Mandatory Credit: Photo Pool/Anw
Don't tell anyone but I think I may be on to something. I have a sneaking suspicion that Prince William and Kate Middleton are secretly hunting ghosts on behalf of the British Monarchy.
The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge (as they are now officially known) are to move into refurbished apartments inside Kensington Palace and -- as with so many of the venues chosen for their wedding day in April -- their new London home just happens to be one of the city's most famous haunted houses.
Built in the seventeenth century, Kensington Palace was originally a Jacobean mansion known as Nottingham House. It was purchased in 1689 by King William III who commissioned the great architect Sir Christopher Wren to oversee improvements to the property, a scheme that included the building of royal apartments for the King and his wife, Queen Mary II. For the next seven decades it was the favourite residence of successive British sovereigns, but that came to an end in 1760 with the death of King George II.
The only son of the German prince George Louis, George Augustus was born in 1683 in Hanover and it was there that he spent his early life. In June 1705 he met the beautiful Caroline of Ansbach, falling so deeply in love with her that they were married later that same year. He would have liked to live out his life with Caroline in Hanover but when his father was crowned King George I of Great Britain and Ireland in 1714 the two Georges set sail for England.
George I died in 1727, of a stroke during a trip home to Hanover. His son succeeded him as King George II but he did not enjoy a happy reign. He spent much of his time pining for his distant homeland, wishing he could return, and his misery deepened after his beloved Caroline died in 1737.
Towards the end of his life George would spend long hours gazing wistfully out of the window at Kensington Palace, staring at the weather vane to see which way the wind was blowing. He longed for news from Hanover, desperately hoping each day that the wind would blow in the right direction to speed to him the ships carrying dispatches from his native land. But the winds stayed against him. Day after day his servants would overhear his heavily accented voice muttering in frustration: "Vhy dond't dey kom?"
At last the winds did change and the precious dispatches reached England's shores, but it was too late. On the morning of 25 October 1760, five days short of his 77th birthday, the King's life came to a sudden and undignified end. He suffered an aortic dissection while straining on the toilet, collapsed, and cut his head against the edge of a bureau as he fell. His valet heard the crash and hurried in but there was little he could do and shortly afterwards the King was pronounced dead.
His ghost supposedly haunts Kensington Palace, forever awaiting the news he never received. His pale face can reputedly be glimpsed sometimes at a window when the wind is blowing in the right direction, gazing longingly towards the weather vane as his mournful voice drifts along the Palace corridors, still asking: "Vhy dond't dey kom?"
For days when the wind is blowing in the wrong direction there are other eerie manifestations William and Kate could keep alert for in their new home. One is the faint creaking of a spinning wheel in the hushed hours of the early morning.
After his death George II was succeeded by his grandson, George III, and one of George III's daughters was Princess Sophia. Although not everyone accepts the truth of the following tale, Sophia reportedly fell in love with a royal equerry by the name of Thomas Garth and in 1800 gave birth to his son.
The potential scandal could not be permitted and so the bastard child was taken from her to be brought up elsewhere in secret. Sophia could not bear the pain. She retreated from the world, growing old and unloved in her rooms at Kensington Palace where she sat at her spinning wheel, spinning in solitary misery as the years passed and her eyesight failed. She died on 27 May 1848, yet the sound of her spinning wheel continues, somehow preserved in the essence of Kensington Palace.
Elsewhere in the Palace, it has been claimed that the Queen's Apartments are haunted. Details regarding this elude me but I bet William and Kate could find out. The story probably has to do with the death of the aforementioned Queen Mary II (wife of William III) who died here of smallpox in the early hours of 28 December 1694.
Finally, on pleasant summer evenings William and Kate could pass their time hunting for ghosts in the Palace courtyard. This area is apparently haunted by an apparition described as a man wearing breeches.
Kensington Palace is far from unusual among the UK's royal residences in having such spooky tales: why should this be? Some might suggest that the ghost stories serve to preserve the rich history surrounding these magnificent buildings, but what do they know? Maybe the royals have long had a keen interest in the supernatural and select their homes precisely because of the paranormal goings-on within these buildings.
Are William and Kate really undercover royal ghostbusters? I'd like to think so - but I have been known to be wrong before.
(For details of how to visit Kensington Palace, see the Historic Royal Palaces website.)