Sudeley Castle in Winchcombe in Gloucestershire is a place that you fall in love with for its tranquility and beauty. This castle has one of the richest histories - it truly has everything- war, romance, royalty and tragedies.
It is here The Lady In Green is often seen standing and gazing out by an upstairs window or observed wandering the corridors forever searching for the future she was denied. Step back in time and explore who she was- the events of her life, death and unquiet afterlife. Explore the castle that became her final resting place and the spirits that still linger on its grounds.
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Detailed first hand account of the desecration of Katherine Parr https://books.google.co.uk/books?id=RpJFAQAAMAAJ&pg=PA403&redir_esc=y#v=onepage&q&f=false
Here is a fantastic video created by a friend of mine about Sudeley Castle and the life of Katherine Parr. https://m.facebook.com/watch/?v=1368975646619694
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Hi everyone and welcome back to another episode of Haunted History Chronicles. In today’s episode we are going to be a exploring both a castle I love and a part of English history I adore. We’re going to be transported back to Tudor England. Now when most people think of Tudor English history they think of King Henry VIII and his wives. There is so much more though to this part of our history. People, stories, events that we shouldn’t forget and so that’s we are going to be doing today exploring some of this history, some other people all from within the grounds of one particular castle. We’re then going to be exploring some of the ghostly tales associated with this castle and I’ll be sharing some of my firsthand experiences from just one of the visits that I’ve had there. So, if you are ready let’s get comfortable and let’s begin looking at and exploring this beautiful location.
History of Sudeley Castle (1.12)
Of all the castles I have visited Sudeley Castle will always be one of my favourites and I’m very lucky that it is right on my doorstep in the Cotswolds. The Castle itself is nestled away in Winchcombe in Gloucestershire. It’s a place that you fall in love with for its tranquility and it’s beauty. This castle has one of the richest histories. It truly has everything: tragedy, royalty, romance and war. Sudeley Castle remains the only private castle in England to have a Queen buried within its grounds. This is a castle where so many royal names have played a part: King Henry VIII, Anne Boleyn, Lady Jane Grey, King Richard III, Elizabeth I, Catherine Parr and Charles I. So many stories and moments in history have played out in its beautiful grounds. Sudeley’s historical timeline can be traced back as far as Anglo- Saxon tribes and Roman villas settling in this area. Winchcombe itself would become the chief city of Mercia under King Offa. If you are familiar with the TV series Vikings Queen Kwenthrith was his daughter. The castle was built on the site during the reign of King Stephen some time between 1135 and 1154. In 1442 Baron Sudeley would inherit that castle and then proceed to build the castle that we see today. His ownership would remain until 1469. Now, Baron Sudeley was a very important man. He had risen in stature in England and would become in fact the Treasurer of the Exchequer and High Treasurer of England a title that was the third highest rank. Things were about to change though and England was about to face more turmoil, unrest and war. Two fighting houses claiming their position as the rightful King of England. The House of York represented by the white rose and the House of Lancaster represented by the red rose. This would become known as The War of the Roses. Two rival branches of the House of Plantagenet fighting for the crown. A war that would end with the marriages of He Ray VII and Elizabeth of York. A new rose would be formed joining the red and the white- the Tudor Rose and so would begin the reign of the Tudors.
Sudeley was a known Lancastrian supporter during the Wars of the Roses and so would be forced to sell his cattle to King Edward IV who would give it in turn to his brother Richard. Richard, would later become King Richard III. Now King Richard would lose one of the most important battles of our history- The battle of Bosworth. It would be here that he would lose the crown and a whole new line of ascent to the throne would take place. He would be defiled in battle, left in an unmarked grave on,y to be discovered in 2012 buried under a car park in Leicester. The House of York would now see the crown pass to King Henry VII, Henry VIII’s father. King Kenry VIII and his wife would often visit this castle and when he died it would become the property of his son who would gift it to his uncle Thomas Seymour. Thomas Seymour himself would go on to marry Catherine Parr the widow and final Queen of Henry VIII. Catherine Parr had been married and widowed three times previously the first at aged just 17. She had no children; she had never married for love. Until now. Catherine Parr lived Thomas Seymour and in 1547 just four months after the death of King Henry VIII she would marry in secret and she would marry for love. It was a huge scandal. By 1548 of the following year, Catherine Parr would fall pregnant at the age of 35, something of a surprise given her lack through her previous marriages. Sudeley Castle would become home to both Princess Elizabeth and Lady Jane Grey. It was during the time that Thomas Seymour would take an interest in the young 15 year old Princess. Catherine would discover the two embracing and she would subsequently said Elizabeth away. Catherine would spend the last few months of her life at Sudeley with Lady Jane Grey and her husband. In late August of 1548, she would give birth to a daughter Mary Seymour named after her stepdaughter Princess Mary. She would die in the early hours of September 5th. Childbed fever claiming her life. We now know today that this was often caused by the attending physician or midwife using dirty instruments or simply not washing their hands during the delivery. Nowadays we also know that antibiotics would treat this infection. But in the 16th century the cause, let alone the treatment, was unknown. It was not an easy death often accompanied by mania, severe abdominal pain and distension, a racing pulse, difficulty breathing, headaches and cold fits followed by extreme heat and perspiration and thirst. Catherine lingered for five days as I fe toon ravaged her body and reproductive system eventually causing multi-organ failure. She would be buried at St Mary’s chapel in the grounds of Sudeley. Lady Jane Grey would arrange the service and was in fact the chief mourner.
Thomas Seymour, her husband, would be beheaded for treason six months later in 1549. Now one of the wealthiest men in England thanks to Catherine having left him all her possessions his eyes would once again look to Princess Elizabeth- a potential future Queen. Thomas Seymour was an ambitious man and power hungry. For reasons unknown he was caught trying to break into the apartments of the young King Edward his nephew. Being caught at night with a loaded gun and near the King’s bedroom was seen in the worst possible way. His relationship with Elizabeth would also be scrutinised. She too would be linked with this event and questioned for weeks where her flirtations would come to light. Information about him entering her bedchamber in his nightclothes, tickling her, playfully slapping her. Elizabeth would narrowly avoid being guilty of treason. Thomas would be found guilty and beheaded. His money and lands forfeited to the crown it would leave his baby daughter penniless and an orphan left to the care of Catherine Willoughby the Duchess of Sulfolk. After 1550 Mary would disappear from all records and no claim ever made on her father’s meagre estate. It is widely believed that she did not live beyond the age of two.
Nearly 100 hundred years later England would be tearing itself apart in a civil war. Sudeley would be damaged heavily during the fighting and subsequently abandoned for around 200 years. The once beautiful castle began to be taken over by the earth. The walls would crumble and ivy would grow up around the ruins. The grounds would be used for grazing livestock. It is here in our story that we return to our buried Queen.
Catherine Parr was a remarkable woman in life but she was equally unique in her death. She was beautiful, she was intelligent and she was passionate. Her repose sadly would not be a peaceful one. Her grave was opened on numerous occasions and horrifyingly her body even taken out and dumped on a rubbish heap for all to see and then afterwards buried even upside down. Agnes Strickland, a 19th century antiquarian, who detailed the lives of the Queens of England would give a unique account of the rediscovery of Catherine’s body some 200 years or so later. She would write how the Queen’s body had originally been buried on the North side of the church near the high altar within the altar rails. She would explain how in May of 1782 a group of lady sightseers arrived for a day trip determined to examine the ruins of the chapel. Now we can only image that moment. Them making their way through the rubble, exploring the derelict walls covered in brambles and ivy, one of the noticing a block of alabaster fixed into the wall of the chapel. They enlisted help to dig below the panel and it was there that they would discover a lead coffin buried not a foot beneath the ground. Being curious, they made two openings into the leaden envelope which had encased Catherine’s body. One over the face and another over the breast. They found that she was stalled in layers of cloth and were utterly shocked to discover that the Queen’s face was in the most perfect state of preservation. In the same summer, a Mr John Lucas, who is believed to have rented the land in which the chapel stood again removed the earth from the leaden coffin and would once again open it. He claimed that Catherine’s remains were entire and uncorrupted and after making an incision into the layers of cloth covering one of the former Queen’s arms found that her flesh was still moist and white. Two years later in 1784 she would be disturbed once more when ruffians would throw her on a heap of rubbish and expose her body for everyone to see. Catherine’s body would be opened and concealed many times until 1817 when she finally once again be interred in the marble structure we still see today. Catherine’s story plays such a significant part of Sudeley it’s no surprise that it is her spirit that is often reported frequenting the castle itself. It is these stories that we will be exploring next along with the ghostly apparitions reported to be there.
Haunting of Sudeley Castle (13.50)
Sudeley Castle with so much history woven into its fabric has seen plenty of unusual sightings and occurrences over the years a young boy for example has been seen playing in the garden, a blacksmith hammering away in the vaults, a young Victorian girl in her 20’s is often seen in the barn in er white dress and with auburn hair believed to be there to meet a secret love interest. Numerous tales of canine spirits have been reported running around the grounds and many guests who stay the night have recounted a heavy presence coming and sitting on their bed. One of the more common occurring spirits that people have reported are that of Janet. An Edwardian housekeeper who regularly visits to alarm visitors and staff with her appearances. Janet was employed at Sudeley from 1896 as housekeeper and was responsible with ensuring the strict management of the household and its many staff. She was a staunch purist when it came to segregating the male and female servings from one another at night. Janet administered the strictest of rules and if broken the offender would suffer her wrath. She was a formidable character. Many of the maids were young, impressionable and often gullible. Some in their early teens and a prime target for the attention of amorous male servant. Janet would have none of it. She would stand sentinel at the top of the stairs in the dead of night to ensure no after hours goings on would ensue. At Sudeley the servant’s bedrooms were split into two levels. The female bedrooms occupied the upper floors whilst the male bedrooms were situated on the lower floors separated as they were by a single staircase and as far as Janet was concerned never the twain should meet. Armed with a feather duster she would fend off the amorous approaches of the young men servants so determined to protect the girl’s’ virtues. But even in death, Janet refuses to leave Sudeley and to this day her ghost has been seen by staff and visitors at the top of those very same stairs. She is described as being dressed in a mop cap, white blouse and a long skirt. Her features often contorted in to a frown of displeasure. Woe-betide any male suitor who should try to pass Janet. The staircase has become known as the Haunted Staircase and is believed to be the most active area for apparitions and phenomena. A teenage girl who one day strayed from her tour group cane face to face with her on the upper landing. She became hysterical when the stern faced apparition began waving her feather duster towards her in spectral rebuke. Janet’s ghost is not just confined to patrolling the stairs she’s been seen several times in the Needlework Bedroom and also leaving the main guest bedroom and entering the Rupert Room. No doubt continuing with her daily ghostly chores. She’s been seen running her fingers of furniture looking very displeased. Janet’s ghost is now so common place with staff that she is treated as one of the household.
Catherine Parr, the widowed wife of Henry VIII, who would die at Sudeley in childbirth and buried on the grounds is also a presence reported here. Her figure is often seen wandering the castle corridors near, and around, the castle nursery dressed in a green dress looking for her infant baby. It’s for this reason the apparition has been affectionately called, and known by many, as The Lady In Green. Her appearances are often accompanied by the faint smell of apple scented perfume and occasionally accompanied by the heart wrenching sobs of a crying child. Some members of staff claimed to have witnessed a melancholy figure who is said to stand looking out from a landing window that overlooks the gardens. One example of such a report is as follows. A maid, Margaret Parker, working in the castle would report seeing a tall beautiful woman in a long green dress looking out of a window. She mistook the woman for an artist working in the castle on that particular day. As it turns out, the artist was in a different part of the house and nowhere near the window where the woman was sighted. Margaret Parker believed this to be the ghost of Catherine Parr. The Lady In Green has also been seen in the Queen’s Garden again described as a melancholy figure who gazes forlornly into the ornate pond. It’s truly tragic to think how maybe Catherine is still searching for Mary the baby daughter she always wanted and she would never get to know and love. There is another well documented encounter in 1860 involving the spirit of Catherine Parr. Fred Simmonds who worked on the estate and who had been fixing a blind by candlelight one evening. His candle would suddenly go out and he would feel a woman swishing last him and hear the rustlings of her silk dress. Mr Simmonds would believe this to be the Lady of the House but when he reported this incident to the housekeeper he would discover that he had been utterly alone. That no one had been near him in the upstairs at the time. He would later write about this event in his journal and about having previously stolen a tooth from the tomb of Catherine Parr and fearing this was event was linked to what had happened whilst fixing the blind he would confess what he had done to his wife and subsequently return the tooth on her insistence.
Stories of ghostly appearances feature all over the castle. Now, I have visited here many times over the years and I can sadly say I have never seen Catherine Parr. I have however felt Janet on the stairs I believe. It was an interesting experience. Just suddenly feeling like I had to be very prim and proper and well behaved. Almost like I should be standing up straighter. Anyone who has been on any kind of a trip with me knows I take hundreds of photographs and I detail everything. I take pictures of things that most people wouldn’t find interesting about the building but I like to notice it and capture it. It means I’m never in any rush to move to another room or the next floor. Likewise, anyone who knows me knows how utterly terrified I am of heights and for this reason I’m very cautious of going down stairs and escalators. I’m especially cautious of older stairwells because usually you can see through them or over them. That just terrifies me and so I often dither and take my time going down them. The Haunted Stairs was not a place I dithered or took my time photographing and detailing all of the different things I wanted to. I almost felt compelled to not stay and dawdle. That I shouldn’t be loitering and that I really shouldn’t be there. That it wasn’t my place. Maybe this was Janet policing the stairs and moving me on that day. Watching me with her critical eye. At least whatever it was would get me down the stairs quicker and without a panic attack. It’s the only stairwell in an older building where I can hand on heart say I don’t even remember thinking or feeling fearful of the height that day. I’ll keep visiting this location for sure. Maybe one day I’ll get lucky and see Catherine Parr. If not though, I can explore where she once lived and where she is buried. I can peace and sanctuary in her private chapel. I can walk her private garden and I can for a little while feel as if I’m part of the history of this historical location that speaks to my soul.
Thank you so much for joining me on today’s podcast everyone. I really hope you’ve enjoyed learning about, and exploring, this just magnificent castle both for the castle itself, the stories it has to share both historical and ghostly. If you ever get the chance to visit it really should be on your list. It’s just amazing, it’s magical. As always please don’t forget to check out our social media pages where you will often find more content based on the episode posted. For now I’ll say goodbye. I hope to see you next week. Bye everyone.
Ways to help (23.30)
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Michelle: Hi everyone. I have a very special announcement to make I’d like to introduce you to two special ladies. This is a Gina and her sister Victoria who are going to be joining us next week on a very special episode. Hi ladies.
Gina and Victoria: Hello there. Hello.
Michelle: You have a really amazing podcast for us next week that you’re going to be coming along and talking to us about. Can you tell us a little bit about it.
Gina and Victoria: Oh yes, well we are very excited to bring you some ghost stories of historic places here in British Columbia Canada. We want to be able to share BC and Canada’s history in a way that is fun and interesting for us so we focus on the actual history but we are also interested in haunted locations so we want to bring the best of both worlds. If people go to our website our mission statement is there and that’s really the essence of what we want to bring to everybody.
Michelle: Which is pretty exciting because it allows us to see what histories we have shared between our two countries so I can’t wait for this and hopefully everyone comes along and joins us next week. Bye everyone
Gina and Victoria: Bye. Bye.