Friday, April 3, 2009

The Ghost of Anne Boleyn

Have I mentioned lately the trove of wonders that is Charlie Byrne's? You never know what interesting old tome you'll discover. Awhile back I found Haunted Britain by Elliott O'Donnell, published in 1948. Seeing as the only copy available on Amazon.com is going for $101.75, I figure the €8 I paid for it is a bargain. It's a charming old book, and I thought you might like to read some of the highlights. This is from a chapter entitled "The Tower of London Ghosts":
A very ubiquitous and restless ghost is that of Anne Boleyn. In addition to haunting Hever Castle and Blickling Park, down the long avenue of which she rides once a year in a hearse-like coach drawn by headless horses, with her head in her lap, she periodically haunts the Tower of London.

She was seen there as recently as February 1933. The unfortunate being who saw her was a guardsman on night-sentry duty near the Bloody Tower.

He was standing motionless amid his gloomy surroundings, no doubt wishing to goodness his time there would end, when, with startling suddenness, there appeared before him, seemingly rising from the ground, a white something, shadowy and indistinct. It was not until it had approached nearer to him that he saw to his horror it was the luminous figure of a headless woman. He promptly fled. The post being well known to be haunted, he was merely reprimanded...

How a headless ghost, seen at night, in inky surroundings, by scared-stiff sentries can be identified as the beautiful Anne Boleyn is somewhat difficult to explain. The only warrant for the belief would seem to be that of the proximity to the place where the hapless queen was incarcerated before her execution.

Seemingly easier of identification is the ghost that, with its head in its conventional position, haunts the Church of St. Peter ad Vincula, where Queen Anne Boleyn, Queen Catherine Howard, and Lady Jane Grey were all three buried.

A certain captain was one evening going the rounds when he saw a strange light in this church. Much astonished, he asked the sentry on duty outside the church the meaning of it.

"I don't know what it means," the man replied, "but I've often seen the light and queerer things of a night here."

Determined to ascertain the cause, the officer procured a ladder and, mounting it, peered into the building. What he saw thrilled him to the marrow. Slowly down the central aisle, with noiseless tread, moved a procession of men and women in Elizabethan costumes, headed by a lady who reminded him very strongly of portraits of Anne Boleyn. After having repeatedly paced the chapel, the procession and light suddenly vanished. Then, and not till then, did the gallant captain fully realize that what he had seen was not of this earth.
You can listen to three more stories by Elliott O'Donnell on Librivox.

1 comment:

Kate said...

That's not how you spell Elliot!