The Tower of London Ghosts, the Ghost of Anne Boleyn, are they a figment of my imagination, or are the Ghosts of the Tower of London the figment of thousands of other people's imagination as well.
The Tower of London, is a magnificent fortress and a World Heritage Site attracting in excess of two million visitors a year.
It is a treasure trove, containing fascinating facts and tales of the History of London.
It takes you on a journey through Medieval Times in London, on through The Tudor period and down through the intervening centuries right up to the present day.
Truly an international favourite,
The grim, grey Tower of London has the reputation of being one of the most haunted places in Britain and with some justification too. Throughout it's long history it has been a royal palace, an armoury, a royal mint, a prison and a place of execution. Here are some of the more well known apparitions that are supposed to take place there.... Read on.
Tower of London Ghosts: The Ghost of St. Thomas a Becket.
When the inner curtain wall was being constructed during the expansion of the Tower of London in the reign of King Henry III (1207 - 1272), there was a reported sighting of the ghost of Thomas a Becket.
Becket, who was the Archbishop of Canterbury during the reign of Henry's grandfather King Henry II from 1162 - 1170, had been in conflict with the king. He was brutally murdered in Canterbury Cathedral by four of Henry II's knights after they had heard their king say
"Will no one rid me of this turbulent priest?" or according to the historian Simon Schama,
"What miserable drones and traitors have I nourished and brought up in my household, who let their lord be treated with such shameful contempt by a low-born cleric?"
It appears (no pun intended) that Becket now St. Thomas a Becket, having been cannonized a Saint and Martyr by the Church, was unhappy with the construction of the inner curtain wall and it is said that, with a strike of his cross, he reduced the wall to rubble.
On hearing of this apparition, King Henry III wasted no time and set to building a chapel in the Tower, dedicating it to St. Thomas. It would seem that the ghost of Thomas was placated, for the construction of the wall went unhindered until it's completion.
Tower of London Ghosts: The Ghost of King Henry VI
The Wakefield Tower is supposedly haunted by the ghost of the tragic King Henry VI. This pious but very weak and ineffectual king who descended into periods of insanity, was by tradition murdered here.
During the wars of the Roses, King Henry VI was deposed and imprisoned by his cousin Edward in 1461. He escaped but was recaptured in 1465 and held prisoner in the Wakefield Tower in the Tower of London.
According to the official report, which was recorded in a chronicle favourable to Edward, the King had died of melancholy upon hearing the news of the defeat of his forces at the Battle of Tewkesbury, in which his son had died.
However, it is widely suspected, that Edward IV, who on the morning following king henry's death, was re-crowned King of England, had ordered his murder.
Tradition has it that in the Wakefield Tower, "in the hour before midnight” on 21st May 1471, as he knelt at prayer, the knife with which he was “stikk’d full of deadly holes” was wielded by the Duke of Gloucester, who later became King Richard III.
Now, each year on the anniversary of his savage murder, the ghost of King Henry VI has been reported to have been seen by many witnesses. As the time approaches midnight, his sad figure is said to have appeared and been seen many times over the years, by the tower guards.
They say he paces the floors of the Wakefield Tower as the seconds tick away to the time of his murder, then right on the final stroke of midnight, the very last second, his spectre gradually fades away into the stone walls of the tower.
Tower of London Ghosts: The Two Princes.
The Bloody Tower is where the two Princes, Edwardv V and his brother Richard, Duke of York, the sons of King Edward IV, are thought to have been murdered, probably on the orders of their uncle Richard, Duke of Gloucester, (brother of their father) who was crowned Richard III on their disappearance in 1483.
The tale is told, that sometime in the late 15th century, shortly after the princes disappeared, guards who were passing the Tower saw two small shadows floating down the stairs. They were identified as the two young princes because the attire they were wearing was identical to the night shirts they had been wearing on the night of their disappearance.
Then holding hands, they just stood silently before they disappeared fading slowly back into the stone walls of the Tower.
The remains of what are believed to be those of the two princes were discovered during the course of renovation works being carried out at the Tower of London in 1674. The bones were discovered at the foot of a staircase that led to the chapel in the White Tower and which was in the process of being demolished.
They had been found with "pieces of rag and velvet about them", the velvet was a sign that the bodies were those of members of the aristocracy.
By order of King Charles II, the bones were gathered up, placed in an urn and interred in the wall of the Henry VII Lady Chapel in Westminster Abbey. The profoundly moving story of the two little princes still haunt us to this day.
Tower of London Ghosts: The Ghost of Anne Boleyn.
One of the most enduring ghost stories of the Tower of London is that of Queen Anne Boleyn, the second of King Henry VIII's six wives.
Beheaded on Tower Green in 1536, her ghost has often been reported as being sighted on both on the green, close to the Queen's House and within the Chapel Royal of St. Peter ad Vincula, where she lies buried beneath the Chapel's Altar. Here is an account of a ghostly procession, witnessed by a captain of the guard.
Having seen a burning light one night, in the locked Chapel of St. Peter ad Vincula, he found a ladder and climbing it, was able to look down on the scene.
Slowly down the aisle moved a stately procession of Knights and Ladies, attired in ancient costumes; and in front walked an elegant female whose face was averted from him, but whose figure greatly resembled the one he had seen in reputed portraits of Anne Boleyn. After having repeatedly paced the chapel, the entire procession together with the light disappeared. (excerpt from Ghostly Visitors by "Spectre Stricken", London, 1882.)
In 1817 a sentry had a fatal heart attack after encountering a ghostly spectre on a staircase.
In 1864, a sentry standing guard before the Queen's House, saw and challenged a white shape, veiled in mist and fainted. He was court-martialled for being found asleep on duty.
The soldier standing at his post near the Lieutenant's Lodgings was met by a white figure, and made the appropriate challenge, "who goes there?". When he recieved no response he trust his fixed bayonet into it. He recalled a piercing shock when a "fiery flash" ran through his weapon, dropping his rifle and then no more.
At his trial the sentry described the spirit, "It was the figure of a woman wearing a queer-looking bonnet, but there wasn't no head inside the bonnet." Many witnesses came forward with testimony of having seen a headless spirit that evening near the Lieutenant's Lodgings.
The most sensational testimony was that of an officer who had been in his room in the Bloody Tower. Having heard the challenge he went to his window and saw the whole scene exactly as the sentry had described and added that the headless spectre walked through the bayonet and then the sentry collapsed.
The court-martial found the soldier not guilty and he was acquitted.
She has been seen walking from the Queen's House to the Chapel of St. Peter ad Vincula, where upon entering, she proceeds to walk down the aisle to her grave under the altar.
According to numerous newspaper reports in 1933, the ghost of Anne Boleyn once again appeared, again walking straight through a guard's bayonet. The apparition scared him so much that he fled his post screaming for help.
The headless body of Anne Boleyn is also reportedly seen close to the place of her execution and also walking the corridors of the Tower, carrying her head.
Tower of London Ghosts: The Ghost of Margaret Pole
Without doubt, the most horrendous death suffered at the hands of an executioner at the Tower of London, was that of Margaret Pole, Countess of Salisbury and one of the last Plantagenets.
She was the daughter of George, Duke of Clarence, the one who was supposedly drowned in a Butt of Malmsey in the Tower of London. George was the brother of both King Edward IV and King Richard III, the last Plantagenet King.
Margaret, had been held in the Tower of London for two and a half years under the sentence of death, accused of treason and knowing that she could be executed at any time, at the king's will.
On the morning of 27 May 1541 she was informed that she was to die within the hour. Her reply was that no crime had been imputed to her, contradicting to the very last, her accuser and the accusation of treason that had been made against her.
There are differing accounts as to what happened on that morning. One version has her struggling on her way to the block and in spite of her age, her health and protestations of innocence, she was forcefully taken from her cell to the place of execution and there, the frail, ill lady was dragged to a low wooden block which had been prepared for her.
Other accounts record that when Margaret was fetched that morning from her cell she went quietly, calmly stating that she had no idea what her crime was.
The differing accounts of what actually did happen, appear to agree on one point, that the official executioner was away and his replacement was young, inexperienced and had no idea on how to use the axe.
Refusing to lay her head on the block, Margaret Pole was forced down. As she lay struggling, the first blow from the inexperienced executioner's axe completely missed the intended target, her neck. A horrific gash was left in her shoulder. It took another ten blows from that hideous axe to complete the execution.
There are less reputable accounts of Margaret Poles' final moments, which state that she leapt up from the execution block after that first incompetent blow had failed to kill her and ran away, pursued by the executioner flailing away at her head and neck and hacking her to pieces before she died. It took eleven bloody blows to kill her.
Her ghost has been seen reliving this truly gruesome act, for on the night of the anniversary of her horrific death, her ghost can be seen running around Tower Green, blood pouring from her many wounds, being chased by her executioner.
The shadow of a great axe has also been seen falling across the scene of her murder.
Margaret Pole was buried in the Chapel of St. Peter ad Vincula within the Tower of London.
Tower of London Ghosts: The Ghost of Catherine Howard
Catherine Howard 13th February 1542 escaped from her room in the Tower of London. "She ran down the hallway screaming for help and mercy. She was caught and returned to her room." The next day she was beheaded. Her ghost has been seen still running down the hallway screaming for help.
Tower of London Ghosts: The Ghost of Lady Jane Grey
Lady Jane Grey 12th February 1553 is another tragic story of a young life cut short at the Tower, due to the actions of others the most despicable of who was her own father.
She was the granddaughter of Mary (Henry VIII younger sister) and Louis XII of France. The Duke of Northumberland would lose everything if Henry VIII’s son was to die and Mary, who was Catholic, would become queen.
He and her father arranged her marriage to his son and persuaded her cousin Edward VI to name her his successor in case of his death instead of his two half-sisters. When Edward VI died she was crowned Queen of England, but the supporters of Mary overthrew her.
Her own father got scared and in hopes to save his own skin, left the Tower of London and went to Tower Hill to proclaim Mary I, as the Queen of England, Lady Jane never left the tower; she and her husband were immediately imprisoned and sentenced to death. Queen Mary carried out the execution of Lady Jane’s father-in-law but set both Jane and her husband free.
Her father was involved in a rebellion against Mary I, Lady Jane and her husband were again placed in the tower. Lady Jane watched as her husband was taken to Tower Hill where he was beheaded. She saw his body being carried back to the chapel, after which she was taken to Tower Green where she was beheaded. She was only 17 years old.
Lady Jane Grey’s ghost was last seen by two Guardsmen on February 12, 1957, the 403rd anniversary of her execution. She was described as a "white shape forming itself on the battlements". Her husband, Guildford Dudley, has been seen in Beauchamp Tower weeping.
Tower of London Ghosts: The Royal Menagerie
At one time the Tower of London was home to the Royal Menagerie. Lions, leopards, bears, birds, monkeys and an elephant, that was a gift from the King of France, were kept on exhibit.
On the stroke of midnight in January of 1815 a sentry saw a bear from this menagerie emerge from a doorway. He lunged at it with his bayonet, it passed right through the apparition.
The Sentry was later found unconscious, it is said he died of fright within two months of this encounter.
Something unseen and very frightening is in the Salt Tower. This is one of the most haunted areas of the Tower of London complex. This is a very old section, dogs will not enter this ancient building, and ever since one of the Yeoman Warders was nearly throttled by a force unseen, they will not go into the area after nightfall. Was it one of the Tower of London Ghosts?
Tower of London Ghosts To Be Continued
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