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Sandringham House's Ghosts: the veiled lady in the mirror

In the early 1900s, a young prince went to visit his aunt, the Queen of England at Sandringham – and as he rested before dinner, he met a ghost pleading for mercy from beyond the grave.

The tale is told by Prince Michael of Greece and Denmark, a first cousin of the late Prince

Philip and son of Prince Christopher, the man who saw a spirit at Sandringham.


The Norfolk Folklore Society has already visited Sandringham and its many ghosts but this tale links not one, but potentially three Norfolk stately homes to a restless spectre said to visit them all.


Prince Christopher was born in 1888 to King George I of Greece and Queen Olga, a Russian

Grand Duchess – born last in the dynasty’s order of succession, he was never to be King. As a young man, Christopher loved to visit Sandringham to spend time with his favourite Aunt, Queen Alexandra, his father’s eldest sister and wife to King Edward VII.

Prince Christopher of Greece and Denmark pictured in 1919

In the early years of the 20th century, he stayed at the Norfolk Royal residence and Prince Michael recounts the story he was told by his father about his stay. Christopher had been given a room in the ‘modern’ wing of the House which was very light, very bright and “very pleasant” and was resting on his bed one evening as his valet prepared his evening clothes.


He quotes his father: “Suddenly, the feeling that I was being watched made me turn around.

Framed by the mirror on the vanity was a feminine face. It was so perfectly still that I could

discern the smallest details of her appearance without the slightest effort.


“I noticed that this lady was young and very beautiful, that she had curly brown hair and a

pretty dimpled chin. The top half of her face was hidden behind a small black veil through

which her eyes darted straight into mine with an infinitely painful expression.


“She seemed so real, so made of flesh and bone, that I myself initially believed she had

somehow, I don’t know how, actually entered the room, that it was really just her reflection

I could see in the mirror, and I turned my head to make sure.


“There was no one other than my valet who was busy coming and going. And, to my considerable surprise, as he moved towards the mirror to get something from the vanity, he

passed right by the silent face without seeming to have noticed it.


“I felt literally nailed to my bed. I tried calling out several times, but it seemed my throat

was paralysed. Then, as suddenly as she had appeared, the woman disappeared, and the

spell was broken.” Christopher immediately questioned his valet, who had seen nothing.


At dinner, he asked his sister Marie and niece Princess Victoria if they knew of anything that

could explain what he had seen in his room: they told him no, and proceeded to joke with

him all night about ghosts.

Houghton Hall, 1952. CREDIT: George Plunkett

The next day, Queen Alexandra suggested a trip to neighbouring Houghton Hall, the home

of Lord Cholmondeley, and the party were given a tour of the mansion. Christopher was admiring the chapel when Marie and Victoria ran back to him, pale-faced: they had recognised the description he had given of the woman he’d seen in his bedroom and pulled him to a portrait in the house.


“They grabbed my arms and took me to the gallery where they stopped in front of a portrait. ‘Look, do you recognise her?’ they asked. I was speechless as I stood in front of the portrait of the very woman I had seen in my room at Sandringham the day before.


“She was wearing the exact same dress. In her hand, she held the little veil I had seen her

with, in such a way that her charming face was revealed to me in its entirety.”


When Princess Victoria asked the woman showing them round Houghton and she hesitated

before speaking quietly to tell the Royals that it was believed the lady was the family’s very

own ghost. She added that no one had seen the woman for around 70 years.


So why would a ghost attached to Houghton Hall appear in the modern wing of a royal

castle, seven miles away along King’s Avenue? When Christopher shared his story with one of his mother’s ladies-in-waiting, she set out to find out more about the mysterious woman.

Dorothy Walpole, AKA the Brown Lady of Raynham Hall

Prince Michael said: “She discovered that the lady was, during her time on earth, the spouse

of an ancestor of Cholmondeley who treated her very uncivilly.


“Since there was no legal recourse at the time, her only hope was for an intervention by the

king, and she long sought a way to escape her miserable home to come to London.


“But her husband took great care to make it impossible for her to regain her freedom, and

for the last years of her life, he even kept her under lock and key, literally. She ended up

dying of the desperation of not having attained her only desire.


“Since then, legend has it, she appears from time to time to anyone in the vicinity with a

degree of kinship with the king, imploring them with her melancholic eyes to intercede on

her behalf…”


The Prince was not, however, the first Royal to see the Brown Lady of Raynham: that

honour goes to King George IV. In the mid-1700s, and when King George IV was the young Prince of Wales, he slept in the Raynham’s State Bedroom and woke to see “a little lady all dressed in brown, with dishevelled hair and a face of ashy paleness.”


The future king left Raynham Hall immediately, and swore he would “never spend another

hour in the cursed house again”.


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