Mary Baker – Willcox - Princess Karaboo

Mary Baker – Willcox - Princess Karaboo

At the beginning of the 19th century, interest in exotic countries increased in Europe. And the further the country was, the better. On this “romantic” wave in the Old World, impostors continually appeared, claiming that they came from exotic islands. One of the most prominent representatives of this "current" is the adventurer Mary Baker-Willcox, posing as Princess Karaboo.

This story took place in the English city of Almonsbury. April 3, 1817 a strange girl appeared there. She had European features, was dressed in an oriental style, and spoke an incomprehensible language. The shoemaker who found her judged that the best place for a strange stranger would be a shelter for the poor. But they could not get there from the girl who she was and where she came from, so the unknown was sent to the magistrate Samuel Worrall. The servant of the judge, a Greek by origin, spoke several languages, but did not respond to any of the girls.

In the morning, Mrs. Worell, agitated and entranced by the stranger to the depths of her soul, continued to discover the truth, but only achievedthat the girl was interested in some Chinese engravings and figurines, in addition, she called herself “Karabou”. At the request of Judge Warrala, the pilgrim was sent to Bristol to find out the identity, but she seduced and began to refuse to eat - then Mrs. Worral's heart could not stand, and she persuaded her husband to accept the mysterious Karabah in their house.

In the following weeks, experienced travelers and just people who know foreign languages ​​came to the house of Uorall every day, but none of them could determine where the mysterious stranger came from. A Portuguese sailor soon appeared, stating that he understood the dialect spoken by Karaba, and told others that the girl was a princess from the island of Yavasu in the Indian Ocean, who was abducted by pirates and had miraculously escaped.

Strangely enough, but they believed in this almost fairy tale. The girl really began to be treated like a princess.

For the next 10 weeks, Mr. and Mrs. Worral did nothing but accept guests who came to their house in order to look at the exotic princess.

And the princess herself did her best to stir up interest in her own person: Warralov's personal tailor sewed traditional clothes on her instructions, the girl swam nude in the lake, fencing,performed strange dances, and the story of her life was overgrown with new exciting details. Once a week, the princess was taken to London, where artists painted her portraits, and in the newspapers regularly appeared new publications about the mysterious Karabah.

But it could not go on for long. In fact, the “unfortunate” princess Karaboo turned out to be a very real adventurer named Mary Baker – Willcox. She would have fooled others for a long time if Mrs. Nil, who had a girl when she worked as a maid, did not recognize her. The former mistress claimed that Mary entertained her daughters in her own language (a mixture of Spanish, Greek and Gypsy).

The identity of Mary Willcox was confirmed by another young man from Bristol, with whom she dined a few days before her transformation, and she ate steak and drank rum (in the guise of a princess, the girl did not touch either meat or alcohol). Mary Willcox tried to justify that she lived in India, but there it was no problem exposing her ignorance about the mores of this country.

After several unsuccessful attempts to continue to impersonate the princess, Mary Baker – Willcox had to reveal her true identity.

Having recovered from the first shock, the British press reappeared with reports of the self-styled princess, but this time the notes expressed amazement and a considerable degree of admiration, and also spoke of Mary Baker as a simple working girl who deceived high society and, thus, revealed vanity, peculiar to this class.

Many eyewitnesses noted that Mary had an excellent memory: the girl managed to dictate several pages of words from her invented language, never having gotten lost and not having forgotten the invented designations. Developing her own language and receiving from those around her the necessary information about the manners and customs of the supposedly native places, Mary increasingly entered into the image of the princess she chose and behaved exactly as befitted a foreign aristocracy. Mrs. Worral's vanity, who desperately wanted her guest to be a foreign princess, as well as other representatives of British society, who dreamed to diversify the monotonous everyday life with romantic stories about mysterious faraway lands, contributed to the success of the swindler.

When the secret became clear, Mr. and Mrs. Worral,burning with shame and wanting to stop the mockery of themselves in any way, they put Mary on a ship and sent to America, providing her with decent means for the first time and accompanying her with two Puritan ladies. Upon arrival in Philadelphia, the British adventurer was greeted by enthusiastic crowds who wanted to see the princess, so that for a while Mary had the opportunity to continue to improvise.

The interest of the Americans to the person Karabah was enough for several years, after which their ardor died away. In the end, Mary Baker-Willcox returned to England and even tried to organize paid performances, but the public did not want to step on the same rake. In addition, the tireless daughter of the shoemaker attempted to play the usual performance in France and Spain, but even there the “foreign aristocrat” was greeted indifferently. In 1828, Mary finally settled in a suburb of Bristol, married, had a daughter, and later figured in city documents as a supplier of leeches at a local hospital. Mary Willcox – Baker – Burgess died in 1864 at the age of 75 and was buried in an unmarked grave.

This story served as the basis for the 1994 film The Princess Karaboo.

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  • Mary Baker – Willcox - Princess Karaboo

    Mary Baker – Willcox - Princess Karaboo

    Mary Baker – Willcox - Princess Karaboo

    Mary Baker – Willcox - Princess Karaboo

    Mary Baker – Willcox - Princess Karaboo

    Mary Baker – Willcox - Princess Karaboo

    Mary Baker – Willcox - Princess Karaboo

    Mary Baker – Willcox - Princess Karaboo

    Mary Baker – Willcox - Princess Karaboo

    Mary Baker – Willcox - Princess Karaboo

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