Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Windsor Castle

Shortly after his conquest of England, William the Conqueror built a ring of fortifications to guard the approaches to the capital city of London. One of these was Windsor Castle, built in the English county of Berkshire as a first line of defense against enemies coming from the west. Eventually the castle developed into a royal residence and is the favorite weekend retreat of Queen Elizabeth II. It is staffed by more than 500 people making it the largest inhabited castle in the world. It is also haunted by a large number of ghosts. Below you find all details about the haunted Windsor Castle.

Windsor Castle

Photo of Windsor Castle - Courtesy Fawaz Shafaat

Windsor Castle Legend of the Royal Keeper

In the last quarter of a century, hundreds of people have reported sightings of the ghost of Herne the Hunter. Herne was the favorite huntsman of King Richard II. His ghost is said to be still roaming the Great Park of the Windsor Castle with his pack of ghost hounds, looking for lost souls.

Herne was one of the Royal Keepers during the reign of King Richard II. Herne had two black hounds and was a great huntsman. This outstanding ability made him the object of hate by the other keepers. Then something happened to make him even more obnoxious in their eyes.

One evening, King Richard was hunting a stag in the grounds of Windsor Park. Cornered, the stag turned on the king. The king was in imminent danger of having his reign cut short in a most abrupt manner. Herne threw himself between the enraged animal and the king. The king was saved in the nick of time but Herne was fatally wounded.

A strange dark man appeared. He said he could save Herne. The king told him to go ahead, whereupon the Dark Man cut off the stag’s head and put it on Herne’s body. Then he carried Herne to his hut in Bagshot Heath a few miles away. The king was so grateful that he promised that if Herne recovered he would make Herne his chief keeper.

The other keepers received this news with dismay. They wished that Herne would die instead. The Dark Man overheard them and offered them a bargain – if they agreed to grant him the first request he made, he would make sure that when Herne recovered, he would lose all his hunting skills. They readily agreed. Herne recovered but he was no longer the huntsman he used to be. Totally disheartened, he hung himself from a great oak in Windsor Park. His body vanished the moment he died.

Interestingly, all the other keepers lost their hunting skills, too. They went to find the dark man and pleaded with him to help them. He told them what to do. The next night, they went to the oak tree from which Herne had hung himself. The ghost of Herne appeared before them. He told them to fetch his hounds and horses and prepare for a chase.

When the pack was assembled, Herne took them to a beech tree. On his invocation, the dark man burst forth from the tree in a shower of sparks and flame. Now the dark man demanded that the keepers keep their part of the bargain. He ordered that they form a band with Herne. Thereafter, night after night, this ghostly band hunted through the forests.

Windsor Castle

Deamon at Windsor Castle - Courtesy of Gary Shield

When this ghostly band goes hunting, it is preceded by quite a bit of fanfare. There would be flashes of lightning, wind in the tree tops, the rattling of chains, the tolling of bells and the terrible din of a pack of ghostly dogs in mad pursuit. According to the legend, if you hear the baying of ghostly hounds in the sky, it would be advisable to run away as far as possible because it is said that if they catch you, then you, too, will be forced to follow Herne and his wild hunt, ranging across the night skies for ever more.
In the early 1860s, the oak tree from which Herne had hung himself was found and cut down. Queen Victoria even kept the logs for her fire “To help kill the ghost”. However, it made no difference because Herne and his ghostly pack of hunting specters are still very much at large, looking for lost souls. It is possible that they may have a quota which is still unfulfilled.

The Haunting of King Charles I

Windsor Castle has seen a large number of monarchs come through its halls. Some of these royal personages stayed on the premises even after death. One such king is Charles I. He is often sighted in the library and the Canon’s house. During the English Revolution, he was beheaded but his ghost appears with a full head on his shoulders. Those who have seen it say it was exactly like the way he looks in his portraits.

The Ghost of King George III

Towards the end of his reign, King George III suffered from intermittent mental illness. When he was mentally incapacitated, he was kept out of the public’s eye in the castle. Usually he was confined in the rooms below the Royal Library. When he was kept there, he used to look out of the windows into the courtyard below. After his death, his ghost is often sighted peering out of the same windows. Perhaps it still has not figured out why it had been kept in restricted residence there, so to say.

The Spook of King Henry VIII

King Henry VIII suffered from an ulceration in his leg. It caused him much pain during his lifetime. Now his ghost can still be heard dragging the bad leg along with agonizing moans. Many guests and visitors of the castle have reported this paranormal phenomena in the haunted Windsor Castle, but none have met the royal ghost in question as yet.

Other Windsor Castle Ghosts

This is not the case with Anne Boleyn, one of Henry VIII’s wives. Her ghost has been sighted often in many places, including Windsor Castle. At the haunted castle, her favorite place seems to be one of the windows in the Dean’s Cloister. Queen Elizabeth I has been sighted in the vicinity, too.. The ghostly queen has also been seen walking from room to room, sometimes in the Royal Library. It is said that she is always dressed in a black gown with a black lace shawl draped over her shoulders. Seems like the queen’s attention to proper attire carried over even into her after-life.

There is no dearth of paranormal phenomena and spectral sightings to keep ardent fans of the spooks busy at the haunted Windsor Castle. With nearly a thousand years of history, often bloody, within its walls, the castle may have a higher density of ghosts per square meter than the average graveyard.

More paranormal activities in the Windsor Castle can be found in the second part of Windsor Castle Haunted.

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