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Princess Caraboo

Princess Caraboo (1791-1864) was a lady impostor who pretended to be from a faraway island and fooled a British town for some time.

In April 3 1817, cobbler in Almondsbury[?] in Gloucestershire, England, met apparently disoriented young woman with exotic clothes who was speaking language no one could understand. Cobbler’s wife took her to the Overseer of the Poor[?] who left her to the hands of the local county magistrate[?] Samuel Worrall who lived in Knole Park[?]. When he and his wife could not understand her either, they sent him to the local inn, where the lady insisted on eating a pineapple and sleeping on the floor. Later Mrs. Worrall let her stay in their mansion.

All they could find was that she called herself Caraboo and that she was interested about Chinese imagery. They sent her to the mayor of Bristol who ended up sending her to St. Peter's Hospital[?]. There she declined all meat. Week later Mrs Worrall brought her to her husband’s offices in Bristol.

Locals brought many foreigners who tried to find out what strange language the lady was talking but apparently in vain. Then came a Portuguese sailor named Manuel Eynesso (or Enes) who said he knew the language and translated her story.

According to Eynesso, she was princess Caraboo from the island of Javasu in the Indian Ocean. She had been captured by pirates and after a long voyage she had jumped overboard on the Bristol Channel[?] and swam ashore.

Worralls brought Caraboo back to heir home. For the next ten weeks, this representative of exotic royalty was a favorite of local dignitaries. She used a bow and arrow, fenced, swam naked and prayed to strange gods. She had a portrait made of herself and acquired appropriate clothing. However, when her picture ended up in newspapers, certain Mrs. Neale recognized her from the picture in the Bristol Journal[?] and informed her hosts.

Truth came out. Would-be-princess was actually a cobbler’s daughter Mary Baker nee. Wilcocks from Witheridge[?], Devon. She had been a servant girl in various places all over England but had not found a place to stay. She had invented a fictitious language out of imaginary and gypsy words and created an exotic character. British press had a field day in the expense of upper-class snobbism.

Her hosts arranged her to leave for Philadelphia and she departed June 28 1817. In USA, she briefly continued her role but then lost contact with Worralls after couple of months.

1821 she had returned to Britain but her act was not particularly successful no more. She briefly traveled to France and Spain in her guise but soon returned to England and (re)married. In September 1828 was living in Bedminster[?] with a name Mary Burgess and gave birth to a daughter the next year. In 1839 she was selling leeches to the Bristol Infirmary Hospital[?]. She died in Bedminster in between December 24 1864 and was buried in an anonymous grave in Bristol.

The hoax was a basis of a 1994 movie of the same name but with all fictitious plot.

External Links


  • John WellsPrincess Caraboo - her true story (1994)

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