Friday, 9 April 2010

Sudeley Castle

Sudeley Castle

The Ruined Banqueting Hall

The Queen's Gardens.

Earliest records of there being a building at Sudeley date back to the 11th century. A Saxon manor was constructed at Sudeleagh and occupied by King Ethelred ‘The Unready’, an unfortunate title. Nothing remains of the manor today.

Sudeley castle has seen many occupants over its 900 year history. One of its more prestigious residents was none other than Queen Katherine Parr - the last wife of King Henry VIII, who out lived him till her death on the 5th September 1548.

It is believed the ghost of Katherine Parr, affectionately referred to as the Lady in Green, still haunts Sudeley to this day. The story surrounding her haunting is one of tragedy.

Following the death of King Henry VIII in 1547, Katherine did not have to wait too long before she was approached by Thomas Seymour, the younger brother of Jane Seymour. Thomas Seymour’s dogged determination to get closer to the crown would eventually be his undoing. He was well aware that Katherine had held more than a passing interest in him for sometime. So, following his first proposal to his daughter of 15 years - Elizabeth and her subsequent rebuff, he went looking for Katherine, intent on securing her hand in marriage. It came as no surprise when she accepted his proposal. The pair were secretly married only months after Henry’s death, much to the distaste of Katherine’s peers.

Sudeley castle was given to Thomas Seymour by Henry’s son - Edward VI, Katherine’s stepson. Henry had shown little interest in the castle and had allowed it to fall into disrepair. Thomas Seymour graciously accepted Edward’s gift and took the title, 1st Baron Seymour of Sudeley. The Seymours' moved into Sudeley accompanied by a great many staff, who immediately set about restoring the castle to its former glory.

Within a few months of their arrival at Sudeley, Katherine fell pregnant. She gave birth to a baby girl on August 30th 1548 and named her Mary. Sadly, tragedy was to follow, within a week of giving birth, on the 5th September Katherine was dead, a victim of puerperal fever. The fate of Mary remains unknown to this day. Records document her second birthday at a time when she was in the care of Dowager Duchess of Suffolk, a close friend and confidant of Katherine. Some believe she died as a child, whilst others believed she grew, married and had children of her own. I hope the latter is true.

Shortly after Katherine’s death, Thomas Seymour left Sudeley for London, abandoning Mary. Seymour’s insatiable lust for power eventually caught up with him. He was arrested and put on trial for treason. He was beheaded in 1549.

Sudeley passed to William - Marquess of Northampton, Katherine Parr’s brother.

Queen Katherine Parr was laid to rest in St. Mary's Chapel in the grounds of Sudeley. Her body was exhumed in 1782 after the Castle and Chapel had been left in ruins by the English Civil War in the mid-17th century. The lead casket was opened and to the astonishment of those who oversaw the exhumation, the body was found to be 'uncorrupted'. Katherine’s porcelain white skin and auburn hair remained intact as if she were asleep. However, lack of attention and knowledge saw the body quickly degrade. Queen Katherine was reinterred in 1817 by the Rector of Sudeley. Her body now rests undisturbed in eternal peace within a marble tomb.

Tomb of Katherine Parr in St.Mary's Chapel

The Lady in Green

Some members of staff claimed to have witnessed a "melancholy figure" who is said to stand looking out from a landing window which overlooks the gardens. Could this apparition be that of Katherine Parr? She is described as being tall (Katherine was nearly six feet) and wearing a green dress in the style of the Tudor period. Her ghost has also been seen in the “Queen’s Garden” which is still the original Tudor parterre. Again she is described as a melancholy figure who gazes forlornly into the ornate pond. Maybe Katherine still searches for Mary, the baby daughter she never got to know and love.

A Modern Victorian Ghost Story

There is another ghost at Sudeley, which has been seen much more frequently. It is said to be the that of Janet, who was employed at Sudeley from 1896 as housekeeper. Janet’s responsibilities were to ensure the strict management of the household and its many staff. She was a staunch purist when it came to segregating the male and female servants 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, a prime target for the attention of amorous males servants. 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 servants bedrooms were split into two levels. The female bedrooms occupied the upper floors, whilst the males 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.

So determined to protect the girls virtues, that 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 long faded pink and white skirt. Her features are contorted into a frown of displeasure. Wow-betide any male suitor who should try to pass Janet.

Janet’s ghost is not confined to patrolling the stairs. She has 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. Janet’s ghost is now common place with staff and she is treated as one of the household.


Lady Meg said...

Katherine Parr died on Sept 5th 1548. Thanks for the wonderful insight. I had never heard of the 'Lady in Green'.

Willow said...

Hello “Lady Meg.” Thank you for your comment. You are indeed correct, Katherine died September 5th 1548 as mentioned in my text, I apologise if this was unclear.

Professor Lizzie said...

My husband and I visited Sudeley Castle in 1983, during a summer visit to England.I saw the ghost of Janet, at the top of the stairs, but at the time I had no idea she was a ghost. I thought she was a very bad tempered re-enacter.I had lingered behind the tour group to look at some of the works of art near the stair well (I am a Professor of Art History and Studio Art)and turned to see a very angry, gray headed woman in a white cap.I thought she was upset that I had lagged behind the group, and hurried on down the stairs.I was later leaving the Castle to go to our next destination, and was talking to two of the docents. I complained about the testiness of that particular staff member- and both of them looked at each other with knowing eyes. "That was Janet", they told me, and explained about the ghost.I was not exactly horrified, but a little disconcerted.If you visit Sudeley (It is quite beautiful and has a great many things to recommend it) stay with your tour group!

Professor Lizzie said...

My husband and I visited Sudeley Castle in 1983.We saw the Lady in Green as we passed by a window, on the inside of the Castle,and thought she was a re-enacter.We learned from the docents as we were leaving that she was not.It was intriguing: we saw her from the back, in a lovely green velvet gown.

Willow said...

Thank you for those stories Professor Lizzie - fascinating stuff.

Anonymous said...

I remember hearing of the lady in green from a t.v show on the history channel when I was eight yrs old ever since then I've wanted to go there. I've always had an interest in tudor history.

Willow said...

It was a facinating and often violent part of our history 'annoymous.'

Try and get there this summer if you can but I advise you to check the opening times for the house.