Snubbed by the Ghost of Anne Boleyn: 1916

Hever Castle

Hever Castle, where Anne Boleyn’s ghost walked.

Anne Boleyn’s Ghost Refused to Walk for Baron Astor

From the Kansas City Star

Snubbed for years by the British peerage, William Waldorf Astor, a short time ago created a baron, now is snubbed by royal ghosts. The self-expatriated American went to England a quarter of a century ago. He attempted to put himself in the ranks of aristocracy with his millions.

But the titled of England resented his efforts. He was snubbed by big and little ladies and lords. Astor entertained lavishly to gain favor, made many large gifts to public institutions, became sullen as he continued to get the royal cold shoulder and finally did a little snubbing on his hook.

He bought a large estate, Cliveden on the Thames. He immediately closed public highways across his estate, which had been open for hundreds of years. That added to his unpopularity. He gave a great ball at Cliveden. But no one of note was present. Astor ordered all the carriages for his guests for 1 o’clock. But when that hour came the guests refused to stop dancing. Mr. Astor went to bed.

A Classic Snub

Yet the millions could not be resisted long. So polite society came to his entertainments and snubbed him. The snub of the Duchess of Cleveland has become a classic. Mr. Astor in showing the duchess one of the staircases in the building asked;

“Isn’t that handsome, your grace?”

“Yes, it certainly is,” the duchess replied.

“Isn’t it more so than any other staircase you ever saw?”

“Yes,” the duchess said gently. “I admire it very much. It is much finer than our old staircase at Battle Abbey, which has been spoiled these 200 or 300 years by the spurs of those stupid, old knights.” Battle Abbey probably was the grandest old place in England and compared to Mr. Astor’s place was as a palace to a coal shed.

Mr. Astor persisted, using rent from property in New York City to pry his way into the first ranks. The Prince of Wales called him a cad. The king made him drop the “honorable” which he was using before his name. Mr. Astor bought the Pall Mall Gazette and turned it from a Radical paper to a powerful Tory organ. He swore allegiance to the English crown, gave to charity and tried to become a peer by buying an estate which carried a title with it.

Buys Hever Castle.

Then in 1903 he bought Hever Castle. Hever Castle had been crumbling since the fifteenth century. Its old gray walls had assumed a scaly appearance beneath a coating of dull colored lichens. The stagnant water in the moats about the castle was choked with weeds.

Mr. Astor reconstructed the castle. He fixed the drawbridge and towers as they had stood at the time Anne Boleyn lived there as a child. He built a Tudor village about the castle to house his guests. His estate was as it had been in early days. It was the marvel of England.

To this castle the dark-eyed, dark-haired Anne Boleyn was exiled by King Henry VIII. She had been a maid of honor at the English court. The king smiled at her but she did not realize what his smiles meant. Before long she had fallen in love with the gallant young Sir. Henry Percy, son of the Earl of Northumberland.

Sir Percy used to come to court with Cardinal Wolsey, chief counselor of the king at that time, and while his master was closeted with the king, the young page found opportunity to meet Anne. The king discovered the plot. Anne was banished from court and Sir. Percy was forced to marry another.

The Royal Ghost

The old gossips of Kent still tell stories of the exile of the beautiful Anne Boleyn, and how she was wont to wander up and down the windy gallery of Hever Castle moaning for her sweetheart. There was little at Hever to overcome the young girl’s distraction. The dark moats with their stagnant waters, the foreboding shadows which lurked about the round towers, all tended to increase her melancholy. Later she returned to court, and to the executioner.

Each year since her death, it is said, the ghost of Anne Boleyn appeared at Hever Castle. It crossed the old bridge over the river in front of the castle, wailing as she had done for her sweetheart, those who claim to have seen the ghost say. It came at midnight, once or often during the holiday season.

This year, for the first time, the ghost has failed to come. Mr. Astor, after years of snubbing by live royalty, was created Baron Hever New Year’s Eve. But his troubles are not over. The royal ghost refuses to walk for him.

Colorado Springs [CO] Gazette 18 February 1916: p. 12

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: Mr Astor seems to have comported himself with a rare combination of tactless bluster and social ineptitude. He was ridiculed on both sides of the Atlantic. One American paper printed a table of “Enormous Sums Mr. Astor Has Paid to Obtain his Peerage,” totaling $11,750,000. The same article listed “Very Peculiar Things That Mr. Astor Has Done” such as

Offending King Edward by telling the King what entertainments he had planned instead of asking his Majesty’s pleasure.

Ordering Admiral Sir Berkeley Milne out of his London house because he came without an invitation, as escort to an English society lady who had been invited.

Involving himself in a quarrel with the Duke of Westminster about the visitors’ book of the house the Duke had sold him.

Giving to a British museum, the flag of Captain Lawrence’s (he of “Don’t Give Up the Ship”) vessel, the Chesapeake, captured by the British in 1813.

Publically expressing annoyance at the story of Anne Boleyn’s snub.

The British press was no less caustic, printing cartoons of him loaded down with money bags and ridiculing his efforts to obtain a peerage. It was not until he had contributed massive sums to the British War effort (and one of his sons was wounded fighting in the British Army) that he was grudgingly given a coronet in 1916. 

If Mrs Daffodil believed in ghosts, she would congratulate the Lady Anne for her good taste in snubbing such a bounder.

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5 thoughts on “Snubbed by the Ghost of Anne Boleyn: 1916

    1. chriswoodyard Post author

      Mrs Daffodil is pleased that you enjoyed the story. Actually the gentleman on the Titanic was John Jacob Astor IV, William Waldorf Astor’s cousin. He and his first wife, Ava, had divorced and he created a scandal by marrying a very young woman–18 to Astor’s 47. They went abroad for an extended honeymoon, hoping that the considerable scandal would blow over. His wife, Madeleine, discovered that she was in a delicate condition and wished their child to be born in the United States. They boarded the Titanic to return home and we all know the rest of that tragic story. Mrs Astor gave birth in August 1912 to a son, John Jacob Astor VI.

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