- Between executions and still-unsolved deaths, some former and current royal residences house dark histories.
- Buckingham Palace is reportedly haunted by two ghosts.
- Hampton Court Palace is said to be haunted by the ghosts of Henry VIII’s wives and a former servant.
Another part of Buckingham Palace’s eerie history was the death of Major John Gwynne, King Edward VII’s private secretary. After Gwynne divorced his wife, he is said to have shot himself inside one of the palace’s offices as a result of public criticism. Palace staffers have reported hearing the sound of a single gunshot coming from inside the office.
Creepier still, after King George III descended into madness, he resided at Windsor Castle until his eventual death, and his ghost has been seen peering out from the window of the room where he was held, according to the BBC.
Mary, Queen of Scots spent most of her life inside the palace walls, during which time her personal secretary, David Rizzio, was murdered in her private apartments on March 9, 1566, according to the royal family’s official website. Mary’s husband, Lord Darnley, was said to have disagreed with Rizzio’s power over the Queen, and thus orchestrated the assassination which was carried out with more than 70 other men.
According to The Tudor Society, Mary attempted to stop the attack but, being heavily pregnant, was restrained while it was carried out. She later reported that Rizzio was stabbed 56 times.
About half a mile away, on February 10, 1567, Lord Darnley was found dead after his living quarters were destroyed by an explosion. Lord Darnley’s death still remains unsolved, though many suspect Queen Mary and her third and final husband, the Earl of Bothwell, had a part in it, as they were married three months after his death, according to the National Archives.
Catherine Howard, the fifth wife of Henry VIII, is also said to haunt the palace. Catherine was accused of adultery and treason, and she was arrested at Hampton Court. According to Historic Royal Palaces, she managed to escape the guards and ran through a hall, screaming for the king to be compassionate, but she was apprehended again and ultimately executed at the Tower of London. Visitors have reported hearing her screams in the hall, which is now known as the Haunted Gallery.
The palace is also said to be haunted by the ghost of Sybil Penn, a former servant at the palace who served as a nurse to both Edward VI and a young Queen Elizabeth I. While nursing Elizabeth I back to health as she suffered from smallpox, Penn is believed to have caught the disease and died. She now reportedly roams the castle as an apparition known as the “Grey Lady.”
“Some of the servants had complained that the room was haunted and did not want to work in it,” royal biographer Kenneth Rose wrote.
The two sons of Edward IV were also presumably murdered inside the Tower of London after they went missing there in 1483. Many believe they were smothered in their sleep by a political rival who wished to be king and saw the boys as a threat.
The Tower of London was also frequently used as a site for the executions of many high-profile offenders. Both Anne Boleyn and Henry VIII’s fifth wife, Catherine Howard, were executed at the tower. Many others were executed there throughout history, a majority of whom were considered enemies of the state and the highest level of criminal.
A costume ball commemorating the anniversary of the reign of Tsar Alexey Mikhailovich, the second Romanov tsar, was held in 1903. It marked the last major event hosted by the Imperial family at the Winter Palace.
In 1905, the Winter Palace would set the stage for the Revolution of 1905 and what’s come to be known as “Bloody Sunday,” during which more than 100 peaceful protesters were killed by police and several hundred more were wounded.
During the October Revolution of 1917, after Nicholas II had abdicated the throne, the Imperial family would never again see their home at the Winter Palace, as they were placed in a remote house in Yekaterinburg and later executed.