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)

.... [cont'd]

Helen was claiming the throne on the basis of her father's dying wish, and the fact that she was resident in the palace. When she had to leave the palace unattended, she locked and barred it to ensure that her sister could not take possession.

On the 8th November, the Chronicle reports:

'The succession to the gypsy kingdom is still a matter of keen dispute between the royal sisters ... Etty has urged her pretensions to the coveted title on the ground of 'hereditary right' as she terms it, and because she alone of the family bears the royal name of Faa, maintaining that her brother has no right to gift away 'crowns and kingdoms'.

'The two sisters are thoroughly in earnest in their assertion and maintenance of what they consider their rights, and, in order that a settlement may be effected as pacifically as possible, it is proposed to let a vote of the gypsies and the inhabitants of Kirk Yetholm amd Town Yetholm decide the matter, the poll to take place in one of these places, according to present arrangements, on Tuesday first, 12th November.'

'Esther is confident of success, having been promised the suffrages of many of the respectable inhabitants of the villages, and the vote of the minister of the parish being counted safe on her side. Her active and resolute sister is no less sanguine, and will have powerful support, both among the tribes and the public.'

The report includes the proclamation which Etty had issued:

'I, Esther Faa Blyth, hereby notify and make known that in consequence of the lamented death of my father, lately King of the Gipsies, and in consequence of a pretender to the vacant crown having arisen in the person of my younger sister, the question in dispute will be settled at Yetholm on Tuesday the 12th day of November instant, and I do hereby summon and command all the members of the various tribes to appear there on the day named, and at the same time invite all the inhabitants of these villages and neighbourhood favourable to my cause to come forward and record their votes in my favour, by doing which they will ensure the promotion to royal honours and authority of the candidate possessing the most rightful claim, bearing as I do, the royal name of Faa, and being the eldest daughter of his late Majesty King Charles, and earn the enduring gratitude of my royal heart. - Esther Faa Blyth

Given under my hand and seal this first day of Nevember in the year of our Lord eighteen hundred and sixty-one years.'

The bearing of the name of Faa was of great importance to Esther, as she knew that her father had only become King because he had married into the family. He was a Blyth not a Faa, and the return to the throne of one bearing the name Faa was vital to her.

On the day of the election there was a good turn out of the tribes and the villagers. In the event, Esther was returned unopposed.

She was duly crowned with her title 'Queen Esther Faa Blythe, challenge who dare.'

This however, was not the end of the squabbling. The following year, the Chronicle reports:

'It seems that notwithstanding the recent election and coronation of a member of the royal family to the gypsy throne, a harmonious settlement has not yet been effected. It now appears that the late king's eldest son, Prince David, who had previously expressed his intention not to act upon his claim to the throne and had expressed the wish that the female rival to Esther should be raised to sovreignty, now puts forward his claim and has plainly intimated his intention of assuming the crown himself. He has given his friends to understand that his formal coronation will take place on Fastern's E'en. Whether Queen Esther will maintain her dignified position remains to be seen; but from the favour with which she has already been received, as well as from her capacity to conduct the affairs of the kingdom and look after her own interests, we suspect that it will be exceedingly difficult now to dethrone Queen Esther and enthrone King David.'

And so it proved. No record exists of any such attempt, and it would appear that both Helen and David realised that removing Esther was well nigh impossible.

Helen continued to live in the old palace, and there she entertained guests and visitors, many of whom believed she was still queen. She lived into her seventies, and stayed in the old palace until at least 1883.

Esther, meantime, left Coldstream and came to Kirk Yetholm to live in the cottage which we now know as 'The Palace', which was across the road and further up the hill from the old palace.

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