Princess Caraboo was the assumed persona of Mary Baker, who fooled a town in Gloucestershire, England into thinking she was exiled royalty for a period in 1817. Her creativity and ability to fool a large group of people for weeks on end have made Princess Caraboo one of the most notorious tricksters of all time.
Princess Caraboo first appeared in Almondsbury, Gloucestershire on 3 April 1817, wandering the streets in a turban, apparently disoriented and homeless. A local man took her to the Overseer of the Poor, who in turn left her in the hands of the magistrate, Samuel Worrall. Princess Caraboo fascinated those around her with her bizarre language, which no one could place or decipher.
Princess Caraboo was placed briefly at a local inn, where she exhibited more puzzling behavior. She became excited over a picture of a pineapple on the wall, indicating that the fruit grew in her homeland, wherever that was. She would eat no meat, tried to sleep on the floor, and showed interest in furniture and decorations of Chinese design.
Samuel Worrall's wife was particularly fascinated with Princess Caraboo and eventually invited her to stay at their family home. However, Worrall himself was suspicious and sent the girl to the mayor in Bristol to stand trial. Since the mayor could not understand Princess Caraboo's speech, he sent her to St. Peter's Hospital. She continued to act strangely, refusing to eat any food but vegetables or to sleep in a bed. After a week, she moved to Worrall's offices in Bristol.
During her time in Bristol, Princess Caraboo was visited by a number of people who attempted to decipher or at least identify her language. Finally, a Portuguese sailor named Manuel Eynesso claimed he could understand her and related her story. She was purportedly from the island Javasu in the East Indies and had been kidnapped by sailors. She escaped by jumping overboard in the Bristol Channel and swimming ashore.
Princess Caraboo returned to the Worrall home, where she enjoyed celebrity status for a period of ten weeks. She entertained a flood of curious visitors with skilled fencing, archery, dancing, and repeating her tale of abduction and escape. She wrote down examples of her language, which were sent to Oxford for analysis. Her portrait was printed in local papers.
Mary Baker's fun came to an end when she was identified by a woman who recognized her from her portrait. The exotic princess was actually a cobbler's daughter from Devon who had been unable to secure a position as a serving girl. The Worralls arranged a trip for the girl to Philadelphia, USA on 28 June 1817. She continued to impersonate Princess Caraboo in America and during brief trips to France and Spain, but was not as successful with her real identity exposed.
Mary Baker later settled down in Bristol, where she married and had a daughter. In later life, she made a living selling leeches to the Bristol Infirmary Hospital. She passed away on 4 January 1865, at the age of 74. She was buried in an unmarked grave, but a plaque now commemorates the home in Bristol where she spent the last eleven years of her life.