Mary Baker-Willcocks

Mary Baker-Willcocks

British, scammer
Country: Great Britain

Mary Baker-Wilcox, the Princess Caraboo

Mary Baker-Wilcox, also known as Princess Caraboo, was a British fraudster. She was born Mary Baker (nee Willcocks) on 1791 and passed away on December 24, 1864. Her story as Princess Caraboo began on April 3, 1817, when a shoemaker from Almondsbury, Gloucestershire, England encountered a very strange young woman on the street. The woman was dressed unusually, appeared lost, and spoke in an unintelligible language. The shoemaker's wife handed the woman over to the authorities, and ultimately the case was given to the magistrate Samuel Worrall. Neither Worrall nor his wife Elizabeth could understand the woman's speech, except for a few details. She referred to herself as "Caraboo" and showed familiarity with Chinese pictures. Later, in a local inn, Caraboo recognized a picture of a pineapple, not only indicating that she was familiar with the fruit but also correctly naming it "ananas" (Caraboo used a foreign word for pineapple, which is "ananas" in English). Even the Greek servant working for the Worralls could not identify the mysterious woman's language. Caraboo continued to behave strangely, choosing to sleep only on the floor. Eventually, Worrall decided that she was an ordinary beggar and needed to be sent to Bristol for trial. However, before he could carry out his plan, something about Caraboo's story began to unravel. A Portuguese sailor named Manuel Eynesso claimed to understand Caraboo's language and translated her story. It turned out that Caraboo was a princess from the island of Javasu in the Indian Ocean. She had been kidnapped by pirates from her native island and managed to escape by jumping overboard and swimming to the Bristol Channel. Princess Caraboo instantly became a local celebrity. She lived at the Worrall's house and spent her free time engaging in exotic activities such as archery, fencing, nude swimming, and mysterious prayers to Allah Tallah. Mr. Worrall and his Greek servant remained skeptical, but Elizabeth became infatuated with the exotic guest. With the help of the locals, Caraboo managed to create a new, rather exotic outfit for herself, and soon her portrait was even printed in the local newspapers. Unfortunately, Caraboo's excessive popularity eventually led to her downfall. Her portrait caught the attention of a certain Mrs. Neale, who wasted no time in exposing the true identity of the princess. It turned out that Caraboo was not a Chinese official's daughter or a native woman at all. Mary Baker-Wilcox, or Caraboo's real name, was born in the family of a shoemaker in Witheridge, Devon. For a while, Mary tried working as a maid, but the profession did not interest her. During her travels, she accidentally discovered that people treated foreigners much better than locals. However, it was difficult for her to pass herself off as a French or Spanish woman, as there was a high risk of someone exposing her lies. Exposing Princess Caraboo's story was challenging, as Mary claimed to be from distant and little-known places. Additionally, she possessed remarkable acting abilities and quickly adapted to her surroundings. The mysterious language Willcocks partially invented herself and partially gathered from her existing knowledge. The British press found great amusement in the naivety of the Worralls and other townspeople, and they believed it was in their best interest to rid themselves of the person who had brought embarrassment to the entire country. Mary was sent to the United States, to Philadelphia, with the assistance of the Worrall family. However, Caraboo quickly disappeared in an unknown direction. In 1821, Mary returned to Britain, once again assuming the role of Caraboo. Rumors spread that Wilcox had visited the island of Saint Helena on her way home and had even charmed Napoleon there, but the credibility of these rumors is unlikely. This time, her performance as the princess did not achieve the same success in Britain. There were rumors that Wilcox attempted to impersonate a princess in continental Europe as well, but she failed there too. Eventually, Mary returned to England, got married, and gave birth to a daughter. It is known that in 1839, the former princess supplied leeches to one of Bristol's hospitals. Mary, who had taken the surname Burgess by that time, passed away on December 24, 1864. Her body was buried in an unmarked grave.

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