The 'Royalist Devil' of Blenheim Palace
2 May 2021 (Updated 6 October 2023)
In the autumn of 1649, the site on which Blenheim Palace now stands was the scene of violent poltergeist activity at the hands of an entity dubbed 'The Royalist Devil'.
The Roundheads seize Woodstock Manor
Blenheim Palace was built in the early 18th century close to the site of a previous house, Woodstock Manor, also known as Woodstock Palace. Today the site of the older house is can be found marked with a plaque on the north side of Blenheim lake. Although the Manor was used for a time as a base by King Charles, by 1649 the Roundheads had seized control of the Manor and it was occupied by a group of Parliamentary Commissioners.
Knowing that their new billet had been highly prized by the king, the occupying Roundheads took pleasure in converting Charles's bedroom into a kitchen and the former Royalist council rooms into a brewery!
The final straw seems to have been when they chopped down an old oak tree in the grounds, known as the King's Oak, and used it for firewood.
This seems to have been the trigger for a terrifying supernatural assault on the Manor, which Christina Hole recounts in her 1941 book Haunted England.
The incident reportedly began on 16 October 1649, when something resembling a dog was seen entering the Manor. After this beds were violently thrown up and down, injuring their occupants. The firewood cut from the King's Oak was found scattered around the house and furniture was overturned.
For the next three weeks the building was nightly disturbed by objects being thrown about the rooms, candles being blown out, curtains pulled down and bedclothes pulled off beds. Servants were showered with 'stinking ditchwater' and broken glass was thrown around the rooms.
On the 29 October and 2 November the walls were shaken, windows broken and loud noises described as 'dismal thunderings' were heard. These noises were said to have been so loud that they scared away the local poachers!
A haunting or a prank?
In his Oxfordshire Ghost Stories Richard Holland speculates that these occurrences could be explained away as the harassment or pranks of locals, still loyal to the King, who wished their new Roundhead neighbours to be gone. If this is the case then the ploy worked.
Under this seeming supernatural onslaught the Roundheads were forced to abandon the Manor and find more peaceful lodgings!
- 'Oxfordshire Ghost Stories' by Richard Holland (Bradwell Books, 2013, ISBN: 9781902674735)
- 'Haunted England' by Christina Hole (Scribner's, 1941)