Is Windsor Castle Haunted? Prince Harry & Meghan Markle’s Wedding Venue May Have A Few Ghostly Guests
A lot of fun things come up when you Google, “Is Windsor Castle…”— but without a doubt, my absolute favorite autocomplete is the one that reads, “Is Windsor Castle haunted?” The answer to that question, of course, depends on how you feel about ghosts in the first place; if you believe in them, then you’ll likely fall on the side of, “Yes, it’s absolutely haunted,” while if you don’t, you’re more likely to think, “Absolutely not.” Either way, though, there’s no denying the sheer number of ghost stories about Windsor Castle that have been circulating for years — and they’re spooky regardless as to whether you believe in the paranormal or not.
Windsor Castle was first built by William the Conqueror in the years following the Norman Conquest — so with that amount of history behind it, it’s perhaps to be expected that it would end up playing host to a few spectral inhabitants. In fact, according to Express, it’s one of the most haunted of the Queen’s various residences, with about 25 different ghostly figures having been reported on the property in total. Of course, it’s hard to separate legend from fact — but one of the things that I find the most interesting about the ghost stories attached to Windsor is that so many of them are couched firmly in history.
A lot of monarchs have come through Windsor Castle — and, accordingly, a lot of other people have, as well: Family members, visitors, employees, and so on and so forth. The stories, therefore, run the gamut from history’s most infamous rulers to commoners whose names may not be remembered, but whose actions certainly are. One thing’s for sure: Prince Harry and Meghan Markle sure picked one heck of a wedding venue!
1. King Henry VIII’s Unbridled Rage
Henry VIII is probably the most famous alleged haunting at Windsor; according to the website Royal Central, guests staying at the castle have reported seeing him wandering the hallways, describing him as an “anxious, angry man pacing furiously and shouting loudly.” Infamously cruel, Henry VIII was responsible for the dissolution of the monasteries and the creation of the Church of England purely so he could divorce any wives who didn’t issue forth sons to carry on his line; he also flat-out executed two of them for adultery, so… maybe he’s feeling guilty in the afterlife. Or maybe his leg ulcers are just acting up again.
One thing that’s kind of interesting to note: Some historians have posited that Henry VIII’s tyrannical nature was actually the result of a change in personality brought on by a head injury he suffered in a jousting accident when he was around 44. We do know that he had a variety of health problems, many of which were exacerbated by the accident (like the aforementioned leg ulcers); it’s also now thought that a brain injury may have occurred at the same time and gone undetected. (I mean, that doesn't excuse his behavior — dude's actions are still very much not OK — but it's interesting all the same.)
2. The Weeping Of Anne Boleyn
Both of the wives that Henry VIII beheaded are said to haunt royal properties: Catherine Howard has her own “Haunted Hallway” at Hampton Court, according to Reader’s Digest, while Anne Boleyn hangs out at Windsor Castle, says Royal Central. Anne was arrested in 1536 on charges of treason, adultery, and witchcraft; Henry VIII subsequently had her executed at the Tower of London on May 19 of that year.
But she didn’t stay there. She came back home, to Windsor. She can sometimes be seen in a window of the Dean’s Cloister; she looks sad, and occasionally, she weeps. It’s not hard to see why.
She travels from time to time, too, though. According to Haunted Rooms, Anne Boleyn’s ghost has also allegedly been spotted at Salle Church and Marwell Hall, at Hever Castle, at Blickling Hall, and — yes— at the Tower of London itself. She certainly does get around.
3. The Statues Of St. George’s Chapel
According to a piece on the BBC’s website about local Berkshire legends, St. George’s Chapel — where Harry and Meghan are actually going to be exchanging their vows — has a short, spooky story attached to it: In 1873, it’s said that a visitor to the castle who was strolling the grounds at night spotted what they thought was a new set of statues that had been put up near the chapel. There were four statues total, and they were … kind of ominous: Three of them, all dressed in black, were standing around the fourth one, who was crouching on the ground. The standing statue at the center of the group had its sword raised high, as if it were preparing to strike.
The visitor later commented on the statues to a sentry — but the sentry had no idea what the visitor was talking about. And when they returned to take another look, they found the statues had vanished.
DUN DUN DUN.
(For what it’s worth, St. George’s Chapel is where 10 different British monarchs’ remains are interred … and, as Newsweek so cheerfully reminds us, some died of natural causes, but others were beheaded or poisoned. Doesn’t that sound like a fun aisle to walk down!)
4. The Boy In The Deanery
A rather peculiar spook is said to occupy the Deanery, which is in Windsor Castle’s Middle Ward, just west of the Round Tower: Occasionally, a small boy may be heard saying, petulantly, “I don’t want to go riding today!” Footsteps heard in the area are also thought to belong to this boy, although who he is and why he doesn’t want to go riding have yet to be determined.
5. Good Queen Bess And Her Library
According to Reader’s Digest, Queen Elizabeth I — also known as the Virgin Queen and Good Queen Bess — has been seen walking from Windsor Castle’s library to an inner chamber; what’s more, Royal Central says that her shoes can be heard echoing across the bare floorboards before a full-on apparition of the Queen herself appears.
British Paranormal describes several notable sightings of Queen Elizabeth I's ghost: King George III apparently once claimed to have spoken at length with a woman dressed in black; she called herself Elizabeth and said she was “married to England.” Edward VII also met with a woman in black once whom he told one of his mistresses he thought might have been Elizabeth. And George VI is said to have seen her eight nights in a row right at the start of World War II.
6. The Prison Room
Yes, there’s a room referred to as “The Prison Room” at Windsor. It’s located in the Norman Tower, which also appears on maps as the Norman Gate or Norman Gateway, right near the Round Tower — and according to the BBC, it might be haunted by “a former Royalist prisoner” from the English Civil War.
(In case you need to brush up on your history, the English Civil War spanned the period between 1642 and 1651; it ended with the execution of Charles I, the exile of Charles II, and the establishment of the Commonwealth of England. The Commonwealth put Oliver Cromwell in power. Yes, that Oliver Cromwell.)
We don’t know much about this alleged ghost, but apparently kids have seen him from time to time and adults have felt him push past them. To be fair, it I had been imprisoned in a tower, I’d probably be pretty angry about it, too.
7. King George III's Window
In his later years, George III suffered from a variety of maladies. We’re still not totally sure exactly what caused it all — porphyria might have done it, although it’s also been suggested recently that he may have had arsenic poisoning — but regardless as to the cause, the end result was deafness, blindness, and cognitive impairment.
During his most severe periods of illness, George III was removed from London and taken to Windsor (mental illness stigma: absolutely a thing, and absolutely terrible, then as now), where he was confined in a room beneath the library. He’s still apparently seen sometimes, too, peeking through the windows and doors, according to the website Visit Britain — possibly longing for the world outside.
8. Herne The Hunter’s Nighttime Hunt
According to legend (per Ghost-Story.co.uk), Herne the Hunter was King Richard II’s favorite huntsman. He didn’t mix much with the other keepers; they’re said to have hated him because of how dang good he was at his job. In fact, he was so good that, one time, when a stag almost killed Richard on the grounds of Windsor Palace, he leapt between his monarch and the beast, saving the King’s royal hide.
But the stag had done its worst to Herne, who fell mortally wounded. And this is the point in the story when things get weird, because it’s said that a strange, dark man appeared to Richard and told him he could heal the hunter. Richard said, yes, please, absolutely, save my favorite huntsman — and the dark man cut the stag’s head off and plopped it on top of Herne’s body before spiriting him away to fully convalesce.
Meanwhile, the other keepers, jealous of Herne’s skill, spent the whole time stag-headed Herne was healing just wishing he would die. The dark man appeared to them, too (that sneaky devil), and told them that he could make it so that Herne lost all his abilities — if, that is, the keepers would grant him the first request he made of them. They said sure, and lo, it was so. Herne, despondent at the loss of his skills, died by suicide at an oak tree in Windsor Park.
What the other keepers hadn’t counted on was losing their own abilities as well — so they called on the dark man and asked for help again. The dark man told them to go to the oak tree at which Herne had met his end. They did so, at which point Herne’s ghost appeared and asked them to ready his hounds and his horses. They did this, too — and then the dark man showed up again and made his request: The keepers were to form a band for Herne.
Aaaaand this is why we don't make deals with the devil.
Anyway, night after night, Herne, his hounds, his horses, and his band lead a chase through Windsor Park — but beware the baying of Herne’s ghostly hounds. If they catch you, you’ll be forced to join his band, too.
9. The Afterlife Of King Charles I
So, hey, remember during our discussion of the Prison Room when I mentioned that the English Civil War had concluded in part with the execution of King Charles I? Well, Charles’ untimely death seems to have earned him a spot at Windsor in perpetuity. Happily, although he was beheaded, his ghost usually appears intact. (Not like poor Ursula.) Royal Central states that Charles is usually seen in the library and in the Canon’s Cloister; no word on whether he’s ever met up with Queen Elizabeth’s spirit as she’s made her way from the library to her inner room.
10. 999 Happy Haunts
Well, to be fair, I don’t really know that they’re happy, per se — but there are plenty of other stories clinging to various locations within the castle and on the grounds. The Horseshoe Cloisters, for example, were once the cavalry stables; as such, it’s not totally surprising that sometimes, a man leading a horse is seen to walk straight through the wall of a kitchen in one of the buildings there. Some stories also tell of a young girl standing in the area, usually beside a Christmas tree. She's dressed in blue.
Sir George Villiers is said to occupy one of the bedrooms in the castle from time to time; he doesn’t seem to be malicious, but I would imagine it might be kind of odd to encounter the first Duke of Buckingham asyou’re, say, getting ready for bed or what have you.
And in the Curfew Tower, in the Lower Ward on the western mostside of the castle, footsteps are sometimes heard on the staircase when there’s no one around to make any noise. The bells in that same tower have also been known to swing on their own — amidst a dramatic and unexplained drop and temperature.
The ghosts of Windsor Castle are many — or at least, they are if you believe in them. Either way, though, I don’t think I’m alone when I say that when Meghan Markle and Prince Harry meet up at the altar on May 19, at least a tiny part of me is going to be sitting there, scanning my television screen for a set of four statues — four statues that shouldn’t be there at all.
Because, I mean… what if?