The story of 'Princess Caraboo' is one of the most extraordinary stories of Regency England. The sitter, whose real name was Mary Baker, turned up in Almondsbury, in Gloucestershire, in April 1817, alone, destitute, and dressed with an exotic turban style shawl about her head. There she was sent to see the Overseer of the Poor who in turn sent her to Knole Park, the home of Samuel Worrall, the Magistrate of the county. The Worralls were intrigued by her as she appeared to speak an unrecognisable foreign language and she managed to convince them that her name was 'Caraboo' and that she was a Princess from the island of Javasu from where she had been abducted by sailors from whom, after a long journey, she had eventually escaped by jumping overboard in the English Channel a story which a Portuguese sailor appeared to verify. Convinced that she was foreign Royalty it was not long before her story spread all over England. In the meantime she lived at Knole Park in grand style spending her days dancing, fencing, climbing trees, and praying to her god 'Alla Tallah'. However her deception came to an abrupt end when a woman called Mrs Neale recognized a description of Caraboo printed in the Bath Chronicle and revealed that she had recently employed her as a servant at her house where she had entertained the children by speaking a strange nonsense language, and that her real name was Mary Baker, daughter of a cobbler in Witheridge, Devon, which 'Princess Caraboo' reluctantly admitted.
'Princess Caraboo' later travelled to Philadelphia where she evoked considerable curiosity but returned to England seven years later where she occasionally responded to the continued interest in the Caraboo story by giving public performances dressed as the princess. As her popularity faded, however, she made a living instead selling leeches. She died in Bristol in 1865. This portrait was painted at the height of her fame in 1817. She was also painted by Edward Bird.