Princess Caraboo of Javasu

Edward Bird painted Princess Caraboo as an oil on panel in 1817, the year our chapel was built. The exotically named Princess Caraboo of Javasu was an imposter who captivated and fooled Bristol and Bath society for ten weeks in 1817. She spoke an unknown language which was actually gibberish, and indicated by signs that she was a person of rank from the East Indies (modern Indonesia) who had been captured by pirates. Her fanciful clothes are just as she described them to the family with whom she stayed. Before her final sitting with Bird for this portrait, she was exposed as the eccentric daughter of a Devonshire cobbler called Mary Willcocks. Interestingly, she claimed to worship a god called Alla-talla, as deceitful as all the other idols manufactured by liars the world over.

Georgian Bristol and Bath were two of the most sophisticated towns in the land, much more respected than the poor handloom weavers who were busy erecting our chapel. Yet for all their fashion and style, they were duped by a charlatan and her false god, rather than the northern weavers who lived and died for the one true God who made heaven and earth. Just because fashionable, respected folk believe something does not make it true; just because poor, uneducated folk accept something, does not make it false.

Where is the wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the disputer of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of this world? 1 Corinthians 1:20