The Headless Queen

Anne Boleyn was the second wife of King Henry VIII. He was already married to Catherine of Aragon and could not get a divorce from the Roman Catholic Church. In order to get his divorce he created a reformed version of the Church, putting himself at the head - a direct challenge of authority to the Pope.

Having obtained his divorce and married Anne, the king's most driving need was a son. His former queen had only given him a female child (Princess Mary). On 7 September 1533 Anne Boleyn gave birth to a girl, Elizabeth (who was to become Queen Elizabeth I). The relationship between the king and Anne Boleyn deteriorated; he began to court Jane Seymour.

However, Anne became pregnant again, and there was a reconciliation, but the child was born dead. Henry determined to get rid of Anne and trumped up a charge of treason, arresting and confining her to the Tower of London. Her execution had been scheduled for 18 May 1536 but in fact took place the following day as there had been a delay while a skilled executioner was brought in from Calais.

Anne Boleyn's ghost is a prolific one and there are many reports of her appearances. Undoubtedly many reports arise because ghosts seen will be attributable to the most 'famous' source when that may be inappropriate; however, some have the suggestion of a little more substance.

Among the more hysterical there are the stories of headless horses galloping to Blickling Hall in Norfolk, her family home, ridden by a headless horseman and of course the headless young woman herself. Traditionally the apparition appears on the anniversary of her death. Further elaborations of the tale include a severed head in her lap.

Anne's ghost has been seen by several people in the corridors of Blickling Hall although the present building dates from virtually one hundred years after her death. Nonetheless, it is on the same site as the original building and there are many accounts of ghosts which do seem attracted to particular locations.

The administrator of the building, Mr Steve Ingram, had an experience of a more specific nature in 1985. Mr Ingram and his wife share a flat in BlicklingHall. One night he was awakened at 1.30am by the sound of footsteps in the passageway outside the bedroom. The sound was of light female footsteps on rush matting, changing briefly to someone stepping on thinner material, then back onto the carpet. Mr Ingram worked out the path of the footsteps, down the rush matting in the corridor outside, across the thin mat by the doorway and across the carpet of the bedroom. Evidently the person causing footsteps was now standing at the foot of the bed and Mr Ingram merely assumed it was his wife returning from the bathroom.

When he switched on the bedroom light he discovered his wife asleep next to him and the bedroom door shut; noone else could be seen in the room. It was the following morning when someone pointed out that this incident had occured on the anniversary of Anne Boleyn's execution.

The National Trust took over Blickling Hall in 1946; one of it's administrators was Mr. Sidney Hancock. One one occasion Mr Hancock looked out of the kitchen window of thehall towards the lake and saw a woman walking down towards the lakeside. She was wearing a long grey gown with a white lace collar and a white cap. Hancock was concerned that she was either lost or trespassing and went out to ask if he could help or if she was looking for someone. The lady apparently replied "that for which I seek has long since gone". Hancock briefly turned away and on looking back discovered that there was no one there and nowhere she could have gone to. Although the description of the clothes worn by the figure did not match those whichAnne wore to her execution, they would well have been the clothes she might have been wearing in the days leading up to it.

Anne Boleyn is also reputed to haunt Hampton Court - along with most of Henry VIII's wives in fact- although there she apparently wears the blue dress in which she appears in a portrait in that building. Predictably, she is also said to haunt theTower of London where she was executed. She is traditionally seen, again, predictably as a headless female figure identified by her clothing.


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