Whatever happened to Princess Caraboo, the imposter Mary Baker.
Princess Caraboo, The Arrival.
The date is 3, April 1817. The place a village near Bristol in Gloucestershire. England. The village is called Almondsbury and on this date villagers and locals alike, became aware of Princess Caraboo. The Princess staggered along the high street apparrently in a state of exhaustion. She was babbling a language not understood by anyone who took notice of her.She was wearing the most outlandish clothes but most noticeable was a beautiful black turban.
Who Is She.
She was taken by locals to see Mr. Overton, he had responsibility to help the poor in the village. She seemed to be without means so he was the first person to try to assist her. However, educated though he was he could not understand her either. He took her to see the local magistrate Mr. Samuel Worrall hoping for a decision on what to do with the woman, who was still trying to speak to them in this strange language. Mrs. Worrall welcomed the woman Quite taken by her clothing and the beautiful black turban. Her husband was less than impressed with the princess. It was established that she did not have any identity papers but she was carrying an amount of forged currency. In the short term Mr. Worrall sent her to stay at the local inn, he sent two of his servants to help her as required.
At The Inn.
The princess appeared to relax a little once settled in and pointed at a wall picture of fruit as if recognising it. She refused however to eat dinner though she seemed obviously hungry. She did drink some tea after saying a prayer. On retiring for the night she seemed not to recognise the bed, and slept on the floor. Although everyone seemed to like her, within a day or two the princess was taken to St Peter's Hospital in Bristol and placed there as a vagrant. Her fame was growing, people wanted to see her and to meet her. Mrs. Worrall took pity on her and brought her back the The Knole, this being the name of the large house and gardens where the Worralls lived.
Life At The Knole.
One morning saw the arrival of Manuel Eynesso, a Portuguese sailor who claimed to understand the princess. After a long 'conversation' he announced that the woman was Caraboo, a princes from the island of Javasu. She had been taken by pirates and sold as a slave. She had jumped ship at Bristol and had found her way to Almondsbury by chance. The Worralls were delighted, they found some local fame as friends and people from around the county came to see and try and speak with Princess Caraboo. Her presence was noted by the press, who relished in the reporting of her habit of climbing trees to call to her god 'Allah Tallah'as well as her swimming naked in the lake.
The Truth Is Revealed.
Her newspaper photographs were seen by a Mrs.Neale, she was a Bristol boarding house owner and she recognised the 'Princess Caraboo' as a former lodger, her name was Mary Baker. She also remembered that Mary had entertained her own children, by talking in a made up language and wearing a large black turban for effect. When she exposed the truth society was incredulous, they had all been taken in by a working class homeless woman and it hurt. The press had a field day at the expense of the Worralls who decided on immediate action. They made arrangements for Mary's departure to the New World she was to go with two Moravian sisters who would keep her under supervision. Before the departure more of Mary's histor was discovered. She had been expelled from the Magdalen Hospital for Reformed Prostitutes in London, when it was discovered she had never been a prostitute at all.
The New World, Not For Long.
On arrival in the New World she made a living in similar fashion by exhibiting herself as the Princess Caraboo. After a while she tired of this and decided to return to England. In a total change of character, she settled down and became a successful businesswoman, selling leeches to Bristol Infirmary. Mary married and in 1829 she gave birth to a daughter. She died on Christmas Eve 1864. She was buried at the Hebron Road burial ground in Bedminster, Bristol. She still lies there in an unmarked grave. A sad end to a colourful life.
© 2012 Graham Lee