Hester Stanhope

Lady Hester Stanhope, niece of the Prime Minister of England, William Pitt (the Younger), was born into an aristocratic family in England. Despite this she spent the last twenty-five years of her life in Lebanon while waiting to be crowned "Queen of the Jews". She took the prophecy that she would one day be "Queen of the East" from a British insane asylum inmate way too seriously. (Many of her closer friends admit she was always a little off her rocker.) At thirty-three she set sail on the frigate ship Jason. She got as far as Constantinople before the ship sank.

She was then rescued and taken to Rhodes, even though she had no luggage. Since that day she decided to adopt the wardrobe of a male Turk and never wore a veil, which was a big risk at the time. Most of the citizens were amused by her spunk, so it didn't matter. Many of the cities she went through, including Damascus, took her to be an English princess of extraordinary wealth. Some of the locals even started calling her Queen Hester as a joke. She took it as a sign of her impending royal destiny being fulfilled.

Soon her money began to dwindle, but that didn't stop her from taking a great journey to the ruins of the great city of Palmyra in the Arabian Desert. Few englishmen had seen it for there were warlike tribes of Bedouin robbers and killers waiting to strike unsuspecting caravans. Dressed as a Bedouin, Hester and her caravan of twenty-one camels and a mountain of luggage crossed through the desert. At night she had a black slave with an axe guard her tent. Soon her reputation grew and when she finally reached Palmyra. The tribes gave her a mock celebratory pageant. To Hester it seemed the prophecy was coming true.

In 1814 Lady Hester had enough of traveling and decided to settle down in the abandoned monastery of Mar Elias which overlooked the sea near Lebanon. She had a beautiful garden and all of her house was run in a strict Turkish-like manner. Over the years her home became a refuge during religious wars and her refusal to back down to local authority became famous among the people. Soon Hester had hundreds of refugees come to her shelter and Mar Elias became too small. So she moved to Djouni, another very remote, abandoned monastery.

Lady Hester entertained many of the famous people of her day and spent all her fortune and then some, hoping that the British government would foot the bill. She even went on a treasure hunt expedition at the British government's expense and it turned out to be a flop. The government looked the other way after that.

Hester spent the rest of her life waiting for the call that would proclaim her "Queen of the East". All the while she became a legend in the area. Tourists would come from miles around just to meet her.

At the end of her life, Hester became very reclusive. She sealed all the entrances and doors in her house. One day a British consul came to see her and he found all of her house sealed up. He expected to find great treasure, but instead all he found was some old medicine and rubbish. At the age of sixty-three, Hester died in poverty. Her funeral was a procession of some of the local people who knew her well and was lit by candles stuck into the eye sockets of her deceased ex-lover's skull.

The Mammoth Book of Oddballs and Eccentrics
Memoirs of the Lady Hester Stanhope and Travels of Lady Hester Stanhope by C.L. Meryon

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