Tales of women born with a pig’s face first appeared in British popular culture in the 17th century and were part of the huge public appetite for human curiosities that lasted well into the 1800s. This illustrated pamphlet first published in 1815 details the supposed existence of a wealthy pig-faced lady living in London’s Manchester Square. Reputedly only 20 years of age, of Irish noble birth and in possession of a small fortune, tales of the lady’s lifestyle were whipped up by a deluge of newspaper reports, pamphlets and general rumours about her existence, including her habit of eating from a trough and talking in grunts. An advertisement intended for the pages of The Times newspaper from a young gentleman proposing marriage to the woman was rejected by the paper’s editor as being too ludicrous, though other papers did in fact publish the proposal.

Though comical to modern eyes, it is possible the story was in fact based on the existence of a genuine lady living in London at the time, who was afflicted by a facial disfiguration which she covered with a veil whenever she travelled.