The Impostor Princess

On a spring day in 1817, in the small town of Almondsbury in Gloucestershire, England, a local cobbler encountered a confused and disoriented young woman. Although she was English in appearance, she was wearing strange clothing, including a turban, and she did not speak or understand English.

No one knew who she was, and she had no money, so the cobbler’s wife brought her to the local Overseer of the Poor. The magistrate, Samuel Worrall, took an interest in this strange woman, so he brought her home to stay with him and his wife until her identity could be determined.

1.wdr.de

The woman, who called herself Caraboo, spoke a language that no one could understand. She also exhibited unusual behavior, including sleeping on the floor and refusing to drink out of any glass until she washed it herself. She also grew excited when she saw a drawing of a pineapple, calling it “nanas.” These actions made the Worralls wonder if she might be from some faraway place.

Soon after her arrival, a Portuguese sailor surfaced who said he could understand her language. He told the Worralls that she was Princess Caraboo from Javasu Island in the Indian Ocean. She had ended up in England after being captured by pirates and escaped their ship by jumping overboard in the Bristol Channel.

The Worralls were delighted to discover that they were hosting foreign royalty. They placed a notice in the newspapers announcing this fact and spent the next ten weeks supporting her royal lifestyle. Princess Caraboo spent those weeks in an endless round of dances and entertainments. Her foreign culture was also indulged, as she was allowed to pray to “Alla Tallah,” who she said was her god, and as the locals looked the other way as she swam naked in a nearby lake.

Princess Caraboo’s lavish lifestyle with the Worralls came to an abrupt end when a boarding-house keeper recognized her picture from a newspaper story. She informed the Worralls that Caraboo was really a servant girl from Devon, whose real name was Mary Willcocks Baker. She was well-known in her hometown for the fictitious language she invented and which she used to entertain the local children.

Caraboo admitted her deception, saying she had invented her story to garner sympathy since she could not find work. Strangely, the Worralls felt bad for her and paid for her to travel to Philadelphia, in the United States, where she lived for seven years. She returned to England in 1824, where she eventually married and had a daughter. Though she tried to capitalize on her history as Princess Caraboo, the public was no longer interested. She turned to making money by selling leeches to the Bristol Infirmary Hospital. She died in 1864 and was buried in an unmarked grave in Bristol’s Hebron Road Cemetery.

Next Article
ADVERTISEMENT
  • 27 Contact Lenses Found Lodged in One Woman’s Eye

    The biggest nightmare for wearers of contact lenses came true for one British woman late last year. The 67-year-old went in for cataract surgery at Solihull Hospital in England last November. In addition to the cataracts, she also complained of pain in her right eye, which she assumed was caused by dry eyes or old...

    Read More
  • Was Jane Austen Poisoned?

    In July of 1817, popular novelist Jane Austen died. This writer of such perennial favorites as Pride and Prejudice and Emma was only 41, and she did not have a history of health problems. As medical science was not very advanced in the 1800s, no one knows what killed her, though Addison’s disease and lymphoma...

    Read More
  • The Man Who Tried to Raise the Perfect Wife

    Finding a wife was difficult in the 18th century. There was no online dating, and strict social controls made it difficult for members of the opposite sex to get to know one another. But things were especially hard for a man named Thomas Day, and he came up with a novel, though cruel, way to...

    Read More
  • Giant Iceberg Breaks Free in Antarctica

    Sometime between July 10th and July 12th, a giant iceberg broke free from Antarctica, wreaking havoc on shipping lanes in the area while it breaks up into smaller pieces. It broke off from the Larsen C Ice Shelf, automatically reducing that shelf’s area by 12% when it did so. Larsen C is now at its...

    Read More
  • The Worst Husband in British History

    By all accounts, Mary Eleanor Bowes should have had a happy life. She was born into one of the wealthiest families in England, as her father was the wealthy mine owner George Bowes. She was an only child, and she was much cherished by her parents. However, when her father unexpectedly died in 1760 when...

    Read More
  • The Papin Sisters and France’s Most Gruesome Murder Case

    Life seemed to be against the Papin sisters, Christine and Lea, from the time of their births, in 1905 and 1911 respectively. They were born into a highly dysfunctional family. Their mother reportedly had affairs, and their father was an abusive alcoholic. Their mother never showed them any affection, and was so mentally unstable that...

    Read More
  • The Legend of Spring-Heeled Jack

    Despite the many advances in science and industry that took place in Victorian England, that time period was till full of superstition and paranormal belief. Many people still believed in fairies, phrenology and spiritualism- all things that have since been proven false. Quite a few people also believed in a devil-man called Spring-Heeled Jack. The...

    Read More
  • How General Santa Anna Helped Invent Bubble Gum

    Mexican revolutionary General Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna is famous for his assault on the Alamo during Texas’ revolution in the 1830s. What most people don’t know is that he is responsible for introducing the United States to chewing gum. Humans in various parts of the world have been chewing on natural gums for centuries....

    Read More