The Ghosts of Windsor Castle

There are those who believe in spirits, there are those who respect the belief and there are those who treat everything with good humor. In anticipation of the Day of the Dead, which unites several ancient cultures around the change of season and the proximity of winter in the Northern Hemisphere, tales about ghosts are multiplying. And there is no doubt that Castles, where history has certainly marked deaths and dramas, are the perfect settings to feed the legends. The most recent one returns to the “meeting of the Elizabeths”, the British Queens, at Windsor Castle. Well, although 323 years separate the existence of monarchs, Elizabeth II would have seen the ghost of Elizabeth I in the library of her residence in Windsor, with the testimony of Princess Margaret. Too bad the story doesn’t make it into The Crown

The date for the “meeting” was never revealed, but it is alleged that the “young” Elizabeth and Margaret were together in the library when they heard footsteps and saw the legendary monarch before them. “Experts” list at least five ghosts roaming Windsor, making the castle a “favorite” for restless spirits (and a potential setting for a Ghostbusters sequel). In addition to Elizabeth I, who enjoys the library, it is said that in the room below it is common to find King George III looking out of a window. The King’s famous period of “madness” kept him confined within the walls of the residence (the story was made into a movie in 1993, The Madness of King George) and, as an added curiosity, George III was the husband of Queen Charlotte, so popular. nowadays on account of Bridgerton. But back to the ghosts.

Because Windsor Castle is over a thousand years old, it is listed as one of the most haunted addresses in England (about 25 spirits listed), but we can also argue that it is the most elitist since Kings and Queens “appear” there. . In addition to Elizabeth I and George III, were “seen”: Henry VIII, Charles I, Richard II and Anne Boleyn, among others. Stellar!

Understanding Castle “karma”…

As historians claim, the castle (whose name Windsor does not come from wind, but from the word “Windles-ore” which means winch by the river, was the stronghold established by William the Conqueror around the year 1066, 10 years after his invasion and rule of the United Kingdom, he found a wooden motto and courtyard structure on the site, and became part of a defensive ring of castles around London, all within an hour away from the capital, which allowed the troops to be ready quickly for a defense. What gave Windsor Castle its biggest advantage was its location: it is close to the River Thames, it was great for hunting and it was on an important medieval route. Anyway, in 1110 it was already luxurious enough to accommodate important Crown events, such as weddings and other ceremonies, because William’s son Henry I was the first King to use Windsor as a residence and was renovating the castle over time.

Following the parentheses of curiosities: Henry I was the father of Empress Matilda, who inspired House of the Dragon), and after the reign of her son, Henry II, another civil war took place, the “First War of the Barons”, in which a group of landowners (the Barons) confronted King John (brother of Richard the Lionheart and great-grandson of Matilda) and the conflict only ended with the signing of the Magna Carta. That’s right, here was the king who dealt with Robin Hood.

Therefore, little by little, what was a “wooden castle” was soon converted into a “stone castle”. Its climax, however, came under the reign of Henry III, who adored the site and spent fortunes remodeling Windsor, adding a luxurious palace within the walls. Saint George’s Chapel, which we already know is more than a “chapel”, was designed by Edward III and today several British monarchs are buried there, including Elizabeth II. Improvement works reached into the Tudor period, with Henry VIII and Elizabeth I using Windsor as a royal court and diplomatic entertainment center.

Unfortunately, it was also the scene of the arrest and execution of the only English King to be sentenced to death – King Charles I – during the civil war from 1642 to 1651. Faithful to the Crown (Cavaliers) lost to the Parliamentarians (Roundheads), who imprisoned Charles in Windsor in 1648 and beheaded him a month later in London. His corpse (and head) were returned to the Castle and are buried in St George’s Chapel, alongside Henry VIII, Jane Seymour, and several other monarchs. Charles I’s son Charles II regained the throne in 1660 and immediately moved to Windsor Castle, making further innovations such as creating a set of extravagant Baroque interiors.

In the 18th century, the Castle was somewhat abandoned, but Kings George III and George IV returned to the site, recovering the site. During World War II, the Royal Family used Windsor as a refuge and adopted her name as that of their dynasty. That’s right, the “Windsors”, who are in Power, owe their name to the haunted castle.

The 1992 fire was devastating, but the Castle was restored and became Queen Elizabeth II’s weekend residence until 2020, when she isolated herself there during the Covid-19 pandemic, making Windsor her permanent home.

Given this history, any doubts about the haunted reputation?

The “Ghosts” That Don’t Leave Windsor

Henry VIII
The ghost of Elizabeth I’s father is one of the most famous in the castle. Several officials and visitors report hearing the King cry in the castle’s cloisters, as well as being seen wandering the halls, groaning in pain and dragging his ulcerated leg. Its screams are occasional, but it is described as a large, angry ghost.

Anne Boleyn
Elizabeth I’s mother, a wife sentenced to death at the behest of Henry VIII, accused of witchcraft, treason, adultery, and incest, was beheaded in the Tower of London, but her body was found buried in St George’s Chapel. It is said that she was seen in the Rector’s Cloister in the castle, peering through a window, sad and crying.

Queen Victoria
Queen Victoria’s ghost is said to be “displeased with the changes made to the castle”, in particular those led by her grandson Edward VIII, who wanted to remove a family tree at the request of his wife. When the workers were ready to take down her tree, Victoria would have appeared out of nowhere, moaning heavily and waving her arms, scaring the workers so much that they refused to finish the job. The tree is still standing.

Elizabeth I
With her parents roaming Windsor, it’s no surprise that Elizabeth I is one of the castle’s many ghosts. As mentioned, she haunts the Royal Library in particular, but she was also seen in a window in the Rector’s Cloister wearing a black dress and a shawl on her back. His arrival is always heralded by the sound of heavy footsteps on the wooden floor and he walks around the room before disappearing again. The first account of her ghost is from February 1897, when Lieutenant Carr Glynn of the Grenadier Guards was sitting in the outer room of the Queen’s library and a lady dressed in black passed him. Intrigued by the woman’s resemblance to the portraits he’d seen of Elizabeth I, Glynn followed her, but couldn’t find any trace of her, even with no other exit from the environment. That’s right, Queen Elizabeth II and Princess Margaret weren’t the only ones who saw her. King George VI also claimed to have bumped into Elizabeth I for no less than “eight straight nights in the same place” at the start of World War II. (That was a brave man to have stayed in Windsor after that…)

King George III
Having been confined to the castle, especially during its period of madness, it is also no surprise that the spirit of George III would be seen looking sadly through the library’s windows and doors. Legend has it that when he was alive, every day he passed the guards and responded to their greetings. When he died, he was not buried immediately, and even as he was being veiled one of the guards passed through the window and unmistakably saw the figure of the king. Instinctively, the guard saluted him, with the King’s ghost saluting back. As soon as he realized what was happening, the soldier “died of fright”? We do not know. He survived to give fame to the fact.

Charles I
Only those who don’t understand a decapitated spirit find the story of Charles I’s ghost strange. When his body (and head) were delivered to be buried in St George’s Chapel, a sudden blizzard fell on his black-covered coffin, which was being carried towards the chapel. But the day had clear and cloudless skies until just that moment. As the shroud over the coffin turned completely white, some subjects saw this as a divine sign of the king’s innocence, and since then, several people have occasionally seen him in the House of the Canon in the Castle precincts.

Herne the Hunter
Not all ghosts are royalty. Herne was King Richard III’s favorite hunter, especially after he saved the king’s life on a hunt, but was mortally wounded. According to legend, Herne was cured by sorcery. But, this came with a price. A set of horns grew from his head, though it is unlikely that this was the case with Herne being the monarch’s trusted man until he was accused of theft. Cast out and humiliated, Herne is said to have hanged himself from an oak tree and each winter, his ghost would return to the tree in Home Park.

On August 31, 1836, the oak (known as Herne’s Oak) fell, with logs being burned in the Castle to ensure that Herne’s ghost was burned along, but one log did not. With the material, it was carved into a bust of Shakespeare, and Herne is mentioned in his play “The Merry Wives of Windsor”. Shakespeare’s bust can be seen in the Windsor and Royal Borough Museum in Guildhall. We never hear from Herne again, thank God, although there are versions of his ghost appearing in the park from time to time.

The Duke of Buckingham
George Villiers, the Duke of Buckingham suspected of having been the lover of James VI, is believed to haunt one of the rooms at Windsor Castle but does not seem to bother anyone.

The Phantom of the Long Walk
The legend is now 95 years old and is about the view from the south facade of the castle, on the Long Walk of Windsor Park. In 1927, an 18-year-old guard patrolling the area at night was overcome with melancholy and shot himself. A few weeks later, a colleague of his, Sergeant Leake, received the same night duty. At the end of his shift, he was pleased to hear the footsteps of what he assumed was his replacement. Instead, he found himself face-to-face with the suicidal young man. As he watched in amazement, genuine relief appeared and the ghost disappeared. Back at the barracks, he related his experience to several other sentries, who claimed to have witnessed demonstrations by their dead associate. Next to that of Herne, it is the most sinister legend among the ghosts of Winsdor.

The kitchen
In the kitchen of the Castle, a man, a girl, a lady in white and even a horse have been reported to appear. The last one isn’t that bizarre. Before being a kitchen, the place was one of the stables of the Castle’s cavalry. So it makes sense!

The scare on the sentry
There is an account from April 1906, that a sentry was on duty near the main entrance to the castle when a group of men appeared out of nowhere and started walking toward him. Thinking they were intruders, the sentry challenged them, but they kept advancing. When they ignored his third challenge, he cocked his rifle and fired at the main figure, who stopped momentarily but then continued forward. Raising his bayonet, the soldier attacked the group, who disappeared into thin air. He reported the experience to his commander, who carried out a full-scale search of the castle and grounds, but no intruders were found. By fanciful history, the sentry was confined to the barracks for three days as punishment. Did he see ghosts?

Statues in Saint George’s Chapel
This story dates back to 1873 when a visitor to the Castle noticed that four new statues had been placed in the Capela de São Jorge. As he approached, he noticed that they were black and that although three of them were standing, one was crouching and one of the three standings was holding the sword as if to attack the crouching figure. When the visitor passed a guard, he asked about the statues but found that there were no new statues, much less as described. When they returned to check, the images were gone. Had they ever been there?

Other Ghosts at Windsor Castle
The Norman Gate near the Round Tower is said to be haunted by an unknown Civil War prisoner from the period of Charles I, but only children can see it, adults only feel it pass them by. There have also been reports of ghost footsteps heard at Curfew Tower and that the architect William of Wykeham, who died in 1404, is still walking around the castle, checking that everything is still okay.

Given these reports, we can conclude that, for better or worse, those who live in Windsor have to have courage… or a lot of faith.


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