Wednesday, June 28, 2017

St James’s Palace

St James’s Palace is a purpose-built work of architecture. Unlike other constructions of a similar nature which were modified in form and function depending on the whims and fancies of the current owner, this palace was built to be a royal residence right from the start.

Situated in Pall Mall, just north of St James’s Park, St James’s Palace haunted, one of London’s oldest palaces, was commissioned by Henry VIII. The chosen site was a former leper hospital dedicated to Saint James the Less. The hospital was disbanded in 1532. Work on the palace had begun in 1531 and continued until 1536. The style was red-brick Tudor with four courtyards, a gatehouse on the north side, flanked by polygonal turrets with mock battlements and fitted with Georgian sash windows.

St James’s Palace

In a way which may seem strange to outsiders but perfectly logical to the English, St James’s Palace is the official residence of the Sovereign while said Sovereign actually resides in Buckingham Palace. It is the most senior royal palace in the UK and the Royal Court is duly named the Court of St James’s.

The haunted St James’s Palace is part of a sprawling complex of buildings housing court offices and officials’ apartments. The complex includes York House, the former home of the Prince of Wales and his sons, Princes William and Harry, Lancaster House, which is used by HM Government for official receptions, as well as the nearby Clarence House, the home of the late Queen mother and now the residence of the Prince of Wales. The palace itself is the London residence of the Princess Alexandra, The Honorable Lady Ogilvy.

Two of Henry VIII’s children died in St James’s Palace. One was his illegitimate son, Henry FitzRoy, the First Duke of Richmond and Somerset, whom he had contemplated recognizing as his heir, who died in the palace in 1536 at the age of seventeen. The other was Mary I. Mary’s heart and bowels were buried in the palace’s Chapel Royal. Another royal personage, Charles I, spent his last night on earth in the palace before his execution.

A number of members of the Royal family drew their first breath of life in St James’s Palace. Among these were Charles II, James II, Mary of York (Mary II), Anne of York (Queen Anne) and James Francis Edward Stuart (the Old Pretender). William IV was the last Sovereign to actually live in St James’s Palace. A ghost who still lives there to this day is responsible that St James’s Palace belongs to the haunted places in London.

St James’s Palace murder of Joseph Sellis

On May 31 1810, in the wee hours of the morning, Ernest Augustus, Duke of Cumberland and brother to George IV and William IV, was rudely awoken from deep slumber. It was around 2.30 am. At first, he thought he had been roused by a bat fluttering around his chamber. The truth was more lethal. A sharp-bladed weapon began slashing at his padded nightcap and gown. As he attempted to parry the blows, his hands and wrists were cut. He screamed for help. Cornelius, a valet, rushed in. He found the Duke’s regimental saber, dripping with blood, lying on the floor by the door.

Straightaway, a doctor was summoned. While his wounds were bandaged, the Duke asked for his other valet, Joseph Sellis. Two servants were sent to get him. When they approached his room, they were startled by a strange gurgling sound from within. Quickly, they opened the door and found a ghastly sight. Sellis lay dead on his bed. His throat had been slashed all the way to the spine and his head was almost severed from his body. Blood was still spurting from his mortal wound.

An inquest was hastily convened. The conclusion was that Sellis had committed suicide. He was said to have first attempted to murder his master and then, in remorse, had returned to his room to take his own life. Such was the official version of the gruesome events on that ill-fated morning.

Court gossip, however, produced a number of disparate versions. The official version was discounted as an attempt at a cover-up.

One unofficial version claimed that the Duke actually murdered Joseph Sellis. As evidence, the supporters of this version pointed out that Sellis’s hands were clean while there was bloodstained water in his wash-basin. What were the chances, the doubters of the official version asked, that the valet have had the time or the inclination to wash the blood off his hands, after having, apparently, his own head nearly cut off?

Many theories were put forward as to why the Duke found it necessary to murder his own valet. One theory suggested that Sellis found the Duke in bed with Sellis’s wife and, while fighting to defend his honor, was killed by the Duke to stop him from exposing the Duke’s adultery. Another theory suggested that the Duke had seduced Sellis’s daughter. Said daughter found herself heavy with a child without a husband and duly committed suicide. When Sellis confronted the Duke about this, the Duke had him dispatched forever to avert a scandal. By the mid 19th century, an even wilder theory surfaced. It was postulated that the Duke and his other valet, Neale, were involved, in the language of the time, in “the grossest and most unnatural immorality”. Sellis, according to this theory, caught them with their pants down, so to say, and had to be silenced permanently.

St James’s Palace Haunting

Whatever actually transpired on that morning is still open to conjecture. In the meantime, the restless ghost of Sellis roams the palace. Sometimes it is sighted walking along the corridors, a gaping wound across its throat, the sickly sweet smell of fresh blood trailing in its spectral wake. At other times, it is sighted propped up in bed with its jaw hanging agape over a throat slit open with a gaping wound. In the bed chamber where Sellis died, staff at the palace have complained about the eerie feeling of being watched. They also claim that certain spots in the room have an unearthly chill. Items, they say, are being moved around by unseen hands. Even guests to the palace who had no prior knowledge of the gruesome murder felt an unnatural atmosphere in the room.

So the chances are more than even that a visitor interested in spectral sightings will have his desire fulfilled by an investigation of St James’s Palace. With royal consent, of course.

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