Corlinda Lee

Corlinda Lee or Kurlinda as she was baptised on 2 October 1831 in South Wooton near King’s Lynn, Norfolk, was the daughter of Charles Lee and Union Chilcott.  The Lee’s were a very prominent Epping Gypsy family.

In 1856 Corlinda married George Smith, a horse trainer, (or Lazzy Smith as he was sometimes known), who was born in Norfolk in 3rd May 1830 and was a member of the East Anglian Smith family.  Like the Lees, the Smiths were also a very important Gypsy family, and when Corlinda and George married it was the merging of two dynasties.

George took the surname of Smith from his mother, Elizabeth.  His father was Elijah Buckley, who legend has it, was killed in a brawl in a public house at High Beech, Epping Forrest, when George was very young.  From then onwards they never used the surname Buckley.

Shortly after their marriage George became the head of ten Gypsy families, (the clan chief, so to speak), and George and Corlinda become King and Queen of the Gypsies and had a family of eight children, 4 sons & 4 daughters (Charles, Frederick, Ernest, Patrick, Midora, Alice, Margaret, and Cecilia).

George was a bit of a character, but a smart money man.  Victorians were intrigued by all that was different to their lives, anything that was mysterious appealed.  So George took his family on tour all over Great Britain, and held “Gypsy Balls”, where the public could come and see how they lived and dressed, what their gypsy caravans were like inside and the ladies could have their fortunes read.  All for the price of a small admission fee!!

Now this is where something very important happened to the lives of the Smiths. Whilst holding one of their Royal Epping Forrest Gypsy balls at Knockenhair Park in Dunbar on August 1878, Queen Victoria and entourage visit, and Victoria had her fortune read by Corlinda Lee.  After that all well positioned ladies wanted an appointment, if it was good enough for the Queen it was good enough for them!!

Corlinda Lee died on 28th March 1900 aged 68 years at 42 New City Road in Glasgow, and her gravestone reads:

Her love for her children was great and she was charitable to the poor.
Wherever she pitched her tent she was loved and respected by all.

Her son Ernest is buried beside her in the Glasgow Necropolis, along with her grandchild May who only lived for fourteen months.

George was a bit of a character, but a smart money man.  Victorians were intrigued by all that was different to their lives, anything that was mysterious appealed.  So George took his family on tour all over Great Britain, and held “Gypsy Balls”, where the public could come and see how they lived and dressed, what their gypsy caravans were like inside and the ladies could have their fortunes read.  All for the price of a small admission fee!!   George Smith died in Swansea many years later.

Photo credit: Corlinda Lee & George Smith : By courtesy of the University of Liverpool

Corlinda is the person sitting in the middle reading a palm and George is the top left person.

 
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