Gypsy Queen offerings.
Queen Kelly grave offerings.

Graves of the King and Queen of the Gypsies

Field review by the editors.

Meridian, Mississippi

On January 31, 1915, Kelly Mitchell died in a Romani camp in Coatopa, Alabama. The "Queen of the Gypsies" -- her title on her tombstone -- was trying and failing to give birth to her 15th child at age 47.

Gypsy Queen necklaces.
Queen Kelly necklaces.

Kelly's husband, King Emil, chose to have her buried 40 miles west, across the state line in Meridian, Mississippi. At the time Meridian was already known as "The Queen City," which perhaps swayed the King's decision (Some people now incorrectly assume that Meridian's nickname is because of the Queen of the Gypsies grave, but it isn't).

A more practical reason for choosing burial in Meridian was that it was the nearest place with ice and a morgue. The Queen needed refrigeration because it took 12 days before America's Romani population could assemble -- from every corner of the country -- for her funeral.

It was an elaborate service, reportedly attended by over 20,000 people who arrived in the city on special trains. Cameras filmed it for early movie newsreels. Kelly was buried in royal robes of green -- "barbaric splendor" was how the Meridian Dispatch described it -- and wild stories quickly began to circulate that her casket was made of precious metal, and that mourners had tossed $20 gold pieces into her grave. The Queen's cracked capstone testifies to the presence of ghouls who've smashed it several times over the years in search of the rumored buried treasure.

Graves of the King and Queen of the Gypsies.
Queen, King, Queen. Queen Kelly's grave on the right is routinely festooned with trinkets.

King Emil's new Queen, Flora, was his sister. He outlived her as well, and when he died in 1942 he was buried between his two Queens. The funeral, in the grim years of World War II, was modest, and consequently the King's tomb remains unplundered.

The graves of the King and Queens, but especially Queen Kelly, are easy to spot in the cemetery; they're festooned with Mardi Gras bead necklaces, trinkets, flowers, costume jewelry, and offerings of whiskey, beer, and loose change. Some of these may be tokens of affection, but others are self-motivated, left in the supposed belief that they will entice Kelly, Flora, or Emil to enter your dreams and solve your problems.

Offerings of food are unlikely to reach the afterlife. They're eaten by fire ants.

Graves of the King and Queen of the Gypsies

Rose Hill Cemetery

Address:
701 40th Ave., Meridian, MS
Directions:
Rose Hill Cemetery. West of downtown. On the east side of 40th Ave. at its intersection with 7th St. When you reach the cemetery gates, drive straight in. When the road curves to the left, the graves will be on the right.
Hours:
Gated after hours. (Call to verify) Local health policies may affect hours and access.
Phone:
601-693-1361
RA Rates:
Worth a Detour
Save to My Sights

Nearby Offbeat Places

Jimmie Rodgers MemorialJimmie Rodgers Memorial, Meridian, MS - < 1 mi.
Stuckey Bridge: Dalton Gang GhostStuckey Bridge: Dalton Gang Ghost, Chunky, MS - 11 mi.
Famous Red Water Artesian WellFamous Red Water Artesian Well, Shubuta, MS - 35 mi.
In the region:
Jim Bird's Hay Bale Art and Tin Man, Forkland, AL - 54 mi.

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