Hello! And welcome to my stop on the Historical Writers’ Forum December Blog Hop. Today, we’re talking ghosts… Don’t forget to head on over to Janet Wertman’s blog on the 11th to read the next step too!
I love Christmas, so when it came to working out the timeframe for each of my Kindred Spirits novels, I knew I wanted the festive season to feature. For one thing, it added an interesting dimension; how do ghosts celebrate, give each other gifts, and have parties? More on that later…
With Christmas ghosts, I know I’m in good company. Not just the fictional apparitions in A Christmas Carol either – today, I thought I would share a couple of tales of true festive hauntings. Perhaps some will make an appearance in a future short story, who knows?
We’ll start with the lovely Hever Castle, and a ghost I’ve already written about a couple of times now: Anne Boleyn. According to legend, her spirit appears each Christmas, under a great tree where it’s said that Henry courted her. Is she lamenting her decisions, I wonder, or simply returning to a place where she was happy? I’ve only ever seen pictures of Hever Castle in the sunshine, so I hope it’s the latter.
Other regular Christmas spirits include a whole host of ghosts being seen at Bishop’s Castle, in Shropshire, on the 21st December each year.
Other examples include Emily Bronte haunting the grounds of the parsonage at Haworth, and back in Kent, a highwayman who died as he tried to rob a coach on the road near Marden. The woman who killed him did so in revenge for murdering her brother, and the scene is said to repeat itself every year on its anniversary.
What is it about Christmas, which makes us so susceptible to and keen on ghost stories? Perhaps we’re all just a little more relaxed, and keen to find more connections?
But now, onto those parties! In Kindred Spirits: Royal Mile, spirits are certainly high, and for anyone who has wandered along Edinburgh’s most famous street, I’m sure the accessory being worn and discussed will be very familiar!
Merry Christmas all, and I hope if you do get visited by any ghosts, they are of the friendly variety…
The city began to sparkle with fairy-lights, shining out from every shop window, as shops and attractions battled with themselves and each other to determine when the best time was to go ‘all out’, and throw themselves wholeheartedly into the Christmas celebrations. The Castle tended to move more slowly than some, keeping itself safely the right side of the ‘tacky’ line, ensuring that those not so keen on the festival would still feel at home in the place. The shops of the Mile had no such qualms. By the end of November, celebrations were in full swing, and now the court had resumed its normal home at the Castle, everyone was in a jovial mood.
“Sir William! Lady Glamis! What on earth are you wearing?” Mary demanded of them, bent over with laughter as she and Queens Marie and Madeleine welcomed them into the Castle’s great hall one evening, long after the last visitor of the day had left. “And, more to the point, how did you get it here?”
The two had entered the room in fits of giggles themselves, knowing what Queen Mary’s reaction would be to their attire, but hoping it would continue to cheer her after the Darnley situation; they caught her almost every day, watching out over the rooftops, clearly the same thing on her mind. Even through the giggles, Janet had been gladdened at the sight of the two French Queens, helping their third member feel more cheered.
Atop Janet and William’s heads were the most garish of Loch Ness Monster hats, but not just any ordinary Nessie. This Nessie daringly clashed the bright green of her skin with an equally bright red Santa hat, trimmed in glistening white fur, and topped with sparkling tinsel.
“It gets better,” said Janet, reaching up to William’s hat, and squeezing Nessie’s nose teasingly. In a high-pitched squeal, the hat started to sing ‘We Wish You a Merry Christmas’ at full volume, pushing all of them over the edge into hysteria.
“I want one!” shrieked Mary, laughing at Marie and Madeleine’s faces at the thought of a Queen of Scotland wearing such an item. “Come now, it’s perfect, surely you see that?”
Marie shook her head at her daughter. “I did not raise you as a Queen of France and Scotland for you to demean yourself in such attire. If you ask me honestly, I think it far below even Lady Janet and Sir William.” Nose in the air, she turned her face away from the group, looking pointedly out the window.
The couple in question had now started dancing to the musical hats, the noise attracting more of the ghosts into the Hall. Most of them started laughing and joining in, forming pairs as they went. Noble ladies fell about laughing, accepting the hands of prisoners of war and soldiers, as noblemen wandered in, bemused at the sight.
“I fear, Lady Mother, that you are outnumbered in your opinion,” replied Mary, happily accepting the offered hand of one of the more handsome prisoners, as he nervously approached her, eyebrows raised questioningly.
“And now you dance with common soldiers!” Queen Marie tutted, as her daughter accepted the request, but even she was beginning to be sucked into the moment of merriment, her dainty, silk-slippered foot starting to move in time to the music.
“It is catching,” said Madeleine, glancing at the older woman with a smile.
“Oh, I hate it when others prove me wrong,” said Marie, throwing her shoulders down in frustration. “Come, then, Madeleine, what is good enough for the goose is good enough for the gander – shall we join them?”
The two royal ladies linked arms and moved into the centre of the room, joining the whirling mass of bodies, each pair attempting to dance to the tuneless rendition, ages and classes clashing in the dancing styles down the ages, not a single pair appropriately matched in terms of era. Finally, Mary broke away from her lowly prisoner, and clasped hands with the newly-arrived Thomas Randolph, who was gazing about the room, shaking his head in disbelief, until he saw Mary in the middle of celebrations.