In 1894, William Edmund Scott Hall sued the Earl of Abingdon over the purchase of property purported to be haunted by Amy Robsart, this supposedly being the place where she died.
The auctioneers who handled the sale described that chains could be heard rattling in the cellar, and groans and heartrending shrieks could be heard at midnight coming from the washhouse.
However after completing the sale, Mr. Hall wanted to rescind the contract on the ground that Amy Robsart did not die there but in the house across the street, which did have a reputation of being haunted by the lady in question and her friends.
The Earl, in his defense said he gave no warranty that Amy Robsart died there and also haunted the structure.
On the witness stand, Mr. Hall swore he bought the place precisely because of the identity of the ghost. He said that local tradition described where a certain pond contained the body of Amy Robsart and that her spirit lived there. The pond was part of the property the Earl sold Mr. Hall. He thought the house also contained the Douglas chamber which was also haunted, but unfortunately not by the ghost he wanted.
AMY ROBSART DUDLEY (1532-1560)
Amy was the daughter of Sir John Robsart, Lord of the Manor of Syderstone in Norfolk. On June 4, 1550,she married Lord Robert Dudley. After 1553, Amy was left alone as her husband curried favor at court. These were the years when Henry VIII's children sat on the throne and intrigue was a constant companion for any aristocrat with ambitions. Dudley plotted with others to supplant Queen Mary with her young cousin Lady Jane Grey. They were discovered and he was sent to the Tower, along with his father and four brothers. Princess Elizabeth was also being held prisoner there.
Elizabeth I ascended the throne and he was pardoned. He was Elizabeth's favorite and rumors swirled they were lovers. During this time Amy remained in the country, and her husband visited her for four days at Easter 1559 and she spent a month around London in the early summer of the same year. They never saw each other again. In 1560 she settled at Cumnor Place in Berkshire.
On Sunday, September 8, 1560, Lady Amy insisted her entire household attend a local fair. She was left alone. When the servants returned they found lying at the foot of the staircase in the hall. It appeared she'd died of a broken neck.
Mostly fed by those envious of Dudley's place in Elizabeth's affection, whispers circulated in court that he ordered his wife's murder with hopes of marrying Elizabeth. Others talked of suicide citing Amy's depression over illness or her husband's infidelity.
An inquest into her death resulted with a verdict of accidental death. Amy was buried with much fanfare in St. Mary's church. Her husband did not attend either the inquest or the funeral. This served to fuel more suspicions about his hand in her death and damaged his reputation. So much so that Elizabeth was forced to distance herself from him.
Her story was used by Sir Walter Scott in his novel ‘Kenilworth'.
For centuries, the coroner’s report issued for Lady Amy was lost, and in 2008 it was discovered in a manuscript collection. Written in Latin, the translation confirmed the cause of death was declared to be "misadventure", however they described injuries to Amy's head. The verdict was not made public until many months after the lady's death, this allowed the rumor mill to work overtime.
The only indicator that she committed suicide was her insistence in being left alone on the day she died.
The place where she died was a flight of four steps, that gave way to a square landing and then another four steps. It was only a total of eight steps. An impractical setting for a suicide or for the accidental death of a 28-year-old woman. Was her neck broken before she was thrown down the short flight of steps?
There were also suspicions of poisoning and in 1559 three different Spanish ambassadors sent letters describing where two diplomats commented that when Lady Amy visited court she suffered from some type of ailment that impacted her ability to eat properly.
In early 1559, a court chronicler described that she was so paranoid of being poisoned that her landlord at Throcking where she lived asked her to move out.
In 1956, Ian Aird, a Scottish surgeon proposed that Amy Dudley died from spontaneous spinal fracture, a common complication from metastatic breast cancer. He called for the exhumation of her body to prove his theory. However considering how wealthy the Dudley family was, if she was sick, they would have summoned a physician to attend her. There was no record of this.
However exhumation was not in Lady Amy's destiny since the church where she was buried was damaged in a fire in 1946. During reconstruction attempts were made to find her grave, but it was found the entire area had been filled and dug over several times. Older graves were destroyed and only fragments of human bones were found scattered in the soil.
It's little wonder that Mr. Hall was certain the unfortunate Amy could not lie easy in her grave, and haunted the place where she met her end. After so many years, he like other was fascinated by this unsolved mystery.
Stranger Than Fiction Stories by M.P. Pellicer