Scotland's lost Gypsy Kings and Queens and the Borders palace of the 'other royal family'

King Charles II, the last of the Yetholm gypsies to be crowned, at his coronation in 1898. PIC: gypsypalace.co.uk.
King Charles II, the last of the Yetholm gypsies to be crowned, at his coronation in 1898. PIC: gypsypalace.co.uk.
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He was the last of Scotland's Gypsy Kings and was crowned in front of 10,000 spectators,  200 horses and the cream of the Borders gentry with the ceremony climaxing when a hare was placed around his neck and a  bottle of whisky  cracked over his head.

Charrles Faa Blyth - King Charles II - was crowned in May 1898 in Kirk Yetholm in The Borders where the Gypsy Palace, then a tiny one-room cottage where he took up his 'royal' residence, still stands.

The Gypsy Palace when it was still in use by the Kirk Yetholm 'royals'. PIC: gypsypalace.co.uk

The Gypsy Palace when it was still in use by the Kirk Yetholm 'royals'. PIC: gypsypalace.co.uk

Linda Lennen, a direct descendant of Charles Faa Blyth, has written Scotland's Other Royal Family to illuminate the lives and unique culture of the Yetholm gypsies who were granted privileges by James V to essentially self-govern.

READ MORE: Heritage of Scotland's travelling community celebrated

Ms Lennen, of Leven in Fife, said: "My interest all started from the stories my father told me when I was really young.

"The stories were fantastical but as I got older I realised there was some truth in them. Then, the more I looked the more I realised that the family stories never really ended."

The Gypsy Palace as it it is today. PIC: gypsypalace.co.uk.

The Gypsy Palace as it it is today. PIC: gypsypalace.co.uk.

She described the Faa family as a "quite a troublesome" lot with James V taking the view that self regulation was the only way they could be governed.

READ MORE: A short history of the Border Reivers

The first Gypsy King was Johnne Faa and the last King Charles II, who succeeded his mother, Queen Esther, to the throne.

Callers to the Gypsy Palace during the reign of Queen Esther have recalled two large swords hanging from the ceiling; one was the royal ceremonial gypsy sword with it claimed the the other was taken as a souvenir from the Battle of Flodden in 1513.

The Faas ended up in Kirk Yetholm after land was given to them by Bennet of Grubbit and Marlefield, Laird of Kirk Yetholm, after a gypsy named Young saved his life during the Battle of Namur, in 1695.

Cottages were built - and the Faa gypsies came, with their roots believed to be in either Egypt or Persia.

The Borders provided a perfect landscape for the gypsies to live.

Ms Lennen said: "Kirk Yetholm is nestled right beneath the Cheviot Hills and you could move between Scotland and England with ease, depending who was after you and how long you were willing to stay on the move."

It is recorded that in 1752, seventeen gypsies from the Faa were transported to South Carolina from Northumberland for 'incessantly shop-breaking and plundering'.

But one of King Charles II's great sources of pride was that, despite all his wanderings, he had never been brought before magistrates and never been inside a courtroom for any misdeed in his life, according to accounts of the day.

Charles II had no children and died four years after his coronation, with the crown never taken again.

Ms Lennen said it was impossible to say who was the rightful Yetholm Gypsy King and Queen would be today given the large extended family that exists.

She said her forefathers were funny, witty people who mostly died in poverty. That was if they survived the harsh penalties - including hanging - for offences such as poaching, on which they relied.

Ms Lennen added: "Eventually over time, they became part of village life and alot of them became quite respected. A lot of their ways of life and customs ended up being adopted locally."

She added: "I talk openly about my heritage but I wouldn't name my son or my grandson because of some people's reactions. Some of the family have gone on to go to university and take really top jobs, but their roots is not something they discuss. It is known that it is just not liked in some circles."

The Gypsy Palace is now rented out as holiday accommodation, with Ms Lennen staying there to finish her book.