Castles and ghosts go together like peanut butter and chocolate. Centuries of history, intrigue and death leave a mark on any site, and castles are often involved in profound historical events. It makes sense that they are also the locus of some of the worst hauntings in Europe.
So it’s no surprise that Queen Elizabeth II’s weekend country home, Windsor Castle, is incredibly haunted.
Windsor Castle date sback to the time of William the Conqueror. If you’re not a major history buff, that’s the 11th century. The original castle is almost a thousand years old–although many updates and additions have been built since then. It has been used as a Royal residence, a prison, a military headquarters, and a refuge during the Blitz.
Harry and Meghan were married in St George’s Chapel on Windsor’s grounds. The chapel dates from the 15th century–and yes, it’s haunted. A visitor in 1873 reported seeing three ghostly black-clad figures surrounding a fourth figure cowering on the ground. Before they quit the monarchy and went Hollywood, the Royal lovebirds lived at Frogmore Cottage–practically brand new at 220 years old.
Given that it’s the longest occupied Royal residence in history, Windsor Castle has seen almost every British monarch.
Henry VII: It’s rumored that the much-married monarch of the Tudor Dynasty walks the corridors of the castle at night. The ghost drags its leg and moans, much as the gout-ridden king did in life.
Anne Boleyn: Beheaded by her husband, poor Anne Boleyn is also sometimes spotted at the castle. She’s been seen in the Dean’s Cloister, standing at the window and weeping.
Elizabeth I: Henry and Anne’s daughter was a major patron of the arts and literature. Perhaps that’s why she’s said to haunt the library of Windsor Castle. Multiple members of the Royal family claim they’ve heard her footsteps there and even seen her ghost draped in a black lace shawl.
Mad King George also claimed to have spoken with her, but we’ll take his report with a grain of salt. George III himself is also rumored to haunt the castle grounds, looking out from the window where he was confined during much of his illness.
However, the current Queen Elizabeth’s father, King George VI, claims to have seen QEI for eight nights in a row at Windsor Castle just before World War II broke out. Was she trying to warn the king about the coming disaster?
A famous legend linked to Windsor Castle is Herne the Hunter. First recorded in Shakespeare’s “The Merry Wives of Windsor,” Herne’s true identity is muddled, as most legends are. Some say that he’s a local name for the Celtic god Cernunnos. Others believe that he’s the ghost of a real person–a poacher named Richard who was executed during Henry VIII’s reign.
Herne the Hunter appears as a massive male figure with antlers who gallops on a fearsome steed. He hunts the forest of Berkshire, which is now the Great Windsor Park. Anyone who sees him or hears the rattling of his chains is bound to experience misfortune. In some stories, he’s accompanied by hounds and the wild hunt, heralding death and destruction with the sound of his horn.
The Irish music group Clannad recorded a song about the spirit called “Herne” that is honestly pretty cheesy. But hey, it was the 80s!
It’s a good thing Windsor is so large, because there are rumored to be at least 25 ghosts there. In addition to the royal spirits, commoners also haunt the grounds.
One of the most eerie is the little boy who haunts the Deanery. Visitors report hearing pacing footsteps and a voice that cries out, “I don’t want to go riding today.”
The kitchens of the horseshoe cloisters are haunted, not just by a human spirit but also by a horse. That’s because the area was, as its name suggests, formerly a stable.
A more recent spirit is said to be that of a Grenadier Guard who committed suicide at the castle in the 1920s. He haunts the Long Walk, forever trapped on patrol.
During the Coronavirus pandemic, Queen Elizabeth II has chosen to self-isolate at Windsor Castle. The idea of her alone in that ancient, haunted castle is seriously spooky. However, it’s not the first time she’s had to shelter there.
Elizabeth and her younger sister, Princess Margaret, were both evacuated to Windsor during World War II. She speaks a little about the experience in her speech, filmed at the castle in April. You can also get a glimpse of the grounds of the castle, as well as the lavish room where she addressed the nation.
Elizabeth herself has never admitted to seeing any of the ghosts that haunt her favorite weekend home. Given how much time she’s spent there over the years, we have to assume that she’s keeping those encounters to herself. Either that, or else she’s never set foot in the library where her ancestor, the first Queen Elizabeth, has been seen so many times.