Hampton Court Palace is King Henry VIII’s most famous former home. It was originally created for Cardinal Thomas Wolsey in 1514, before King Henry acquired it some 14 years later. He wasted no time before renovating and extending the place, and the residence was soon fit for a king with its expansive gardens, impressive banqueting hall, private apartments, and a whopping 1,390 rooms.
Many royal residents have occupied the palace since then, from William III to George II, until eventually Queen Victoria opened the property to the public in 1838. Nowadays, Hampton Court Palace is a stunning attraction: steeped in history, filled to the brim with magnificent art, and boasting more than a handful of spooky stories.
Henry VIII is famed for having six wives during his lifetime, and we all know the rhyme that reminds us of their fate. But do you know the tales of how they haunt the walls of this historic royal palace? That’s right, visitors have reported seeing the ghosts of Jane Seymour and Catherine Howard on a number of occasions, as well as some other famous phantoms.
The ghost of Catherine Howard
Catherine Howard—Henry VIII’s fifth wife—allegedly roams the palace to this day, and visitors and staff have both reported hearing her screams. Back in the day, King Henry excused her of adultery and she was locked away. On one occasion, Catherine managed to escape and run down what is now known as the Haunted Gallery, presumably to plead her innocence, but was dragged back along the corridor screaming. In 1999, during two different tours of the palace on the same day, two visitors are said to have fainted in the exact same spot in the very same gallery that Catherine’s screams have been heard. Coincidence? I’ll let you decide…
The ghost of Jane Seymour
Jane Seymour—Henry VIII’s third wife—sadly died after giving birth to their son, Prince Edward. Her ghost is also reported to have been seen by staff and visitors, this time walking on the Silverstick Stairs holding a burning candle. Prince Edward survived, and became King at the age of just nine – although died six years later following a short illness.
The ghost of the Grey Lady
Another regular sighting is that of “the Grey Lady” — supposedly the ghost of a servant to the monarchs, and nurse to Prince Edward and Elizabeth I. She died of smallpox after treating Elizabeth I for… smallpox. There have been dozens of reports of the Grey Lady’s ghost appearing all around the castle, all of which started once her tomb was moved in 1829. It was after that that strange noises began to be heard, with some saying they heard a constant spinning wheel. Following a search of the Court, an antique spinning wheel was found. Spooky, or what?
The ghost of King Henry VIII himself
Known as the ‘Hampton Court Skeletor’, this particular phantom was captured on CCTV in December 2003 and the sighting was reported across the world. Security staff first reported doors swinging open with great force, with no explanation as to how that could have happened. A day later, the same thing happened again, but a ghostly figure was also spotted on the footage (seen above), and many believe it to be the ghost of King Henry VIII. Also known as the ‘Skeletor’, it wasn’t just security staff who spotted him: a visitor also claimed to have spotted the spectre of a large man near the same doors.
Hampton Court Palace, and the now infamous Haunted Gallery, is open to the public — and they’re offering half price tickets from January 8 to February 9, 2023. Find out more and purchase tickets over on the Historic Royal Palaces’ website.
Also published on Medium.