St James’s Palace is officially described as one of the senior palaces in London and is presently home to a number of the Royal Family as well as being the base for many offices of state. It has apparently only got the one ghost but the story behind it has intrigue and a bloody outcome – so it’s a good story, ghost or not.
The palace dates from about 1536 and was a royal home for over 300 years. In fact it is still the official residence of the monarch even though since Queen Victoria, the main residence is Buckingham Palace which is a short distance away. To illustrate its importance today, all ambassadors and High Commissioners are still accredited to the Court of St James.
So from this long history where does our ghost come from? Perhaps strangely enough it is not the spirit of a member of royalty or nobility. Instead it is supposed to be the ghost of the valet to Ernest Augustus, Duke of Cumberland. For our story to begin we have to go back to the early morning of the 31st May 1810. Screams were heard coming from the Duke’s bedroom. One of his servants came to his aid and found the Duke bloodied with his sword near the door. It too was covered in blood.
Whilst being attended the Duke called for his valet Joseph Sellis to be summoned. Staff went to his room and found him dead on his bed – his throat had been cut. An investigation into events decided that Sellis had tried to murder the Duke and had then returned to his room and committed suicide. This was all very neat and did not implicate the Duke in any wrongdoing.
However, others were not so sure – the evidence did not make the verdict so conclusive. They came up with a different scenario – one that had the Duke in bed with Sellis’s wife. It is then thought that Sellis discovered this and confronted the Duke. A fight took place in which the Duke killed Sellis. This would mean that any outrage at his adultery would not be made public.
We do not know what really happened but it did lead to some people saying that now and again the ghost of Joseph Sellis wanders the palace. And how do we know that this is Sellis? Apparently the spectre’s throat is slashed wide open – lovely!