Spiritualism at the Palace

 - John Dale -

         EDWARD VII was certainly a highly superstitious person. He was horrified by minor incidents such as crossed knives at the table or court officials wearing their uniforms incorrectly. He was constantly on the look-out for evil omens. His valets were barred from turning his mattress on a Friday and he refused to sit down for dinner with thirteen people.[1]

[1] C. Hibbert, Edward VII, Allen Lane.

As Prince of Wales, he attended a musical séance by the Spiritualist medium Jessie Shepard, one of the most famous and sensational acts of the period.[2] In his séances, Shepard would sit in a trance at his piano while the music emerged from the closed keyboard without his touching it. He would do duets, simultaneously singing both bass and soprano. He gave speeches in English, French, German, Latin, Greek, Chaldean and Arabic.

[2] Nandor Fodor, Encyclopedia of Psychic Science, University Books Inc., 1966.

He impressed many informed listeners.

In an account quoted in Light magazine in 1894, Prince Adam Wisniewski wrote: 'After having secured the most complete obscurity, we placed ourselves in a circle around the medium, seated before the piano. Hardly were the first chords struck when we saw lights appear at every corner of the room ... the first piece played through Shepard was a fantasy of Thalberg's ... This is unpublished as is all the music which is played by the spirits through Shepard.

'The second was a rhapsody for four hands, played by Liszt and Thalberg with astounding fire, a sonority truly grand, and a masterly interpretation. The harmony was admirable and such as no one present had ever known paralleled even by Liszt himself, whom I personally knew. In the circle were musicians who like me, had heard the greatest pianists of Europe; but we can say that we never heard such truly supernatural execution.'

Edward Bjorkman, in Harper's Weekly, wrote: 'Something more than sound issued from that piano. It was a mood, uncanny yet pleasing, exalting, luring. He seemed to keep notes suspended in the air for minutes. Now and then he would make a shining vessel out of such a chord then he would begin to drip little drops of melody on it, until the Grail seemed to rise before your vision. I felt there was an image that wanted to break through - a consciousness of some mighty presence.'[3]

[3] Psychic News, 23 December, 1972.

At 38, Shepard retired to San Diego, California, and built his Villa Montezuma, now restored and open to the public. There he displayed his gift from Europe including a gold watch from Edward, Prince of Wales - which, in later years of poverty, he was forced to pawn.

No doubt King Edward was deeply impressed at the time of his Coronation when he heard of a pre-cognitive dream which had carried a warning for the Duke of Portland - and for the King himself.

The Duke was one of the organisers of the Coronation. Some years later, in his memoirs, he told how during his sleep he had had a vision of the King's state coach crashing into the arch at the Horse Guards on its way to Westminster Abbey.[4] According to the dream the coach became jammed because the arch was too small.

[4] Derek and Julia Parker, Dreaming.

So worried was the Duke that he visited the Crown Equerry, Colonel Ewart and asked him to have the arch measured. Ewart was sceptical but eventually agreed. The arch was measured with the result that they found that it was indeed two feet too low.

'I returned to Colonel Ewart in triumph,' wrote the Duke later, 'and said, "What do you think of dreams now?"

'"I think, it's damned fortunate you had one," he replied.’

The Duke added: 'It appears that the coach had not driven through the arch for some time and the level of the road had been raised during repairs.'

But it was in the period immediately preceding the King's death that the most unusual incidents happened. On his final New Year's Eve at Sandringham, the Royal Family went through their usual ceremony of 'first footing.'[5] As midnight drew near everybody, including servants, stepped outside the house so that the King and Queen Alexandra could be the first to cross its threshold in the New Year.

[5] C. Hibbert, Edward VII, Allen Lane.

But just as the King was about to do this, the door was flung open from the inside by one of his grandchildren who had mischievously entered the back way for a prank. The King was horrified. 'We shall have some very bad luck this year,' he said, as if perceiving his own demise.

But the most intriguing story is that the King was warned of his death by Mrs Willie Jameson, sister of Earl Haig.[6] She was a medium who received messages through automatic writing from her late brother George.

[6] Psychic News, 30 May, 1953.

One evening at dinner in January, 1910, the King asked if he could have a private word with the Countess of Fingall. When the meal had finished he took her into a corner to discuss his late sister, Princess Alice.

'Your friend, Mrs Jameson, has hurt me badly,' he said. 'She knows how much I loved my sister Alice and she has written to me giving a message which, she says is from her, sent through her brother George.'

The King explained what the message was: 'The time is short. You must prepare.'

What worried him was additional detail of a trip he and Princess Alice had paid to Den Nevis when they had collected white heather. He could see no way in which Mrs Jameson could have known that.

And the warning proved to be true; he died less than five months later.

The Spiritualist newspaper Psychic News has repeatedly claimed that Queen Alexandra was both clairvoyant and clairaudient; that is, able to see and hear spirits. These are controversial claims but are worth consideration. The Queen would have been unlikely to admit to these practices if they had taken place. One article stated:

“Queen Alexandra was first attracted to Spiritualism at Windsor Castle. While staying there the Queen had a personal psychic experience. She saw the spirit of a, tall woman wearing a black and white, dress standing in the doorway of her dressing room. The Queen later confided to a dose personal friend that she frequently beard music and singing during the night.

“On one occasion when 'the Queen invited a London medium to visit her at Windsor, she received two remarkable prophecies, which subsequently came true. The sitting was held in an ante-room and about a dozen people, including the Queen, were present. Some remarkable messages had been received and then came a dramatic warning. It told the early death of King Edward in the house where he had been born and forecast the outbreak of a great war a few years later.

“Queen Alexandra was on holiday at the Greek island of Corfu (she was the daughter of Christian IX of Denmark and therefore part of the Danish-Greek royal family) the following year when the news came that the King was 'not feeling so well as usual.' Ignoring official assurances that there was nothing seriously wrong, the Queen insisted on leaving for London immediately.

“She, arrived at Buckingham Palace - where Edward VII was born - in time to see the King before he died.[7]”

[7] Psychic News, 30 May, 1953.

According to the same article, Queen Alexandra later communicated, with her husband's spirit through a Glasgow medium named John Sloan. The sittings were arranged by Arthur Findlay, a Glasgow magistrate who became Spiritualism's most respected historian.

There were two sittings. The first was attended by the Comptroller of the Royal Household, anonymously. During this séance a voice spoke to the vistor, addressing him by name and announcing itself as belonging to Edward VII.

Names were mentioned and an informal conversation followed. Then the voice added: 'I must thank you for all your kindness to my wife. I do not know how she would have got on without you, and you have relieved her of much worry and care.'

Psychic News declared: 'When the official returned to London and reported all that had taken place at the séance to Queen Alexandra, she too wished to speak to her husband and a further sitting with Sloan was arranged.

'It must have been one of the most impressive groups that ever foregathered to speak with the dead. Queen Alexandra, Marconi, Sir Thomas Lipton and the three most renowned Spiritualists of the day, Sir William Barrett, Sir Oliver Lodge and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, were all present when the voices from another world spoke through John Sloan.'

Lady Warwick, the King's former mistress, was interviewed about her Spiritualism at her home in Dunmow, Essex, in 1932.8] She said her interest had first been aroused by attending seances with Etta Wriedt. At the time she was curious because Warwick Castle was suffering from alarming phenomena. Lights would be switched on mysteriously in the middle of the night. There was the inexplicable sound of feet tramping through the rooms. One manservant claimed to have been attacked by a spirit and other servants were frightened.

[8] Psychic News 13 January, 1933.

When Mrs Wriedt arrived at the castle, she was taken to Lady Warwick's room and there left alone. Waiting outside, Lady Warwick noticed a séance trumpet in her luggage. She picked it up and held it to her ear.

Immediately, she heard the voice of King Edward VII, talking to her in his unmistakeable German accent. She conversed with him, partly in German.

Later that day a friend called and was introduced to Mrs Wriedt. Lady Warwick left them alone together, knowing the man was a sceptic. After 90 minutes, he emerged from the room white as a sheet, slumped into a chair and exclaimed, 'My God.' He told Lady Warwick: 'I've been talking to Jerry.’

This was a woman whom he had loved who had died of cancer of the throat. He was convinced the spirit was authentic, even reproducing the terrible cough she suffered. He said he was dumbfounded.

From then on, Lady Warwick sat with Mrs Wriedt a number of times and always communicated with King Edward. She eventually stopped because no other communicator came for her.

In this interview, Lady Warwick also said that she was a medium able to perform automatic writing. Among those she had shared the séance room with were two Great War leaders, Lord Haig and General French. Haig always received Messages from his dead brother and he and French were codenamed in the circles as 'David and Jonathan'.


"The Prince and the Paranormal. The Psychic Bloodline of the Royal Family" by John Dale (London: W. H. Allen & Co., 1986).

Related articles

Is Spiritualism Dangerous? by H. A. Dallas
The Mechanics of Spiritualism by Harry Price
The Movement of Modern Spiritualism by G. N. M. Tyrell

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