Henry VIII's matrimonial reputation is not of the best. His dealings with his six wives, two of
which he did to death, have certainly put him, according tot popular opinion, among the archvillains of history.
When he died at the no great age of fifty-six, he was an enormous mass of flesh, so fat
and diseased that he could hardly move. The royal corpse was taken from Westminister to
Windsor, and the ponderous coffin was placed upon a trestle in Syon House. During the night so
great was the weight of the contents that the coffin burst open and the dogs scrambled forward to
lick the dead king's blood. Syon House had once been an Abbey. It had been appropriated by
Henry during the Dissolution of the Monasteries, and many people thought that his body being
thus dishonored, as Ahab's had been, was of some dread significance.
Nevertheless Henry's spirit has apparently rested in peace. This has surprised some who
thought that the ghost of such a man would surely return to haunt the scenes of his wrong-doings.
It is in fact the two wives he executed-Anne Boleyn and Catherine Howard-who have
remained behind to haunt the world with their disturbed spirits, while the lord and master who
put them to death sleeps peacefully in his royal tomb.
We should not be surprised at this apparent injustice. It is the wronged, rather than the
wrong-doers, whose spirits are uneasy, and it is not for us to question this inequitable
arrangement on the part of the eternal forces. Also, it should be remembered that neither of these
young Queens of England could with all honesty maintain their innocence of the immorality with
which they were charged. Resentful they undoubtedly were at the treatment Henry meted out to
them, but their conduct during their lifetime was hardly befitting that of Queen of England.
Whether this merited death is another matter and one we are not concerned with here.
Anne and Catherine were cousins. Neither had the kind of sheltered upbringing which is
usual for future Queens of England, though of course neither girl dreamed in her youth that she
would become the King's Consort.
Anne's father was Sir Thomas Boleyn. Her mother was the daughter of Thomas Howard,
the Second Duke of Norfolk (who was also Catherine Howard's grandfather). At a tender age
Anne went to the French Court and was exposed to the influence of an elegant and unmoral
society. Her sister Mary became Henry's mistress, and when Henry cast his eyes desirously
upon Anne, she thought she would go one better then Mary and become the King's wife. She
had not been to Paris for nothing, and she succeeded in becoming Queen after playing a
remarkable game of hard-to-get with this redoubtable seducer, which lasted six years. Of course
she would never have become the Queen of England if Henry himself had not desirous of taking
another wife, Catherine of Aragon having failed to produce a male heir.
It certainly appeared at first that Anne had had a more glorious success than her sister.
But though Mary lost her reputation, she at least kept her head on her shoulders. Poor Anne in
the end lost both head and reputation. She was accused of the worst of crimes-incest and
witchcraft as well as adultery.
Her true crime was the same as Catherine of Aragon's-the inability to produce the allimportant
male heir. Henry turned from her in disgust, not suspecting that the despised daughter
she gave birth to would turn out to be England's finest Queen-a better monarch then he, and a
child he certainly would have been proud that he fathered.
There has always been controversy over Anne's guilt, but of her instability of character
there is general agreement. Becoming Queen went to her head. She became arrogant,
overbearing, and caused endless trouble at Court by her jealousies and improprieties.
Anne Boleyn has not only become England's most famous ghost, but her name has been
loaded with infamy these past four hundred years. She lived at a time when the dangers of
witchcraft and sorcery were looming large in men's minds. It was all started by Henry, who in
his anxiety to rid himself of her said she had bewitched him and that he had been a victim of her
devilish sorcery. The fact that she is said to have possessed a third nipple, and a sixth finger on
her left hand, lent color to the belief that she was a witch. They said that as a child she had a
curious dislike of church-bells, an aversion common to witches apparently, which is not
surprising considering that they are supposed to have entered into a pact with the Devil.
In order to marry Anne, Henry broke with Rome and thus brought Protestantism to
England. Anne was never forgiven for her incidental part in bring about the Reformation. Her
character has been traduced by centuries of Roman Catholic writers. Unspeakable crimes were
attributed to her. When Bishop Fisher was beheaded in 1536 for refusing to acknowledge Henry
as head of the Church, they said she had his severed head brought to her on a dish so that she
could stick a silver bodkin through the tongue. She was also accused of trying to poison Queen
Catherine and the Princess Mary. The diplomatic gossips of the time freely branded 'the
concubine' as they called her, as a witch who was devoted to the foulest diabolism. These
fantastic stories were put about by Papists who held her responsible for England breaking away
from the true Church.
Whatever might be said against Anne Boleyn, she did not deserve these calumnies. She
went to her death with a scornful courage which aroused great admiration. She wore a gay rode
of damask over an underskirt of red and upon her wonderful black hair she had a pearlem broidered hood. It was a clement May morning in 1536 as she stood there on the scaffold, her dark eyes shining, laughing at the very face of death, making a joke about her little neck and the
skill of the executioner. Her bravery on the scaffold caused the Governor of the Tower, Sir
William Kingston, to write: 'I have seen many men and also women executed, and they all have
been in theory indeed.
But whatever be th truth of Anne Boleyn, her restless spirit has haunted the world ever
since, and has been seen in various places, particularly at the several homes where she had lived.
At Blicking Hall in Norfolk her much-traveled ghost is said to make a spectacular appearance
great sorrow; and to my knowledge this lady has much joy and pleasure in death.'
Of course this courage in the face of death was open to various interpretations by the
superstitious minds of the age. There were some who thought that it merely proved that she was a witch, anxious to go to that other world to her true consort, the Prince of darkness. A fanciful
every year upon the anniversary of her death, driving up the avenue to the hall in a coach. She
sits holding her head in her lap, and the coach is drawn by headless horses. The whole grisly
equipage pulls up in front of Blicking Hall and then vanishes into the air. Phantom coaches and
headless horses have by tradition been associated with witchcraft and devil worship.
She has also been seen driving furiously along the roads of Norfolk, headless in her
spectral coach, followed by a strange blue light. Her ghost has also been reported in Kent, this
time being driven up the avenue of Hever Castle at a furious pace in a funeral coach drawn by six black headless horses. Hever, a thirteenth-century castle near Edenbridge, was once her home.