Mother Shipton is the best-known name of Ursula Southeil, a purported prophetess who is said to have lived in 16th century England. Supposedly, she made numerous prophecies about what was to come, which were compiled into a 1641 collection of verses eight decades after her date of death. Said collection proved to be very popular, so much so that it inspired a huge number of stories about Mother Shipton as well as her exploits.
For instance, there are numerous stories about how Mother Shipton was the daughter of the Devil with a Yorkshire woman. As a result, she was born with a hideous appearance, with examples of her features ranging from a pair of elephantine tusks to a long, crooked nose that was so ornamented with bright, colorful pimples that it could light up the night. Due to her more than human heritage, the eventual Mother Shipton was said to have possessed incredible powers, with her prophecies being the most lauded of them all. In fact, a lot of the stories claim that Mother Shipton was such a respected figure, that she was consulted by both the high and the low, thus making her a figure of huge importance.
What Were Some of Mother Shipton’s Prophecies?
Unfortunately, it isn’t possible to figure out what Mother Shipton predicted. As stated earlier, the first collection of her supposed prophecies didn’t come out until eight decades after her reported death, meaning that it wasn’t compiled by her but rather by someone else. For that matter, it should be mentioned that unlike, say, Nostradamus, there is no real evidence to support the existence of a real woman named Ursula Southeil, which is rather strange if she was indeed as important as her stories claim her to be.
On top of this, it should be mentioned that the first collection of Mother Shipton’s prophecies is known to have inspired copycats, with a particularly famous example being the 1862 collection by one Charles Hindley, who outright stated in print that he was the one who invented it.
Still, that hasn’t prevented a wide range of supposed prophecies being put under Mother Shipton’s name. For example, some of the stories claim that she predicted a lot of the events that happened in her own tumultuous lifetime, which would have been in the reign of Henry VIII as well as the reigns of Henry VIII’s three children – Edward VI, Mary I, and Elizabeth I. In particular, Mother Shipton is said to have predicted everything from the rise of the Anglican Church because of Henry VIII’s obsession with having a male heir, to the ultimate fate of Lady Jane Grey, the so-called Nine-Days Queen.
The King become intrigued, and sent representatives from London to listen to her prophecies but she became a target of Cardinal Wolsey. Wolsey himself would then become one of Mother Shiptons prophecies.
Wolsey wanted to build a huge pyre to burn her as a witch in York, but she told him although he would see York, he would never set foot in it.
As it happened, Wolsey made it as far as Cawood, on the outskirts of York; where he was arrested for treason by Henry Percy. As he made his journey back to a trial in London, Wolsey fell ill and died at Leicester on 29th November 1530.
Stories like to claim that Mother Shipton’s prophecies predicted events that happened in Elizabeth I’s time as well as in her Stuart successor’s times.
With that said, there are more spectacular prophecies attributed to Mother Shipton, though these tend to be much more dubious. For example, it is said that she predicted the invention of iron boats and horseless carriages, but the problem is that this particular prediction came from Hindley’s version. Likewise, there are multiple versions of a prophecy about the end of the world with multiple dates, which also came from Hindley’s version.
Curiously, the earliest collections of Mother Shipton’s prophecies don’t include anything about the end of the world. Instead, they tended to be focused on regional matters, which suggests that if Mother Shipton was a real woman, she was very practical-minded indeed.