St James’s Palace – London

One of the standard traditional motives ascribed to a ghost’s apparition is that it has come to warn a living acquaintance to prepare for death. A very detailed account of such a case was given by T. M. Jarvis, a writer concerned to uphold the reality of ghosts, in a book in 1823. The alleged events are not precisely dated, but presumably occurred early in the eighteenth century. After the deposition of James II in 1688, his mistress Madame de Beauclair was given an apartment in St James’s Palace; the Duchess of Mazarine, formerly the mistress of Charles II, also had an apartment there, and the two ladies became close friends. They both felt a great curiosity about life after death, and solemnly promised one another that whoever died first would come back to tell her friend about it. The duchess was the first to die, and on the last day of her life she renewed her promise. But, to the intense disappointment of Madame de Beauclair, her spirit did not appear.

Years passed, and Madame de Beauclair grew old; having had no sign from the duchess, she had completely ceased to believe in the afterlife. Then one evening a younger acquaintance of hers received an urgent message to come at once to see her, otherwise they would never meet again in this world. The younger lady was unwilling, as she was suffering from a heavy cold, but after a second message and a gift of jewellery, she agreed. She found Madame de Beauclair in apparent good health, but convinced that she would die that very day and enter that eternal life which she had so much doubted, for the Duchess of Mazarine had at last appeared to her:

I perceived not how she entered but, turning my eyes towards yonder corner of the room, I saw her stand in the same form and habit she was accustomed to appear in when living: fain would I have spoken, but had not the power of utterance. She took a little circuit round the chamber, seeming rather to swim than walk, then stopped by the side of that Indian chest, and, looking on me with her usual sweetness, said, ‘Beauclair, between the hours of twelve and one this night you will be with me.’ The surprise I was in at first being a little abated, I began to ask some questions concerning that future world I was so soon to visit; but, on the opening of my lips for that purpose, she vanished from my sight.

By the time Madame de Beauclair had finished her story it was getting towards midnight. Suddenly she cried out, ‘Oh! I am sick at heart!’ Despite medical attention, she was dead in half an hour, just at the time the apparition had foretold.



Haunted England : The Penguin Book of Ghosts – Written by Jennifer Westwood and Jacqueline Simpson
Copyright © Jennifer Westwood and Jacqueline Simpson 2005, 2008