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Queen of the Gypsies, Romany Persecution and Gypsies Today

Updated on February 20, 2018
Nell Rose profile image

Nell is a trained Psychologist and lives in London England. She has been writing since she was a child.

Traditional gypsy woman

Gypsy woman dancing
Gypsy woman dancing

Modern gypsy woman

gypsy girl woman at appleby horse fair
gypsy girl woman at appleby horse fair

Maggie Finch Queen of the Gypsies.

Maggie Finch was well known in Norwood Surrey as Queen of the Gypsies back in the 18th century. She was born in Kent and travelled the country until she settled in Norwood. Some say she lived until she was 108.

What made her so special or stand out from the other gypsies was her strange way of sitting still for so long, her body got stuck in one position. It was the constant way she sat on the ground with her knees drawn up to her chin that caused the trouble. Her sinews became so stiff she couldn't straighten them out.

She was seen this way every day by folks, sitting on the ground smoking her pipe and attended by her faithful hound.

When she eventually departed this world her whole body was so stiff its said that she was crammed into a box and buried in this strange position!

The whole village knew her and many a maid crept up to have her Tarot Cards read by Maggie. Hoping that they would tell of great fortune.

Maggie stayed in the same area for many a year. And in fact it was the famous Diarist Samuel Pepys who brought her to the public's attention. He wrote:

: 'This afternoon my wife, and Mercer, and Deb went with Pelling to see the gypsies at Lambeth and have their fortunes told;
but what they did I did not enquire.'


The area where the gypsies congregated was called Gypsy Hill. Originally it was named beggars hill but soon changed due to the influx of Romany Gypsies.

Maggie Finch Queen of the Gypsies

maggie finch gypsies Romanies
maggie finch gypsies Romanies

Gypsy Hill Norwood Surrey

Gypsy Hill Norwood
Gypsy Hill Norwood

A lonely old crow, see someone you know,

Fly to your right, sure to be right,

And if you are hawking, money before night.

— Gypsy Proverbs

Appleby Horse Fair

Appleby horse fair

gypsy man with vardo
gypsy man with vardo

The Romanichals

By the 17th century there were many Romanichals, as the English Gypsies were known. They had arrived in Britain in the early 1500's and were welcomed in some towns, but barely tolerated in others.

But soon the Crown brought out a law calling for an anti-gypsy act. It was Henry VIII who passed the law 25 years after their arrival.

The act was to get rid of all gypsies. They wanted them to leave, or suffer execution. But Britain wasn't the only country who passed those cruel laws.

Denmark in the 17th century had a brand new sport. It was called 'gypsy hunts'. They were organized by the Danish King, the exact one is not mentioned.

One hunter told of the animals that he had killed so far that year. It chillingly included this line:

'A gypsy woman and a suckling child'.


Other punishments were just as terrible. All across Europe gypsies were exposed to flogging, torture, mutilation, branding, shooting and hanging.

Then along came one of the most notorious of 17th century bad guys.

I have two masters, God and the devil.

I work for the devil until lunch then I follow the Lord.

— Gypsy proverbs
Gypsies dancing
Gypsies dancing

Oliver Cromwell 'Old Ironsides'

For anybody who knows even a smidgen of English history, they will know the evil that was Cromwell. In 1649 he arrested and killed King Charles 1. From 1649 - 1658 at his death he was lord Protectorate of England.

With the king dead, and his rules so strict that you couldn't even sing, dance, play an instrument or go to a normal church, it was easier that sneezing to get arrested! Under his rule many gypsies were shipped as slaves to America, and the rest were executed.

In fact the only good thing about Cromwell was his change of parliament and royalty rules. In other words royalty could no longer be part of the running of the country and the courts.

But where gypsies were concerned he treated them appallingly. In fact he wasn't much better with anyone who went against his policies!

The last execution of gypsies in England was in Suffolk near the end of Cromwell's 'reign'.

Gypsy gold does not chink and glitter,

It gleams in the sun and neighs in the dark

.

— Gypsy Proverbs
The Dalit Indians trace their route to the West.
The Dalit Indians trace their route to the West.

King of the Gypsies Petulengro and a Romany Wedding

Why Rom?

In the Romany language the word Rom literally means travelling folk or traveller folk, but it can also just mean gypsy man.

Most people use it today, believing that the word gypsy is an insulting racial slur. But not necessarily so. I know many gypsies and they are proud to use the word. The only time they hate it is when it is used in a derogatory manner.

However back in the seventeenth century the word gypsy was always used.

For many years it was believed that gypsies came from Egypt. In fact that is not true. They originated in India. Most come from the Dalit community which was also known as the 'Untouchables'.

They were treated like dirt, and many were sold as slaves.

So you can understand why they escaped slavery and came to the west. Their language was a mixture of at least seven different dialects along with the language of the country they adopted.

Gypsy hand cart

Hand cart gypsy style
Hand cart gypsy style

Appleby Horse Fair - Boy and trap

Gypsy boy with horse and trap
Gypsy boy with horse and trap

Tinkers and Handcarts

As a race of nomads, the gypsies have always travelled about the countryside carrying their belongings in a Vardo (gypsy caravan) or pushing a hand cart.

They also used canvas covered wagons, or even tents to sleep in. The Vardo or wooden caravan didn't appear until the 19th century.

They made their living by hawking (selling) and tinkering, which was repairing pots and pans.

The best time of year that they enjoyed the most was in the summer when they could all meet up and go hop picking and fruit collecting.

Back in the 17th century a lot of gypsies were animal trainers, others were musicians and entertainers.

But the most skilled were metal workers. As a side line the women would tell fortunes, as they still do today.

Fortune telling was only a woman's job. Men were not allowed to even touch the cards. A drabadi, or fortune teller would read the tea leaves, read palms, look in a crystal ball or read the Tarot cards to a wide eyed punter.

Of course their were a lot of imposters, but most of the female gypsies really did believe in their own powers to see the future.

They also had a huge belief in charms and talismans. Such as bracelets, wooden toys in the shape of animals which the men had carved from their sacred trees, and other hand made charms.

A quick note about Tinkers:

Irish travellers were called Tinkers for many years, as they tended to earn their money only mending pots and pans. They become renowned for this, but these days as political correctness takes a tighter grip they have sadly dropped the word and now they are just called Travellers. I personally think its a shame, as the word Tinkers to me, has a mysterious ring to it.

Appleby Horse fair with bow top vardo's and Vanner horses - Cumbria

Appleby horse fair vardo's and vanners
Appleby horse fair vardo's and vanners

Vans and Vardo's

Modern gypsies travel around in modern caravans. Which is a shame. Why?

Because I believe psychologically, if we see the old colorful Vardo's with their amazing gypsy vanner horses arriving in our towns and cities, we always see the glamorous side of gypsy life.

The only time you tend to see the old Vardo caravans is at Appleby Horse Fair which is held every year in June. Appleby is in Cumbria England.

But to see them appear in modern caravans doesn't have the same effect. In fact there is a lot of anger around gypsies when they take over a field or park then leave lots of rubbish behind.

Trouble is most people do not differentiate between Irish travellers and Romany gypsies. Romany gypsies are very clean and tidy people. And I am sure most of the Irish Traveller community is too.

But a small group of either will give them all a bad name, sadly.

The one thing that makes me smile is when I see the young gypsy guy on his horse and trap clip clopping round the town. Everybody stops to watch him. And they always have a look on their faces as if to say, 'ah the good old days'.

And that's the magic of gypsies. The color the mystery, the horses and vardo's, and of course the incredible music that they play on their violins and guitars while sitting around the campfire in the twilight.

With a girl dancing to the gypsy music, and the flickering fire light, you can't get more mysterious than that.


Gypsy girl in modern caravan

gypsy girl in modern caravan
gypsy girl in modern caravan

Modern Day Gypsies

With all the changes over the last few years gypsies have had to make a great leap of culture. No longer are they welcomed onto private fields or parks, fruit picking has been taken over by young people or visitors from abroad, and the law has clamped down on gypsies parking at the side of the road.

It seems that tolerance, where the Romanies are concerned has got worse instead of better.

Many have given up the road and settled into houses. And have become 'house dwellers'. But they still retain their culture in other ways.

Appleby fair for example is a yearly meet up of all the gypsies in England. Where horse sales, racing and so on helps to keep the culture alive.

Its a shame that the old ways have gone and we no longer see the old caravans appearing in our towns, but thanks to a few trouble makers the rest have had to suffer.

My husbands family are gypsies. To walk into their house is a revelation. Gypsies are collectors, and boy do they collect!

Loads of ornaments adorn small coffee tables, miniature Vardo's dot around the room and on the wall photo's and paintings of the old caravans and people. Its rather like stepping into living history.

When I married into the family the first thing they said to me was 'You are now one of us!'

And that is the heart and generous soul of the gypsy.

Washing the horses - Appleby

Appleby horse fair
Appleby horse fair

Sources:

The Gypsy Crown - Kate Forsyth published 2008 children's stories

The Romani People - Wikipedia

And of course family stories and tales from my gypsy family in laws.

Photos - public domain and pixabay

© 2018 Nell Rose

Comments

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    • Nell Rose profile imageAUTHOR

      Nell Rose 

      9 months ago from England

      Happy Christmas Tim. Yes my husband is a Romany Gypsy so I get all the details from him.

    • Tim Truzy info4u profile image

      Tim Truzy 

      9 months ago from U.S.A.

      Hi, Nell,

      Fabulous article. I read about the Gyptsies on many occasions. One book suggests these particular group of Untouchables were banquished from India because of their unique ability to look into the future and practice their religion which is not like Hinduism.

      Great article, as always.

      I'm not of the great bloodline of Gypsies, but I can see me reading more of your articles in my future.

      Have happy holidays, Nell!

      Sincerely,

      Tim

    • Nell Rose profile imageAUTHOR

      Nell Rose 

      14 months ago from England

      Hi Shauna, thanks for reading, I have written a book about it, and how I learned their ways. of course there are some hilarious parts of the book to that people say, no really? LOL! its called Gypsies by Nell R. Loveridge if you are interested and thanks!

    • bravewarrior profile image

      Shauna L Bowling 

      14 months ago from Central Florida

      Fascinating article, Nell. I'd love to hear more about the gypsy culture. Would your inlaws allow you to document some of their stories and celebrations? I'd love to see first hand photos and videos. I'm sure your readers would, too.

    • Nell Rose profile imageAUTHOR

      Nell Rose 

      15 months ago from England

      Thanks so much Deepa, that must have been great being a journalist, thanks for reading.

    • Deepa damodaran profile image

      Deepa 

      15 months ago from India

      Fascinating article. I have read somewhere Gypsies worshiped as God, the stones they collected from different places as they traveled around. A fitting God indeed for a nomadic people. I used to travel a lot as a journalist and I collected stones and kept them with me, quite in the Gypsy style. Just fancied myself being like a Gypsy..anyway, thanks for the article. Gave me many things to think about.

    • Nell Rose profile imageAUTHOR

      Nell Rose 

      16 months ago from England

      Oh you wouldn't believe it Peggy! LOL! thanks again for reading .

    • Peggy W profile image

      Peggy Woods 

      16 months ago from Houston, Texas

      I really enjoyed reading this article. There was much information that I did not know. I cannot understand why gypsies were treated so horribly in the past. That wedding video was most interesting. The clothing is so colorful and I love the look of their horses and vardos. You must have many tales to tell since you married into a gypsy family.

    • Nell Rose profile imageAUTHOR

      Nell Rose 

      16 months ago from England

      Hi Nina, thanks again. Yes I think it all depends on which country they are living in. Finland is a lovely country whereas other countries even England can be unforgiving.

    • fairychamber profile image

      Niina Niskanen 

      16 months ago from Wrexham

      This was so interesting. Lot´s of new information for me. I knew about the tidiness and the collecting. In Finland, gypsies or Romani´s like they are called in Finnish are very religious and devoted Christians. They are very spiritual. One of my old graphic design teachers was a Romani. He was a really nice guy.

    • Nell Rose profile imageAUTHOR

      Nell Rose 

      18 months ago from England

      Hi Flourish, yes they are great! I do miss living on a site, thanks

    • FlourishAnyway profile image

      FlourishAnyway 

      19 months ago from USA

      What a fascinating culture to marry into, and it’s wonderful that they embraced you so warmly.

    • Nell Rose profile imageAUTHOR

      Nell Rose 

      19 months ago from England

      Definitely Genna, they are one of the most generous people I know. Thanks as always.

    • Genna East profile image

      Genna East 

      19 months ago from Massachusetts, USA

      The photograph in the opening of your article is so colorful...filled with a vibrancy of life. I have long admired the gypsy heart, and never understood why they were subjected to such cruelty. In some ways, I think that their culture represents something magical that we have lost. Loved this article, Nell.

    • Nell Rose profile imageAUTHOR

      Nell Rose 

      19 months ago from England

      LOL! thanks Martie! I would love to see your jaws on your feet! LOL! I will try to find a photo, and thanks for making me laugh!

    • MartieCoetser profile image

      Martie Coetser 

      19 months ago from South Africa

      What an interesting post! My jaws are on my feet. Your insight in the world of the gypsies is remarkable, Nell, although expected from 'one of them'.

      I would love to see a picture of your husband :)))

    • Nell Rose profile imageAUTHOR

      Nell Rose 

      19 months ago from England

      Thanks Nadine, its more the state and politicians these days. Local councils treat them like rubbish. such a shame, thanks as always.

    • Nell Rose profile imageAUTHOR

      Nell Rose 

      19 months ago from England

      How fascinating Garry! Just goes to show that you can get good or bad in any culture. Amazing you born into a carny family! I would love that! thanks for reading.

    • Garry Reed profile image

      Garry Reed 

      19 months ago from Dallas/Fort Worth, Texas

      Fascinating. I was born into a carny family and grew up in the 1950s traveling on carnivals all over the Midwest. That was my only contact with any U.S. Gypsies. Almost every year there were Gypsies on the carnival and they always had a fortune-telling tent. The women worked it as a distraction to get men inside to pick their pockets while the men went into town to case the stores and rob them late at night. We certainly knew all Gypsies weren’t like that. One year I worked as a ball boy in a joint for an English Gypsy couple who were very nice and didn’t like the American Gypsies at all. I could tell many stories about what I witnessed about the doings and goings-on about carny Gypsies in the 1950s.

    • Nadine May profile image

      Nadine May 

      19 months ago from Cape Town, Western Cape, South Africa

      Oh I absolutely loved reading this post Nell. I'm sure in one of my incarnations I must have been a Gypsy. I love the creative spirit of people who be their own boss and live a lifestyle they prefer instead of trying to fit into a mold. Yes they were prosecuted all over the world and probably still do in some parts where the churches have a stronghold on the population.

    • Nell Rose profile imageAUTHOR

      Nell Rose 

      20 months ago from England

      Yes they do! Its so pretty inside those caravans. Thanks Ptosis! always good to see you!

    • ptosis profile image

      ptosis 

      20 months ago from Arizona

      I like the old fashioned campers that opened up box. I hear they paint the ceiling inside also.

    • Nell Rose profile imageAUTHOR

      Nell Rose 

      20 months ago from England

      Thanks Peg, yes it seems that we are being pushed into the ways of the pc brigade without us realising. And its people like these who suffer, the good thing is that they still have their caravans, and of course Appleby Fair!

    • PegCole17 profile image

      Peg Cole 

      20 months ago from Northeast of Dallas, Texas

      Fascinating insight into a totally different way of life. I loved the old Vardos with the horses and the beautiful clothing in the wedding video. Too bad that political correctness has curbed the ancient and colorful descriptive names. They lend such a mystique and intrigue to the old stories. It seems a shame to lose the true heritage in the changes.

    • Nell Rose profile imageAUTHOR

      Nell Rose 

      20 months ago from England

      Thanks so much Devika, always good to see you!

    • DDE profile image

      Devika Primić 

      20 months ago from Dubrovnik, Croatia

      A fascinating topic about Gypsies. You enlightened me so much more than what I had in mind.

    • Nell Rose profile imageAUTHOR

      Nell Rose 

      20 months ago from England

      Yes they are all good singers too! lol! they love patsy kline and all the 50's songs. its part of their heritage to sing, thanks Dora!

    • CaribTales profile image

      Dora Weithers 

      20 months ago from The Caribbean

      Very informative! Thanks for the education about gypsies. I do not often hear positives about them, but you show us that they struggle and overcome like the rest of us and make their contributions. Bet they add a lot of color to your life.

    • Nell Rose profile imageAUTHOR

      Nell Rose 

      20 months ago from England

      Thanks Kari, yes they are pretty unique! lol! thanks for reading.

    • k@ri profile image

      Kari Poulsen 

      20 months ago from Ohio

      I have always found gypsies to be interesting. How lucky to marry into a family. Thanks for this look into their lives.

    • Nell Rose profile imageAUTHOR

      Nell Rose 

      20 months ago from England

      Thanks Linda, yes its a very colorful and fascinating culture, thanks as always.

    • AliciaC profile image

      Linda Crampton 

      20 months ago from British Columbia, Canada

      This is an interesting and very enjoyable article, Nell. Gypsies have a fascinating culture.

    • Nell Rose profile imageAUTHOR

      Nell Rose 

      20 months ago from England

      Thanks Jackie, lol!

    • Nell Rose profile imageAUTHOR

      Nell Rose 

      20 months ago from England

      Hi Bill, that sounds fascinating! I will have to go look it up. thanks for reading.

    • Jackie Lynnley profile image

      Jackie Lynnley 

      20 months ago from The Beautiful South

      This so much fun to read, Nell!

      Sometimes I believe you, my friend, are a gypsy at heart!

    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 

      20 months ago from Olympia, WA

      We are binge watching a show on Hulu called "Shut Eye" about gypsy families. Fascinating history and people.

    • Nell Rose profile imageAUTHOR

      Nell Rose 

      20 months ago from England

      Thanks Frank, glad you liked it.

    • Nell Rose profile imageAUTHOR

      Nell Rose 

      20 months ago from England

      Thanks Mary, yes they started out in India, and went around the world. Their culture fascinates me. Thanks as always.

    • Nell Rose profile imageAUTHOR

      Nell Rose 

      20 months ago from England

      Hi quicksand, what a great story! and thanks for reading.

    • Frank Atanacio profile image

      Frank Atanacio 

      20 months ago from Shelton

      Nell, I did find your hub intelligent, educational and all together smart and not too historical.. but detailed... yeah awesome....

    • aesta1 profile image

      Mary Norton 

      20 months ago from Ontario, Canada

      This is really interesting. When we were in Pakistan, I attended a lecture on the origin of the gypsies which they claim to be there. Pakistan was formerly part of India. How they have survived as a distinct culture begs a study.

    • quicksand profile image

      quicksand 

      20 months ago

      I once read a story of a gypsy boy who had been selling candlesticks at 50 pence each.

      He had rung the bell of a house and the lady who had answered the doorbell had given him one pound and sent him away.

      Hours later when she had opened the front door once more she had discovered that the gypsy boy had raked the lawn neatly before leaving!

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