The Gypsies
The Early History
Gypsies in Scotland
Gypsies in the Borders
The Yetholm Gypsies
Gypsy Families
The Faa Family
Jean Gordon

Charles Blyth I (1847-1861)

Charles was a man of a different hue. Crowned King, by the local blacksmith, George Gladstone, he was tall and powerful with a very imposing presence, piercing eyes and a prominent nose. He was at least seventy years of age at the time of his coronation on 25th October 1847.

As Tait states:

'Addicted to reading, and possessed of much general knowledge acquired by extensive observation, he was particularly well acquainted with the ballad literature of the Borders; and had often met with Sir Walter Scott, who was in the habit of visiting the royal encampment whenever he could conveniently do so. Charles' latter days were cheered by a weekly allowance granted to him by Lady John Scott, who had known him in her girlhood, and who wished to mitigate the hardships which had befallen gipsy royalty.'

Lady John Scott was the eldest daughter of Helen Wauchope, of the Wauchopes of Niddrie, landowners at Yetholm since 1643.

Charles travelled the country selling earthenware, dressed in the traditional style - knee breeches, velveteen coat and slouched hat with a red handkerchief at his throat and accompanied by his dog.

He was born in Yorkshire, and entered the royal family by marrying Esther, a sister of Will II. They had at least twelve children, six of whom are buried in Yetholm graveyard, four who died in infancy, and two girls, Betty and Jeanie, who both died in January 1835, barely out of their teens. Their gravestone describes them as the children of Esther Faa and Charles Blythe, feuar in Kirk Yetholm.

One of his sons left the area as a trained mason, married and settled in Halifax. There he joined the Methodists, becoming a disciple of John Wesley, and, according to his father, an excellent preacher.

At no time in his early life would he have expected to inherit the royal crown of the Scottish gypsies, but as his brother-in-law had no family, he was the nearest related male, if only by marriage, and bound to succeed.

When Charles died on 19th August 1861, at the good age of 86, the Kelso Chronicle in an obituary stated:

'Great grief in the gypsy community here and throughout the district on account of the venerable King whose death took place here on the 19th ultimo. It is not right that one exalted so high above his kindred should be laid in the dust without a word of farewell over his grave, especially when his reign was of a peaceful, and not a predatory character. Unike some of his contemporary monarchs, his rule was so mild that his subjects not only maintained a loyal deference, but were tenderly attached to him, while his exemplary habit of abstaining from interference or aggression procured him much of the goodwill and respect of other 'powers'. While his regal character and conduct was thus exemplary, his personal demeanour gained him the respect of those not acknowledging his sway. His palace had been a house of call for many a tourist and the conversation of the old king was generally much relished. His most noticeable habits were reading the Scriptures and chewing tobacco, of which he frequently received considerable quantities from his visitors. The deceased bore the designation of Charles I, being the first of that name to occupy the throne, and had attained the venerable age of 86. A large company followed the remains of Charles I to the last resting place in Yetholm churchyard.'

His son David, who lived in Berwickshire was expected to succeed, but he declined the inheritance in favour of his youngest sister, Helen. Helen had nursed Charles through his later years. However, Esther, her elder sister, who bore the royal name of Faa successfully asserted her claim to the title. This led to an almighty squabble between the two sisters.

On 27th September 1861, the Kelso Chronicle carried an article to the effect that Princess Helen, who was still resident in the royal palace would succeed Charles I. It continues:

'We have not heard whether the Princess Helen has been formally installed into her regal authority, or if any form is deemed necessary in this instance, but understand she is by nature eminently fitted to rule, possessing all the suavity of manner which it is possible to assume, and being able at all times to awe the gruffest and most unruly subject into respect and obedience.'

On 18th October, the Kelso Chronicle backtracked on its previous article by saying:

'It seems that the succession to his late Majesty Charles I is not to be accomplished in such a smooth and peaceful manner as was some time ago expected. We announced recently that the youngest daughter of the late king, the Princess Helen, would, in accordance with the express desire of her royal father, reign in his stead, but, within the last few days, the eldest daughter, Princess Etty who has been residing in Coldstream, has appeared on the scene and put in her claim.'

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The Faa Family - The Gypsies

Esther Faa Blythe

Charles Faa Blythe Coronation

At St James Fair 1907

At St James Fair 1907

Kirk Yetholm Green c1920

Kirk Yetholm - Muggers Row c1920

Looking up the hill to Staerough

Kirk Yetholm Gypsy Palace c1945

King & Queen and Palace

Gypsy Palace present day