Friday, March 19, 2010

Haunted Places. Hampton Court Palace

If there is a place to imagine a ghost walking around is a castle. Although there are some across Europe, the imagination tends to place them in England, Germany and northern France. Among all the English castles there is one particular... home of the ghost that could be the most famous around the world. To meet the ghost we need to go to Hampton Court and to know who are the contenders for the title of being the ghost, we need to go to 1509, when at age 17 Henry VIII was crowned king of England.

Henry wasn’t supposed to rule, but his brother, Arthur. Fortunately it did not happen because the movies could no longer speak of "the" King Arthur, but "one" of kings Arthur, which is not the material blockbusters are made of. The boys father, Henry VII, wanted an alliance with Spain, so he arranged the marriage of his son Arthur to Catherine of Aragon, daughter of Ferdinand and Isabella. Catherine, born in 1485 was two years older than Arthur.

Arthur died at age fifteen. Henry, raised to enter the clergy, with a background in theology that many regret later, found himself first in line of succession. And his father, determined to maintain the alliance with Spain, compeled the new future king to engage to with his brother's widow.

Turns out they needed a dispensation from the Pope: Leviticus says that if a man marries his brother's wife, that marriage will not have children, something extremely serious for a royal dynasty. Although Catherine swore that the marriage had never been consummated it was decided to obtain the dispensation, and Catherine's mother, Queen Elizabeth, ordered Spanish troops in Italy to take a little walk through Rome to explain to His Holiness that the issue was in a hurry and, if anything, the generals could expect the bull... With fully armored soldiers…

Two questions that are not mine (but maybe I'm changing the wording a little) but from the protagonists of this tale. First, how the Pope can approve something that is contrary to Scripture? He’s the administrator of Scripture, he can’t change it through his concepts as though it was the constitution of a third-world country. And second, what kind of guy was the prince, who at 14 years was left in the bridal chamber with a woman of 17 and not consummated the marriage?

By training the monarch Henry VIII was the most Renaissance monarch of his time, the guy that any girl would want to date today: great dancer (granted, not reggaeton, but surely he had stood out at it if that had been the case), a magnificent conversationalist, intelligent, poet, musician and writer and sportsman . On the other hand, a very conscious brat of the meaning of absolute power who seized and beheaded the most unpopular ministers of his father two days after his coronation. The first acquisitions of a long and brilliant collection of heads.

To be king at 17 with a women of 23 may seem the dream of many who today fall in love with the chics of the senior courses. But time passes… In 1525 he was 36 and the queen 42, when the life expectancy was around 50. And one of the ladies of the queen, Anne Boleyn, struted around the castle, twenty exquisite years old and skilled in the "French caress", whatever that is.

To make the story short, the king fell in love with Anna and asked Cardinal Thomas Wolsey, his chancellor, arrange divorce from Catherine. Problem: Catherine was the aunt of King Carlos I of Spain and Holy Roman Emperor, the most powerful man in the world. And as grandma Isabela had done, Carlos sent his army to Rome to ask the pope, out of curiosity, if he was signing the document that turned his aunt into convent material. The pope, open to the explanations given by Charles mercenaries, did not sign the divorce, but neither denied it, because he wasn’t fighting Henry.

Wolsey could not secure a divorce and his enemies rallied around the girlfriend of King and used her to embitter him. They insist that the cardinal was an incompetent, that he was delaying the appointment of His Majesty with true love ... Henry ended up accusing Wolsey of treason, the previous step to bring his head to the collection. Wolsey, determined not to please him, died before. And since the pope refuse the divorce, Henry declared himself head of the english church and asked his bishops if they would also deny him a divorce, much as Charles had asked the pope.

Some years later Anne Boleyn would share the fate of Catherine, but adding decapitation to divorce. Then came Jane Seymour. Here a caveat is needed: Henry didn’t do everything he did only because he was a really mad fly (also) but because it alarmed him not to leave a male heir. Jane gave him his only son, the future Edward VI, but she died in childbirth. And then, thinking that collect wives was as much fun as collect heads, Henry married three more times. And here we have to take a break.

Wolsey built Hampton Court Palace, a building so magnificent that royal visitors stayed there. When Cardinal fell from grace he gave the great palace to the king, the monarch was delighted with a most luxurious home than any royal palace, but not enough to forgive the cardinal.

Now, jump forward in time. This palace is the building with resident ghost more persistent in the English mind. However, in 2003, things got more complicated with the she-ghost. For it seems it is a woman. The palace is open to the public and on 19 December 2003 the alarms rang like hell; the guides were away, the cameras at the entrances had not recorded the entry of anyone dressed is such a peculiar way ... but now the CCTV showed a woman dressed in Tudor style coming through some inside door with no other camera catching her anywhere else. In other words, she come from nowhere and return to that very place, according to CCTV. As diffuse as it is, is the the image of a person. Now, a ghost? Who?

I leave to every reader beliefs to answer if it is a ghost or is not, but if it is who is it? Three contenders: the first, Catherine Howard, fifth wife of Henry and second beheaded. He was ordered house arrest in Hampton Court and one day she tried to plead for mercy to the king but the guards prevented her. The other, Jane Seymour, who died giving birth. The last one, Sibell Penn, nursemaid of Prince Edward. She was buried in Hampton Court, but when the chapel was moved his bones were "disturbed". In 1829, during the renovation, workers followed the noises the ghost made, they knocked down a wall and found a spinning wheel like that of Penn.

The last possibility is Wosley cardinal himself, but that is extreme cruelty. El hombre siendo cardenal si tuvo amantes, con las que procreĆ³ dos hijos. The man was Cardinal and had lovers with whom fathered two children. He was cunning, treacherous and perhaps robbed the royal treasury. But cross-dressing

No comments: