Mother Shipton was a Yorkshire witch whose prophecies predicted the fates of several rulers within and just after her lifetime, and who even managed to predict the future after her death amazingly accurately -- including the invention of iron ships, and then the destruction of London, and even the end of the world.
But in all probability, Mother Shipton is a legend, popular first in Yorkshire, England. The prophecies themselves evolved in each re-publication of her story, in different decades and centuries.
In 1862, in Victorian Britain, bookseller Charles Hindley published a prophecy and credited it to a "Mother Shipton," and claimed that it came from a 1684 publication by Richard Head, The Life and Death of Mother Shipton.
The 1684 publication by Richard Head contained many other prophecies, supposedly from a Mother Shipton, but not the one quoted by Hindley in 1862. A 1686 publication about Mother Shipton credited to Edwin Pearson is thought to have been written by Head, as well.
In a 1641 pamphlet on Mother Shipton's prophecies, which is the first known reference to Mother Shipton, she is said to have predicted deaths of famous people accurately, including Cardinal Wolsey.
Another story of Mother Shipton was published in 1645, a comedy about Mother Shipton appeared in 1660, another version of Shipton's life and prophecies was published in 1740 by John Tyrrel, and another was published in 1797.
The 1797 publication attributes a birth date of 1488 and a baptismal name of Ursula Southiel (Sowthiel or Southhill) to Mother Shipton. The 1684 publication by Richard Head gives her mother's name as Agatha and identifies the Devil as her father.
In the 1862 version by Charles Hindley, Mother Shipton predicts the end of the world in 1881. In 1881 there was some panic in Britain as the prophecy had become accepted as true even though in 1873, Charles Hindley confessed that he had made up this prophecy.
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