ISABELLE KING is counting down the days until May 19th when the headless ghost of Anne Boleyn is said to appear at Blickling Hall
So what’s so special about May 19th? Well if you love a good ghost story it’s definitely a date to be aware of. Better still, if you’d love to actually see a ghost, put that date in your diary and visit Blicking Hall. Many people do on a midnight vigil. Here’s why…
Blicking Hall is an impressive stately home in Norfolk; it’s beautiful surrounding gardens creating the kind of sweeping, romantic atmosphere that seems apt for a place of such history. Having grown up in Norfolk I am very familiar with the eerie story of this house. In Tudor times it was the home of the Boleyn family where Anne Boleyn, infamously short-lived second wife to Henry VIII is thought to have been born around 1501.
Legend has it on midnight of May 19th, the anniversary of Anne’s beheading, her headless ghost rides in a carriage of four headless horses, drawn by a headless coachman up the drive of Blickling Hall then disappears into the house. It’s interesting to note that the Tudor mansion which Anne would have known was replaced in 1616 with the new Jacobean style so she actually rides up to a house she wouldn’t recognize. Every year people gather in the hope of witnessing this legend… well it does sound like a lot of spooky fun, although don’t get me wrong, perhaps not the sort of event you’d take a picnic to. Eye witness accounts of her ghost are really very grim. Anne sits in the carriage dressed in white, holding her severed head which oozes blood in her lap.
There is also another dark side to this tale. Anne’s father, Thomas Boleyn, who some people believe had a hand in manipulating his daughter to her downfall, is supposedly cursed forever ‘as a penance’ to cross a dozen bridges before cockcrow for a thousand years. He too is headless and carries his own head. He wasn’t actually beheaded in life and so is possibly empathising with Anne in death. There is another theory that he is cursed to drive her carriage. As with all ghost legends there are variations but the image of a headless Anne is just as strong and spine-tingling in each version.
Blickling Hall is also famous for some other ghostly sightings, one of which is a mysterious grey lady seen in the library. No one knows who she is and some question whether this mysterious grey lady is Anne. I have my own little idea… Lady Jane Rochford, wife of Anne’s brother George who was beheaded with his sister, inherited the house after his death. But she came to a sticky end too as Henry VIII also had her executed alongside his fifth wife Catherine Howard. Jane was the lady in waiting that had helped Catherine meet her lover in secret. It’s a wonder that Jane, loathed by both Anne and George, doesn’t do a bit of haunting of her own. Just a thought. Perhaps we’ll never know. Either way, it strikes me this place it certainly worth a visit if you’re a ghost spotting enthusiast. And May 19th approaches…
ISABELLE KING is an actress and freelance writer living in London.