If you only read one thing this week, I highly recommend a Mental Floss article entitled “The Mysterious 19th Century ‘Princess’ Who Fooled a Town‘” by Paul Anthony Jones.
In this article, Jones tells the intriguing story of a woman who showed up in a small English town in 1817, refusing to speak anything but an unintelligible language. The townspeople dismissed her as an insane beggar, until a Portuguese sailor showed up who claimed he could interpret for her, and who revealed that the woman was none other than the Princess Caraboo from Javasu, who had escaped after being kidnapped from her home island. In an abrupt change of attitude, the townspeople embraced her, and gave her the treatment due someone of her stature. The ruse went on for weeks until a woman in another part England recognized her description in the Bristol Journal and identified her as a cobbler’s daughter from a town 70 miles away.
The article fills in many morefacets of this strange case, but there are still several aspects that are apparently lost to history. Who was the sailor? Did he come up with the story? Or did the woman tell him what to say? The woman clearly had a grasp of her native English, and the mental capacity to capitalize on her notoriety later in life, so why did she keep up her charade when the townspeople dismissed her as an insane beggar and made her spend days in “St. Peter’s Hospital for Vagrants” in Bristol? Was the arrival of the Portuguese sailor always part of her plan, or just a stroke of good fortune?
Be sure to leave your theories and questions in the comments below!