Esther Faa Blythe (1861-1883)
It is surely no coincidence that Murray dedicates his book 'The Gypsies of the Border' to 'Her Majesty, Esther Faa Blythe, The Gypsy Queen'. At the time he was writing, in 1875, she was the most important and well-known name in the gypsy world.
The last of the royal Faas, she is described as having a pleasing aspect and an olive complexion. She was an intelligent woman with a very shrewd nature, but a fiery temper. Like many gypsy women, she was an addict to tobacco and was often seen with her clay pipe.
Born between 1801 and 1805, she was Charles' second child. Having been brought in a house where the reading of the Scriptures was a daily happening, she was well aware of the teachings and stories of the Bible. She, however, was never a great reader like her father.
She married John Rutherford, known as 'Jethart Jock' in an irregular ceremony at Coldstream. He was a mason and plasterer to trade. They had twelve children.
Prior to her crowning, she had lived a travelling style of life, touring the countryside from Coldstream with her horse and cart selling her crockery. There is no evidence of her having ever been a fortune teller.
Her palace was a single storey, white-washed thatched cottage, with ivy covered walls. The single room was kept neat and tidy and was relatively well furnished with two beds, in recesses on either side of the fireplace, a chest of drawers, a clock, pictures and a cat.
In August 1866, she was paid a visit by George Borrow, the writer and 'expert' on all things Romany. He was surprised to find that she had virtually no skill in the Romany language. He, however describes her as follows:
'There was something of the gentlewoman in her; on my offering her money, she refused to take it, saying that she did not want it, and it was with the utmost difficulty that I persuaded her to accept a trifle, with which, she said, she would buy herself some tea.'
Lucas visited her in March 1880, and recorded his impressions of her:
'.. she was distinguished by a dignity of bearing and a courteous independence of manner to which the bright eye, dark eye-brows, and silvery hair, appearing under the white frill of a tight-fitting linen cap, somewhat quaintly peaked at the back, gave a peculiar charm. Save for her marvellous bright eyes, Queen Esther retains little of the characteristics of the Gypsy race, a fact which has been made the most of by George Borrow. Her younger sister, Princess Helen, retains the black hair and dark complexion of the 'Egyptians'.'
The Faa Family - The Gypsies