Home Royal Residences Haunted royal residences – Buckingham Palace to Sandringham

Haunted royal residences – Buckingham Palace to Sandringham

by Katie Balfe

Halloween, the time of ghosts, goblins, witches – and haunted royal residences? Yep, you heard that right. Some of the Royals’ closest neighbours happen to be those of the undead kind and this Halloween The Crown Chronicles decided to investigate them.

So sit tight, maybe keep the lights on and good luck sleeping tonight!

Bump in the night at Buckingham Palace

Let’s start off with the most famous palace of them all, Buckingham Palace. The Palace has been the scene of some of the most joyous occasions for the Royal Family – weddings, christenings, jubilees. But it also has a dark side, and those coincide with two of its most famous residents – of the undead kind, that is.

Buckingham Palace is The Queen’s working home in London – but do others live along side her?

The site the palace has stood on since 1703 was once inhabited by a monastery and that is where our first ghostly resident originated. The ghost of a monk in a brown cowl is said to be seen on the rear terrace; it is believe he died in a punishment cell and hasn’t left since… Many staff at the palace have reported also hearing the sound of chains rattling and moaning coming from the terrace at night, so this housemate of The Queen’s isn’t very quiet. He is most seen on Christmas Day when the residence is usually empty.

Another ghostly resident is more recent, only around 105 years old. His name is Major John Gwynn and he was the former private secretary to King Edward VII. He caused a bit of controversy when he divorced his wife and, unable to live with that, he shot himself in his first floor office at the Palace. Staff over the years have claimed to heard a single gunshot going off in that room on several occasions. The offices is unpopular with those who work there, saying there is an uneasy aura in the room…

Creepy Kensington Palace

Not far from Buckingham Palace, Kensington Palace is the home to many a Royal – both living and dead.

Kensington Palace

During one of my visits to the palace, I spoke to one of the HRP staff. I asked the man, who was a student working there for the summer, what it was like. He proceeded to tell me how the job was a great one but, after spending one night shift there, he never wanted to be there after dark again. He said the floorboards would creek randomly and there was a strange and frighting atmosphere.

He isn’t the only one: many tourists have left reviews online following their visits. The reviews speak of how the place has a very “heavy atmosphere” for no reason.

The most commonly seen ‘ghost’ in the red-bricked royal residence is King George II, the last monarch to be born outside of the UK. He died at Kensington Palace in 1760, due to mass internal bleeding caused by  an aortic aneurysm. He was waiting for news from his native Hanover and died looking out the window, asking about why the news was not coming. It is said that the image of his face has manifested many times at that very window and some even claimed to hear his voice asking “why don’t they come?”

George II (Cropped) wikimedia commons

George is joined by his great-granddaughter, Princess Sophia. Sophia was never allowed to mix with people outside of the royal court and it has been rumoured that she engaged in an incestuous relationship with her brother and also fell in love with a man named Thomas Garth, her father’s chief equerry. There are also rumours she gave birth to an illegitimate child in 1800.

Regardless, Princess Sophia never married and her life was rather lonely. She found comfort in her spinning wheel, but had to give it up when old age made her go blind. Many at Kensington Palace have reported hearing the sound of a spinning wheel throughout, but there is no spinning wheel…

Queen Mary II apparently haunts the Queen’s Apartments where she died in 1694, at the age of 32 from smallpox. Out of kindness, she sent away anyone in the palace who had never been exposed to the disease before to prevent them from catching it. Her death in December 1694, a week after moving into the palace, devastated her husband, William III, who fell from a horse in 1702 and died in the same palace. Some say Mary can be heard crying for the children she never had and the short life she lived.

The Cambridges’ Apartment 1A is said to be located in the most haunted part of the Palace and they have their own ghost in their home – a young boy called Peter. ‘Peter the Wild Boy’ was, according to legend, found naked and alone living off the German land by the King’s men in the 1700s, before he was brought to the UK. There’s even a painting of him still hanging in the palace today.

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And if you thought the Cambridges could get away from it all by going for a walk, think again! The grounds of Kensington Palace are haunted too. A man in breeches has been seen walking around and then disappearing into thin air. Nobody quite knows who he is but he was more than likely a servant from long ago.

Spooky St James’s Palace

St James’s Palace is the official home of the royal court, and despite its beginnings as a sprawling Tudor residence, it was the 19th century and a grisly murder that we go to…

St James’s palace is just down the road from Buckingham Palace. The Chapel Royal can be seen on the right (Matt Brown)

In the early hours of the 31st May 1810, Ernest, the Duke of Cumberland – brother to George IV and William IV – was awoken from a deep sleep at around 2.30am. Next thing he knew, he was being attacked! The assailant started slashing at the Duke’s padded nightcap and gown. As Ernest attempted to deflect the blows, his hands and wrists were cut. In desperation he screamed for help and a valet rushed in. He found the Duke’s sabre, covered in blood, lying on the floor by the door.

As he was being treated, the Duke asked for his other valet Joseph Sellis and two staff members to set off to find the attacker. As they approached Sellis’ room to rouse him, they heard a strange gurgling sound from within. Opening the door, they found Sellis lying dead on his bed. His throat had been cut back to the spine, and his head almost severed from his body. A hasty inquest concluded that Sellis had, for reasons unknown, attempted to murder the Duke, and in remorse had returned to his room to commit suicide.

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Court gossip didn’t go by that account, however. People whispered that the Duke Cumberland had murdered Sellis – pointing out that Sellis’ hands were found to be clean, and that there was bloodstained water in his washbasin. Would the valet have had the time or the inclination to wash his hands, having, apparently, almost cut his own head off? Not to mention the physical difficulties of such a task…

Several alternative scenarios were soon circulating as to what had really happened. One version maintained that Sellis had found the Duke in bed with his wife and had been killed to stop him exposing Cumberland’s adultery; another said that Ernest had seduced Sellis’ daughter who, finding out she was pregnant, had committed suicide. When Sellis confronted his employer, the Duke had silenced him.

Whatever the truth, Joseph Sellis’ ghost that now haunts St James’s Palace and is often seen propped up in bed with his jaw hanging open, over a slit throat. Visitors have also seen a dark figure walking the corridors and reported the smell of fresh blood accompanies the ghost.

In the bedroom where Joseph Sellis died, palace staff have complained of the feeling of being watched, cold spots and items being moved and reappearing in strange places. Guests with no knowledge of the buildings history have also picked up on the strange atmosphere in the room…

Ghosts of Sandringham past?

Sandringham House, situated on the Sandringham Estate in Kings Lynn, Norfolk, is one of The Queen’s private residences – meaning it is owned by her and not the state. It is most associated with Christmas as it is where the family gather together to celebrate the festive break, but they aren’t the only ones inhabiting the house.

Sandringham House, Norfolk (John Fielding)

Staff and members of the family themselves, most notably Prince Charles, believe the house to be haunted. So haunted, in fact, that The Queen had to hold a religious service there in 2000 due to staff complaining!

The small service, as reported by royal biographer Kenneth Rose, was conducted in one of the downstairs bedrooms of the mansion. The room, where George VI died in, was apparently so haunted that staff did not want to go inside. The small service was attended by only The Queen, the Queen Mother and one of the Queen Mother’s Ladies-in-Waiting.

In the mid-1980s, Prince Charles had a run in with one of the ghostly residents. He and a valet, Ken Stronach, were looking for old prints in a part of the house when they both suddenly felt a coldness. They convinced themselves that they were being watched and yet, nobody else was with them. According to a source, Charles exclaimed “Oh heck!” Grabbed the first print he saw and left as quickly as he could.

A courtier has said that: “There are old parts of the house where nobody wants to go or be alone.” One of those places is the library, where there have been many incidents. In the library is an old clock and the hands of it tend to move by itself. One staff member, who actually fell asleep in the library, was woken when books started to fly!

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In 1996, footman Shaun Croasdale was seen tuning from the cellar, screaming. He believed that he had just seen the ghost of the Queen’s favourite servant, Tony Jarred, who had died a year earlier. Following the incident, The Queen spoke with Shaun and asked to hear what he had seen. The Queen believed ever word, as she is actually a believer in ghosts and has seen them!

Christmas cards have been seen flying around the room and blankets have been pulled of beds by nobody at all. Footsteps can be heard, and often are, throughout the 270 room mansion, as well as the sounds of someone wheezing. Lights also tend to be switched on and off by themselves…Christmas at Sandringham anyone? Anyone?

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