King of the Gypsies
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The title King of the Gypsies has been claimed or given over the centuries to many different people. It is both culturally and geographically specific. It may be inherited, acquired by acclamation or action, or simply claimed. The extent of the power associated with the title varied; it might be limited to a small group in a specific place, or many people over large areas. In some cases the claim was clearly a public relations exercise. As the term Gypsy is also used in many different ways the King of the Gypsies may be someone with no connection with the Romani people.
It has also been suggested that in places where they were persecuted by local authorities the "King of the Gypsies" is an individual, usually of low standing, who places himself in the risky position of an ad hoc liaison between the Romani and the gadje (non-Romani). The arrest of such a "King" limited the harm to the Romani people.
John (Johnnie) Faa 
Johnnie Faa of Dunbar was leader of the 'Egyptians', or Gypsies, in Scotland. Faa was granted a letter under the Privy Seal from King James IV in February 1540, which was renewed in 1553. It was addressed to "oure louit Johnne Faw, lord and erle of Litill Egipt" establishing his authority over all Gypsies in Scotland and calling on all sheriffs in the country to assist him "in executione of justice upoun his company and folkis", who were to "conforme to the lawis of Egipt".
Johnnie Faa is associated with the tragic tale of "The Countess and the Gypsy". The story runs that Faa, styled King of the Gypsies, ran away with a Countess of Cassillis. Her enraged husband caught up with them at a ford over the Doon, still called the Gypsies’ Steps. He hanged Faa and his followers on a Dule Tree on a mound in front of the Castle Gate at Cassillis while his wife was forced to watch from an upstairs room. He then imprisoned her in Maybole Castle for the rest of her life. The Earl is also supposed to have built an oriel window facing the place of execution and an outside staircase decorated with carvings of the faces of her lover and his gallant band, and then married again while his wife was imprisoned.
An alternative version has it that her lover was an aristocrat who was accompanied by Gypsies who "cuist the glaumourye ower her." All of this seems to be entirely mythical; the oriel window and steps pre-date the time of the tale, the Earl was a devout Churchman unlikely to be given to bigamy. On his wife's death Cassillis wrote a touching letter referring to her as "my deir bedfellow". If she did run away with her lover she didn’t get far, as the Gypsy Steps are only a few hundred yards from the castle.
The story seems to come from the concatenation of an old ballad "Johnnie Faa" well known before the date of the tale. There are many regional versions telling a similar story, and one of which mentions Cassillis. It is believed that Johnnie Faa stayed in the district and had a camp near Culroy Cassillis.
Johnne Wanne 
Son and successor of Johnnie Faa, Johnne Wanne was granted Royal authority over all "Egyptians" in Scotland in May 1540. Records showed that by 1612 the Faa family had extended as far as Shetland. However, the initial tolerance of Gypsies did not last. In 1623 eight leaders of the Gypsies were hanged on the Burgh Muir, six of whom were of the Faa line. In the 1650s they were amongst those transported to Virginia.
William Faa II 
Will Faa, "King of the Gypsies", died in Kirk Yetholm on 9 October 1847, aged 96. He was the son of William Faa I. Gypsies may have lived at Yetholm since before it became a permanent settlement, as the border location between Scotland and England made travel and avoidance of persecution easier. Settlement was encouraged when the laird built houses and a school for the Gypsy community during the 18th century. William Faa was an innkeeper (owned "The Queen") and footballer who lived at "The Gypsy Palace" off the Green, and entertained visitors there. The "Kelso Mail" carried his obituary entitled "Death of a Gypsy King", which said he was "always accounted a more respectable character than any of his tribe, and could boast of never having been in gaol during his life." His house continued to be a tourist attraction, and there was reportedly an "Old Palace" on the other side of Kirk Yetholm Green. William died without issue in 1847 when the 'Crown' passed to his sister Esther's husband Charles Blythe (1775-1861). Charles was an educated man who did much to live up to his role. On his death in 1861 there was a tussle between his many children for the right to be monarch. The role went to his daughter Esther Faa Blythe who reigned until 1883 when the gypsy culture was in serious decline. Following a gap (interregnum?)of several years in 1898 one of her sons Charles Rutherford was persuaded to accept the office and a ceremonial Gypsy Coronation was held in 1898. By this stage the role was largely an attempt to boost tourism. Charles died in 1902 and the title has not been re-established. An Edinburgh housewife is now thought to be the present 'Queen'.   
Billy Marshall 
Billy Marshall (1672–1792?) was born in Ayrshire in 1672 of Romany stock and claimed to be King of the Gypsies in south-east Scotland for most of the 18th century. He was a boxer, and served in the services, allegedly deserting from the Army seven times and from the Navy three times. He was supposed to have married 17 times and he had a huge crowd of illegitimate children (four of whom he is said to have fathered after his 100th birthday). He is also said to have been involved in murder and robbery, running a gang of gypsies in Galloway. He was the so-called 'King of the Randies', and having served as a soldier he was able to organise the country people who lost land when landowners built stone dykes and walls - his men went round knocking them down. Was a smuggler in Kirkcudbright. He was also reputed to be a gypsy and robber, and Caird (gypsy) of Burullion, the area he controlled. He was alleged to have lived to the age of 120, dying in 1792 and was buried in St Cuthbert's Churchyard where his grave can be visited and a coin left for the next gypsy who passes. 
The Boswells were for centuries one of England's largest and most important Gypsy families. The Boswell clan were a large extended family of Travellers, and in old Nottinghamshire dialect the word bos'll was used as a term for Travellers and Romanies in general.
Haniel Boswell 
Was the son of Francis Boswell. He baptised in London in 1583 and titled "King of the Gypsies". His descendants are reputed to include such colourful characters as "Black Jack Boswell", "The Flaming Tinman" and "Hairy Tom".
Jacob Rewbrey 
"Alias king of the Gypsies", from the St Margaret's Westminster, was tried at the Old Bailey on 28 August 1700 for theft with violence and highway robbery. It was alleged he had robbed "one Rebecca Sellers, near the High way, . . . taking from her 3 Gold-rings, and 9 s. in Money" in January of that year. The Jury found him Guilty of theft, but not Robbery, as "It appeared that he juggled tricked her out of it." He was sentenced to Penal transportation.
James Boswell 
Is buried in Rossington, near Doncaster in Yorkshire. Langdale's "Topographical Dictionary of Yorkshire" (1822), says:- "In the church yard, was a stone, the two ends of which are now remaining, where was interred the body of James Bosvill the King of the Gypsies, who died January 30, 1708. For a number of years, it was a custom of Gypsies from the south, to visit his tomb annually, and there perform some of their accustomed rites; one of which was to pour a flagon of ale upon the grave." This is similar to the ritual of "stalling the rogue" mentioned by Thomas Harman and in The Beggars Bush and by Bampfylde Moore Carew. A legend says that Boswell lived in Sherwood Forest helping travellers and Gypsies. Also that his grave was opened some months after his burial so that his black cat could be buried with him, and that a ghostly cat still appears on the churchyard wall. A tradition was reported of annual visits to the grave of Charles Boswell near Doncaster for more than 100 years into the 1820s, including a rite of pouring a flagon of hot ale into the tomb. This may be same person. the grave is situated by the main door leading to the church, shaded by a dark oak tree. It is now covered in moss, but is still readable. The words "King Of The Gypsies" will lie there for ever more, whereas the mystery of the black cat is still unsolved. - information on the grave by A. Needham - P. Needham, of St. Michaels church.
Henry Boswell 
"King of the Gypsies" died in 1760 at the age of 90 and was buried at Ickleford near Hitchin, Hertfordshire at the church of St. Catherine, as were his wife and grand-daughter. Royal National and Commercial Directory and Topography of Herts, Pigot & Co., London, 1839
Edmund Mashiter 
aka "Old Honey", died in Bolton, Lancashire in 1811 aged 90. He was reported to have been "justly entitled the King of Beggars", having been on the road for 70 years. He was reported to have been the son of a schoolmaster, and well educated, but to have taken to the road by choice, and maintained a wandering life until he became bedridden.
- The Gentleman's Magazine, 1 March 1811.
Henry Boswell 
John Nicholl Thom 
Considered himself to be Lord Courtenay and "The King of the Gypsies". The House of Commons appointed a Select Committee in 1838 "To inquire into all the circumstances connected with the discharge of John Nicholl Thom, alias Courtenay, from the Kent Lunatic Asylum". The Committee heard evidence over 3 days covering the process of his, his state of mind and character, and the possible political influence on a local election.
Louis Boswell 
Louis Boswell was buried at Eastwood church, Southend-on-Sea in 1835. In the Burial Register he is described as a "Traveller aged 42" – "This man known as the King of the Gypsies was interred in the presence of a vast concourse of spectators".
Buried at Calne 
Harry Burton 
Matty Cooper 
Taught the Romany language in the 1870s to Charles Godfrey Leland (1824–1903), the American folklorist and founder of the Gypsy Lore Society. Leland claimed Cooper was the King of the Gypsies in England
Xavier Petulengro 
Was described as the King of the Gypsies, in an account of a Romany wedding at Baildon in Yorkshire in 1937 between his son Leon Petulengro and Illeana Smith both of Colchester Essex. According to the caption of a photograph Xavier Petulengro cut the hands of the couple to mingle their blood during the ceremony. After their wedding the couple went north to Blackpool. During the war Leon was in the RAF and Ileana (Eileen) was a staff car driver for ICI. The marriage was dissolved in 1947 in Nottingham. Baildon was a famous fair and meeting place for Gypsies. Petulengro was well known as a broadcaster on Gypsy subjects. His son Leon wrote for the "Woman's Own" magazine.
Gilderoy Scamp 
- Gilderoy Scamp - King of the Gypsies, Linda Hayward, Romany Routes Volume 4 No 7 June 2000
Louis Welch 
Louis Welch of Yarm was described by British media as the "King of the Gypsies", a title given to the best bare-knuckled boxer in the Romanichal community, following an alleged attack by six knife-wielding men, possibly from a rival band of travellers, in Cumbria. He refused to give evidence against his attackers, saying it was "against the travellers' code of honour", and a retrial was ordered after the jury failed to reach a verdict.
Abram Wood 
Was a reputed King of the Gypsies born before the close of the 17th century. His descendants include musicians who helped to keep alive many musical traditions that were forced underground during the Methodist Revival. One was chief harpist to Queen Victoria and another taught the famous traditional Welsh harpist, Nansi Richards. He is credited with keeping the Romani language intact "in the fastnesses of Cambria." The Wood family was reputed to be fluent in three mutually unintelligible languages: Romani, English and Welsh. Children in North Wales were warned to beware "teulu Abram Wood", the family of Abram Wood (who would like all Gypsies, steal naughty little children). An untidy house was referred to as being like the "house of Abram Wood", (though Gypsy caravans have a reputation for being immaculately tidy and spotlessly clean).
Karoli family 
In the 1980s, Polykarp Karoli began styling himself "King of all Gypsies in Norway".
In 1990, while most of the family was serving prison time, Polykarp's grandson Martin Erik Karoli proclaimed himself "King of One Million Gypsies", claiming to be slated for a hundreds of years old crowning ceremony in Central Europe. After Polykarp's death in 2001, his two sons publicly rivalled for the title "King of All Gypsies in The World", estimating 47,8 million subjects throughout the world and citing various ancient ceremonies and royal registries.
This "King of the Gypsies" is suggested as a possible model for "A Grotesque Head" of the sketches of human physiognomy by Leonardo da Vinci, dated to (c.1503-07). Giorgio Vasari reported that Leonardo had done a drawing of "the Gypsy Captain Scaramuccia" which Vasari possessed, but it is not known what happened to it.
Iulian Rădulescu 
In 1993, Iulian Rădulescu proclaimed himself "Emperor of Roma Everywhere".
Florin Cioabă 
Acquired the title "King of Roma Everywhere" in 1997 from his father Ioan Cioabă who had claimed the title in 1992. Reports in 2003 that Cioabă, a Pentecostal Minister, had married off his own daughter at the age of 12 (or 14) caused uproar in the western media. The UN Economic and Social Council visited him in 1999 when preparing a report on Racism and Intolerance and described him as devoting himself to economic activity to support community projects, and exerting "moral authority" and having "some influence" as a councillor.
Ilie Stănescu 
In 2003, according to a decree issued by Emperor Iulian, Ilie Stănescu was proclaimed "International King of Roma".
Tamás Bolgár 
He was named as voivode of the "Pharaoh's People" in 1496. He seems to have led a group of metalworkers, as he was supplying the Bishop of Pécs with cannon balls. He was almost certainly the same person granted privileges by the King of Poland and Lithuania in 1501, who also recognised the privileges of Wasili as leader of the "Cyhany"
Matiasz Korolewicz 
Was conferred the title "King of the Gypsies" by the Polish Royal Chancery in 1652, after the death of Janczy who had previously served as the head of the Roma. Later Kings of the Gypsies seem to have been appointed from the aristocracy.
Janusz Kwiek 
The Gypsy King is associated with mythical powers of being able to part water with his sword, a spade, and his head, after it had been cut off, according to tales collected in 1981.
United States of America 
M. H. Frank 
Elijah George 
Described as king of the gypsies at the time of the massive search for Elsie Paroubek. Mr. George was contacted in Argyle, Wisconsin, and taken to Joliet, Illinois for questioning; but he knew nothing and was released.
Unidentified Romany 
In 1953, Anaïs Nin underwent surgery for ovarian cancer in a Los Angeles hospital. In her diary, she mentions that "the king of the gypsies was having surgery at the same time" and that approximately six hundred members of his tribe were camped in or near the hospital in accordance with their law: "no amount of hospital discipline would drive them away". She spoke with several members of the band, and identified them as Romany people.
Further reading 
- Angus Fraser (1995) The Gypsies, 2nd ed., Oxford, ISBN 978-0-631-19605-6
- Human Rights Brief - Center for Human Rights and Humanitarian Law - Washington College of Law
- Maybole, Carrick's Capital Facts, Fiction & Folks by James T. Gray, Alloway Publishing, Ayr. 1972.
- The Countess and the Gypsy
- Gypsy Folk Tales Index
- "Discover the borders".
- "Scottish Gypsies".
- ‘’Journal Gypsy Lore Soc.’’ 3rd ser.ii 370-1 quoted in ‘’English Genealogy’’ A. R. Wagner
- Smuggling on Solway Firth and Galloway coasts, Scotland
- Portail d'informations Ce site est en vente!
- Romany Routes Volume 6 No 6 March 2004
- Latest News and Features: Bizarre Doncaster: Ghosts and Hauntings, on Donny Online
- Brian Vesey-Fitzgerald Gypsies of Britain, The Country Book Club, 1951, quoting Edward Miller History and Antiquities of Doncaster
- John Wainwright, History and Antiquities of Doncaster and Consborough, Sheffield, Basil Blackwell., 1829
- Rutland & Stamford Mercury 15 October 1824 p3 column 1
- Collections - Lincolnshire County Council
- "King of Gypsies Edward Boswell". Romany Jib. Retrieved 22 January 2011.
- "Retrial over 'King of Gypsies' boxer attack in Cumbria". BBC. 2010-03-05.
- "Ignore whims of King of the Gipsies". The Northern Echo. 2010-02-24.
- Wales on Britannia: Facts About Wales & the Welsh
- Aftenposten 1989.12.27: Sigøynerkongen tatt i København
- Aftenposten 2008.04.11: Sigøynerne bløffer seg til status.
- VG 2001.08.11: Jeg er den nye kongen!
- Christ Church Website - Drawings
- Development in Action (Formerly Student Action India) - Development education NGO run by young people for young people
- Twenty-first-Century Underground World
- (Romanian) "La Mânăstirea Curtea de Argeş s-au sfinţit doar podoabele specifice rromilor". Curierul Naţional. September 3, 2003.
- Resurse Patrin
- Kolev, Deyan; Teodora Krumova (January 14, 2002). "ROMA IN BULGARIA AND THEIR FOLKLORE". Protecting and Popularizing Roma Culture in Central Bulgaria. Retrieved 2009-10-04.[dead link]
- Meridian Dispatch 7th February1915
- Meridian Star 5 August 1960
- Emil Mitchel Family
- Free Moors and "Turks" in South Carolina
- Emil Mitchell Family, page found 2011-07-29.
- "Canal yields up body of missing Elsie Paroubek". Chicago Tribune, May 9, 1911, p. 1.
- Anaïs Nin, Diary Of Anaïs Nin Volume 5 1947-1955: Vol. 5 (1947-1955), p. 106-107.