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Gypsy Kings

October 29, 2016

One of the places in Glasgow that has attracted people’s interest for more than a century is its Necropolis featured on our Tour of Glasgow City. Since its opening in 1833 more than 50,000 people have found their final resting place there. Only 3,500 of them are honoured with visible tombs. And one particular has a very interesting story behind it. It’s the tomb of the gypsy queen Corlinda (or Kurlinda) Lee who was from a prominent Epping Gypsy family.

At the age of 25 she married George Smith – a figurehead of another important Gypsy clan, and hence they became the King and Queen of the Gypsies. They had 8 children – 4 sons and 4 daughters.

Being a great thinker, George came up with a brilliant idea of travelling around Great Britain and giving ‘Gypsy Balls’. People could come and see how the Gypsies lived, listen to Gypsy music, dance, or have their fortune read – for a small fee of course. Victorians were intrigued by everything unusual and this just knocked their socks off.

During their tour in Scotland in August 1878 they were paid a visit by Queen Victoria herself and Corlinda read her palm, pricking the interest of prominent ladies around who immediately wanted an appointment, just like the Queen!

On 28 March 1900 Corlinda died aged 68 in Glasgow, and subsequently she was buried in the Necropolis. Her son Ernest is buried next to her. This and many other stories you can hear on our Must See Glasgow Tour!

After the death of Corlinda her husband George got into financial difficulties and faked his own death. There were even ‘in Memoriam’ cards made! According to the rumours he died of insanity, but in 1909 he was discovered safe and sound in South Wales!

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