Tuesday, March 26, 2013

The Ghost of Catherine Howard

Catherine Howard became the fifth wife of the Tudor King Henry VIII. She was born in 1521 into a prestigious Catholic family. Her first cousin Anne Boleyn, the niece of the Duke of Norfolk, was King Henry VIII’s second wife. Unfortunately, Catherine's fate was to be similar to her cousins. 

Catherine’s mother died when she was young, so she was sent to live in the house of Agnes, with the Dowager Duchess who basically ignored her. Her education was neglected, and she could barely read or write.

Catherine Howard

Because of this neglect, Catherine had freedom most young woman of noble birth at that time were not allowed. She became flirtatious and impetuous, which resulted in illicit relationships with young men. Catherine had a tie at the age of 15 with her music teacher, Henry Mannox. She then took a gentleman’s usher by the name Francis Dereham as her first lover. 

When the Dowager was informed of Catherine’s behavior she was horrified. Instead of blaming herself she had Catherine whipped. The Duke of Norfolk decided that his young niece who was admired for her beauty should be sent to court to advance the families’ fortunes.

She was sent to Hampton Court to be a lady-in-waiting. Just as the Duke had hoped she attracted the eye of King Henry VIII. Henry became obsessed with Catherine. Thinking she was all that was pure and good, he started to think of her as his “rose without thorn.” Catherine was indeed sweet and kind, but she was not innocent. At first, she didn’t mind the difference in their ages--she was 19 he was 49. She liked the beautiful clothes and jewels that Henry provided.

Catherine married Henry in 1540. But it wasn’t long before her soiled past started to catch up with her. She was forced to give former members of the Dowager Duchesses’ household positions at Court in return for their silence. 

Not long after her marriage, still promiscuous, Catherine started a new affair. A young courtier, Thomas Culpepper whose duties were to attend to all of Henry’s special needs, became her lover. Jane Rochford a lady-in waiting who had played a part in Queen Anne Boleyn’s downfall encouraged this affair between Catherine and Culpepper. 

Their affair quickly became known at court. At first, Henry would not listen to these rumors. But the Protestant Archbishop of Canterbury, Thomas Cranmer built a case against the young Catholic Queen. His evidence included information about her affairs while at Agnes and love letters that she had written to Culpepper. 

Henry devastated banned Catherine from his presence and ordered she be arrested. Catherine was confined to her apartments at Hampton Court for adultery.

She escaped at one point and tried to find Henry to plead for her life. But she was dragged back screaming to her rooms. Catherine’s former lovers, Mannox, Dereham, and Culpepper were tortured and executed. She passed their gruesome impaled heads on London Bridge on her way to the Tower of London. She was beheaded in February of 1542 at the age of 21. 

After the executioner chopped off her head with an ax, he held it up for the crowd to see. She would have remained alive for eight seconds after her head was removed from her body because it takes that long for the lack of oxygen to cause unconsciousness and death. So Catherine most likely saw her own headless body when this was done.

Catherine Howard’s ghost haunts two places. She is seen in the area where she was kept awaiting execution at the Tower of London and at Hampton Court Palace where she lived with King Henry VIII. 

Her ghost has become known as "The Screaming Lady of the Haunted Gallery."

Since her death, she has been seen running through the Hampton gallery for it was here she was dragged back to her rooms after attempting to plead for her life. She is known as an anniversary ghost for her apparition is seen in this area on the date she was put under arrest. Her ghostly hand is also seen floating near the portrait of her in this gallery.

Many visitors to this Haunted Gallery over the years have stated that they sensed something not quite right about this area. "Grace- of- favor" residents in nearby apartments report hearing her screams in the gallery. One radio interview that was being conducted in this area had to shut down when their equipment stopped working. 

In 1999, two female visitors to Hampton Court each on separate tours a half hour apart fainted att he same exact spot in this gallery. In 2000 psychologists from the University of Hertfordshire concluded from their investigation that all the witnesses to this activity over the years experienced it in the same areas.

Hampton Court Palace has many other ghosts that haunt it as well. In future posts, I will share their stories. Even King Henry VIII’s ghost has been seen but not at Hampton Court. His spirit is seen at Windsor Castle.

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