There has been a lot of interest in the prophecies of Mother Shipton lately. Even television has picked up on this strange lady of forgotten history.

I’ve read those verses attributed to the grand old lady. Some seem to be very pointed to this day and age. Others are, on their face, false prophecies.

One thing about it, this was a woman of mystery.

The following is said to have been her epitaph:—

Here lye’s she who never ly’d
Whose skill often has been try’d
Her Prophecies shall still survive,
And she keep her name alive.

Ursula Southeil (c. 1488–1561) (possibly Ursula Southill or Ursula Soothtell), better known as Mother Shipton, was an English soothsayer and prophetess. The first publication of her prophecies, which did not appear until 1641, eighty years after her reported death, contained a number of mainly regional predictions, but only two prophetic verses – neither of which foretold the End of the World, despite widespread assumptions to that effect.

One of the most notable editions of her prophecies was published in 1684. It states that she was born in Knaresborough, Yorkshire, in a cave now known as Mother Shipton’s Cave, that along with the Petrifying Well and associated parkland is operated as a visitor attraction. She was reputed to be hideously ugly. The book also claims that she married Toby Shipton, a local carpenter, near York in 1512 and told fortunes and made predictions throughout her life.

It is recorded in the diaries of Samuel Pepys that whilst surveying the damage to London caused by the Great Fire in the company of the Royal Family they were heard to discuss Mother Shipton’s prophecy of the event.