhood home of Hever Castle. At Windsor Castle she is said to gaze forlornly through one of the windows of the Dean’s Cloister.

A sinister sound, reminiscent of dragging footsteps, and sometimes accompanied by a disembodied groaning, has frequently been heard at the castle. These noises have been attributed to the spectre of Henry VIII, whose earthly remains lie in rest at the castle. In his later years Henry gained a lot of weight and also developed an ulcerated varicose vein on his leg which caused him great anguish. He died in 1547 at Whitehall Palace in London. Charles I is another royal ghost at Windsor.

The unfortunate Stuart king was held prisoner at the castle prior to his execution in 1649. His body however was brought back to Windsor Castle where it was interred in St George’s Chapel. In later times the exact location of Charles’s coffin was forgotten until it was rediscovered in 1813 during excavation work. There was still some uncertainty as to whether this was the king’s coffin so the Prince Regent ordered it opened in his presence. Inside they found a remarkably well preserved body with a detached head whose face bore an undoubtable resemblance to portraits of Charles by Van Dyke.

Concluding this was the king, the coffin was soldered up, but not before part of Charles’s vertebra, a tooth, and a snip of hair from his beard had been taken as grisly keepsakes. Many years later, Queen Victoria ordered these items be returned. Charles’s ghost meanwhile is said to revisit an ancient house in Canon’s Close opposite St George’s Chapel every June 26. A Mrs Boyd-Carpenter, who lived in the house in the 1880s, claims she once encountered the long-dead king on that very date.

The last royal ghost at Windsor is that of King George III, who was very fond of the castle and relocated his court there. In his later years, George was afflicted with frequent bouts of insanity and was confined to a suite of rooms in Windsor Castle. It’s said that he often stood at a window, saluting sentries as they walked past on the terrace. George died in 1820 although several sentries reported witnessing the king saluting from the window for many years after.

Photo credit: “Windsor Castle, A riverside view” by Pam Brophy.

Licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons – https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Windsor_Castle,_A_riverside_view_-_geograph.org.uk_-_738.jpg


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