Untold lives blog

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88 posts categorized "Religion"

10 July 2024

The Fund For Building a Protestant Church in Alexandria

On 12 April 1842, Captain John Lyons, Agent to the East India Company in Egypt, based at Alexandria, forwarded his quarterly accounts to the Secretary at East India House, London. He confirmed payment from Company funds of 10,000 Egyptian piastres - equating to £100 Sterling - in aid of a fund to build an Anglican Protestant church at Alexandria.

Quarterly accounts of Captain John Lyons confirming payment from Company funds of £100 in aid of a fund to build an Anglican Protestant church at AlexandriaQuarterly accounts of Captain John Lyons confirming payment from Company funds of £100 in aid of a fund to build an Anglican Protestant church at Alexandria -IOR/G/17/13, f 2 Factory Records: Egypt and the Red Sea, 1842-1844.

Receipt confirming payment from Company funds in aid of a fund to build an Anglican Protestant church at Alexandria.Receipt confirming payment from Company funds in aid of a fund to build an Anglican Protestant church at Alexandria - IOR/G/17/13, f11: Factory Records: Egypt and the Red Sea, 1842-1844.

Lyons’ primary role at Alexandria was to oversee the mail service between England and India, and to manage the Company’s agents who were located at key points along the mail and passenger transit route through Egypt from Alexandria to Suez.  He liaised regularly with the Egyptian Government over operational and some diplomatic matters, and often became involved in local matters involving the merchants and the British community at Alexandria, such as the church building scheme.

In September 1846, Lyons received a letter from Mr Saunders of the Alexandria Church Building Committee, asking for another contribution from the East India Company.  Saunders appealed to the ‘liberality’ and ‘good feeling and Generosity of the Honorable Company’, and described the current state of construction: ‘The front wall is now raised to the height of 33 feet, the Chancel 32 and the sides 28 feet. The quantity of materials are already sufficient to complete the Body of the Church, but the Timber for the roof is not yet provided’. Without further funds, the works would soon have to be halted.

Statement of contributions in aid of funds for building a Protestant Church in Alexandria.Statement of contributions in aid of funds for building a Protestant Church in Alexandria. - IOR/G/17/14, f 227. Factory Records: Egypt and the Red Sea, 1845-1848.

£2,595 had already been raised, but another £3,000 was needed to complete the body of the church, the west front, tower and enclosure walls.  Saunders appealed to Lyons’ ‘well known very kindly feelings towards all the English Residents and [his] active interest … in every thing relating to their welfare’.  Lyons was supportive in his message to the Company: ‘whilst the expense has greatly exceeded the expectation of the Committee the solidity and beauty of the Church is likely to be commensurate with the sum expended’.  Lyons had received from Saunders an engraving of the church, possibly similar to the one below, by its designer the British architect James William Wild.

Engraving of St Mark's Church AlexandriaEngraving of St Mark’s Church, Alexandria, detail, 1840s. Victoria and Albert Museum.

Wild spent many years in Egypt, travelling there in 1842 to work as an architectural draughtsman for Egyptologist Karl Richard Lepsius. He was commissioned in 1845 to build the Anglican church in Alexandria and his design was notably influenced by Islamic architecture.

South facade of St Mark's Church AlexandriaSt Mark’s Church, Alexandria. The South Façade, 1840s. Drawn by J W Wild and etched by John Henry Le Keux. Victoria and Albert Museum.

Drawing of James William Wild at the start of the Lepsium Expedition in EgyptDrawing by J J Frey of James William Wild at the start of the Lepsius expedition in Egypt, 1842 Wikipedia

Saunders’ request to the Company was on this occasion ‘negatived’.  The church, now known as St Mark’s Pro-Cathedral, was completed in 1854 without the campanile, indicating that perhaps Saunders’ wider fund-raising efforts met with limited success.

Correspondence reporting that Saunders’ request to the Company had been ‘negatived’Ecclesiastical Despatch to Bengal 8 September 1847 approving that Saunders’ request to the Company had been ‘negatived’ - IOR/E/4/793, f 543.

Photograph of St Mark’s Pro-Cathedral  AlexandriaModern photograph of  St Mark's by kind permission of St Mark’s Pro-Cathedral, Alexandria.

Wild may have been disappointed that his design did not come to full fruition.  However he could console himself knowing that he had already completed seven church projects by 1842, including, Christ Church in Streatham, south-west London.  A Grade I listed building, Christ Church is famous for its modern use of polychromatic brickwork and patterning and semi-detached campanile.

Scale drawing of the west front of Christ Church  StreathamScale drawing of the west front of Christ Church, Streatham, signed by Wild, 1841. Victoria and Albert Museum.

Close-up image of Christ Church Streatham showing the patterned brickwork

Image of Christ Church Streatham showing the front and side of the building, and the semi-detached campanile.Images of Christ Church, Streatham, copyright Amanda Engineer, May 2024.

Amanda Engineer
Content Specialist, Archivist
British Library/Qatar Foundation Partnership

Further reading:
Egypt and Red Sea Factory Records British Library IOR/G/17/13 & IOR/G/17/14
East India Company correspondence IOR/E/4/793
St Mark’s Anglican Church in Alexandria, Egypt 
James William Wild - Wikipedia
Christ Church, Streatham, by James William Wild (1814-1892): Part I
Streatham, Christ Church - The Diocese of Southwark 
Owen Jones (architect) - Wikipedia
Christ Church, Streatham: a history and guide, Payne, Joan, 1917-; Hargreaves, Brenda, 1927--; Ivory, Christopher. 3rd ed. /revised by Christopher Ivory, c.2000


25 June 2024

Sulaiman al-Baruni: life of an Ibadhi scholar and statesman in North Africa and Oman

One of the distinctive features of Oman is that the majority of its population are adherents to the Ibadhi sect of Islam - neither Sunni nor Shi’a - which established itself in the early Islamic period on the periphery of Islamic empire and survives today in Oman and in North Africa on the island of Jerba, the Nafusa mountain range and the Mzab region. 

British India Office Records written in the 1920s and 1930s shed light on the life of one Ibadhi scholar and statesman', ‘Sulaiman al Baruni al Nafusi’,who traversed from Italian-occupied Tripoli to become an adviser in Muscat and Oman.

Cover of India Office file on Sulaiman al-Baruni and his relatives - 'Visitors, Suspects, and Undesirables'Cover of India Office file on Sulaiman al-Baruni and his relatives - British Library IOR/R/15/6/449

Al-Baruni was a notable author and had been a member of the last Ottoman parliament.  In November 1922 he wrote to the Sultan of Muscat and Oman, Taimur bin Faisal, that he was attending the peace conference in Lausanne, Switzerland and after that hoped to travel to Oman.

Translation of letter from Sulaiman al-Baruni to the Sultan of Muscat and OmanTranslation of letter from Sulaiman al-Baruni to the Sultan of Muscat and Oman, November 1922 - British Library IOR/R/15/6/449 f.4

In December al-Baruni again wrote, saying that his options were becoming more and more constrained by French, Italian and British hostility to him.  British officials noted with suspicion that he ‘seems to claim three nationalities, Turkish, French and Italian’.

Owing to his espousal of nationalist ideas antipathetical to British dominance, in 1923 the Government of India described him as a ‘prominent figure in the turmoil of politics in North Africa’ - an ‘undesirable intriguer’ and ‘a person whom His Highness the Sultan of Muscat would do well to refuse admittance to his country’; however al-Baruni gained entry anyway on a pilgrim’s ship from Jeddah in 1924.

After the First World War al-Baruni had spent time in the Hijaz with the Sherif of Mecca, Hussein bin Ali, and in 1924 he visited his ‘old acquaintance’, Faisal bin Hussein bin Ali, recently installed by Britain as King Faisal I of the Hashemite monarchy of Iraq.  The British noted he was held in high esteem as of ‘religious consequence’ by both the Sultan of Muscat on the coast and the Imam of Oman in the mountainous interior.  In accordance with their strategic interests at the time, Britain had mediated a de facto separation of Muscat and Oman by the ‘Treaty of Sib’ in 1920.  From 1924-1932 al-Baruni served as Financial Adviser to the Imam of Oman in Nizwa. Sa’id bin Taimur, who became Sultan of Muscat in 1932, appointed him in 1938 as Advisor for Internal Affairs and Inspector of Walis.  The British surmised that it was part of Sa’id bin Taimur’s strategy to reunify Muscat and Oman.

Comment on appointment of al-Baruni as advisor for Internal Affairs and Inspector of Walis

Comment on appointment of al-Baruni as advisor for Internal Affairs and Inspector of Walis IOR/R/15/6, f 123

From September 1939 to April 1940 the British intercepted his correspondence with other members of Tripolitania diaspora as the circle of exiles contemplated the future and how they might be free of Italian colonial rule in Tripoli.  This included support of Muhammed Idris Al-Sanussi who was to become the first king of Libya when it gained independence in 1951.

Sulaiman al-Buruni died on his way to Mumbai with Sa’id bin Taimur in May 1940.  Today, on the island of Jerba, Ibadhi texts are still being collected, conserved and digitised for posterity by his descendants and the wider Ibadhi community, so his legacy lives on.

Francis Owtram
Gulf History Specialist, British Library/Qatar Foundation Partnership

Further reading:
British Library, IOR/R/15/6/449 '15/3 Vol I XV - B/1 VISITORS SUSPECTS & UNDESIRABLES SULEMAN AL BARUNI AL NAFUSI & HIS RELATIVES Jan 1923 - June 1940.'
British Library, IOR/L/PS/12/2990 Coll 20/30 'Muscat: Employment of one Suleman al Baruni al Nufusi'
British Library, IOR/R/15/6/264, 'File 8/67 MUSCAT STATE AFFAIRS: MUSCAT – OMAN TREATY.'

Al Muatasim Said Saif Al Maawali, ‘The Omani Experience of Multi-religious Coexistence and Dialogue: A Historical Approach to the Omani Principles and its Luminous Examples’, Journal of Islamic Thought and Civilization, 11, no. 1 (2021). 59-78.
Adam Gaiser, Muslims, Scholars, Soldiers: The Origins and Elaboration of the Ibadhi Imamate Tradition (Oxford University Press, 2010)
Valerie J. Hofmann, The Essentials of Ibadhi Islam (Syracuse University Press, 2012)
Abdulrahman al-Salimi: From the First Renaissance to the Second: The Historical and Legal Basis for the Sultanate, in Allen James Fromherz and Abdulrahmen al-Salimi, (eds), Sultan Qaboos and Modern Oman, 1970-2020 (Edinburgh University Press, 2022)


18 June 2024

The last surviving East India Company Chaplain

When Edward Godfrey was born in Nettleton, Wiltshire, on 4 September 1820 it could perhaps be foreseen that he would go on to be a priest, following in the footsteps of his father the Reverend Daniel Race Godfrey.  But it is unlikely he could have predicted that he would become known as the last surviving Chaplain of the East India Company.

Edward attended Clare College, Cambridge achieving his M.A. in 1846.  He had already been serving as Curate of Chard in Somerset since 1844, and in 1847 was appointed to as Curate to St Peter’s in Plymouth.

Marriage announcement for the Reverend Edward Godfrey to Miss Emily Clare PayneMarriage announcement for the Reverend Edward Godfrey to Miss Emily Clare Payne, London Evening Standard 7 December 1844 British Newspaper Archive

That same year he applied for an appointment with the East India Company, and he was formally appointed as an Assistant Chaplain to Bengal on 29 March 1848.  He left England with his wife Emily Clare, daughter of Captain René Payne of the Bombay Army, whom he had married in 1844. They sailed for India aboard the Wellesley on 10 June 1848.  The couple already had two children, whom they appear not to have taken to India with them.  Their first child, Vaughan was born in 1846, and on the 1851 census is living in Bath with his paternal grandfather Daniel Race Godfrey.  Daughter Julia was born in 1847, and in 1851 was living in Cheltenham with her maternal grandmother Eliza Julia Payne.

Baptism of  second son Francis Edward Godfrey born at Meerut, Bengal 16 May 1849Baptism of  second son Francis Edward Godfrey born at Meerut, Bengal 16 May 1849 (their first child born in India) - British Library IOR/N/1/75 f.193

The couple would have six more children, all born in India between 1849 and 1871 as Edward held appointments across Bengal over the next 25 years serving in places such as Meerut, Subathoo, Ferozepore, Saugor and Landour.  He was promoted to Chaplain in 1869.

Godfrey was a keen amateur photographer.  His photographs of tribes of Central India were displayed at the London International Exhibition in 1862.  He also contributed photographs to The People of India, an eight-volume publication compiled by John Forbes Watson and John William Kaye between 1868 and 1875.

Edward retired from service in India on 20 October 1873, and on returning to England was appointed Curate of Stainsby, Lincolnshire in 1875.  However, this was not the end of his travels as in 1878 he was appointed Chaplain at Coblenz in Germany, transferring to Dusseldorf in 1880, and then to Milan in 1889.  He returned to England in 1891 serving at St Peter’s Hospital in Covent Garden before being appointed as Vicar of Great Tey in Essex where he remained until 1916.

Photograph of t Barnabas Church, Great Tey, Essex where Edward Godfrey served as Vicar from 1891 onwards.St Barnabas Church, Great Tey, Essex where Edward Godfrey served as Vicar from 1891 onwards. Wikipedia - attribution Robert Edwards, St Barnabas Church, Great Tey, Essex CC BY-SA 2.0 

Edward Godfrey died in Bedfordshire on 24 February 1918 at the age of 97.  He had followed his calling for over 72 years and at the time of his passing had been the very last living Chaplain appointed under the East India Company.  His wife Emily Clare passed away five years later aged 95.

Karen Stapley
Curator, India Office Records

Further Reading
The Chaplains of the East India Company, S.J. McNally, 1976 – British Library OIR 253.0954.
John Falconer, A Biographical Dictionary of 19th Century Photographers in South and South-East Asia.
London Evening Standard, 7 December 1844 – announcement of the marriage of Reverend Edward Godfrey to Emily Clare Payne British Newspaper Archive.
British Library IOR/N/1/75 f.193 - Bengal Baptisms – baptism of Francis Edward Godfrey, 2nd son of Edward & Mary Clare Godfrey.

St Barnabas Church, Great Tey, Essex


03 October 2023

François Frederic Roget - lecturer, historian, ski mountaineer and Huguenot

The pension records of the East India Company and India Office can sometimes lead to the discovery of fascinating individuals whom pensioners or their children had married.

One such individual is Professor François Frederic Roget, a university lecturer, historian, High Alps ski mountaineer and Huguenot.

Cover of Ski-Runs in the High Alps  with a drawing of a bearded man on a mountain slope, presumably F F Roget

Born in Geneva in 1859, he was the son of Philippe Roget and grandson of François Roget a writer and Professor of Classical History at Geneva.  Roget was educated in Geneva and Heidelberg before coming to England (where his mother originated) to work first as a schoolmaster.  He eventually settled in Edinburgh, working first at Fettes College and later at the Universities of Edinburgh and St Andrews.

In 1896 Roget returned to Geneva where he took up a post at the University of Geneva lecturing on French and English Literature, and he would remained connected with the University for the next 40 years.

As well as his academic work, Professor Roget was also a Genevan historian and many of his papers and publications promoted the Huguenot virtues and values to which he ascribed.  He became a Fellow of the Huguenot Society in 1887 and an Honorary Fellow in 1924, writing many papers and giving many speeches including one for the monument erected in Geneva to commemorate the Calvinistic Reformation.  He was also a prolific author, with over 70 published works to his name covering his professional and personal interests.

His love of Geneva extended to the mountains and he had a reputation both as a very experienced Alpinist and as a pioneer of High Alpine mountaineering on ski.  In January 1909 he succeeded, along with Arnold Lund, to complete a high level traverse of the Bernese Oberland from end to end.  The two men went from Kandersteg to Meieringen, and achieved the first ever winter ascent of the Finstaraarhorn.

Professor Roget was married 3 times and had a son and two daughters from his marriages.  He died in Geneva on 16 August 1938.

It is his marriage to his second wife, Mrs Mary Jane Hutchinson, which brought him into the Madras Medical Fund Contingent Pension Records.  Mrs Hutchinson was the widow of Alfred Hutchison Esq., a Canton merchant and the daughter of Dr Kenneth McKenzie Adams, a former Madras Assistant Surgeon.  Roget had become acquainted with her during his time in Edinburgh, and the couple married on 2 October 1896. They had one daughter Frances Ismay, born in Geneva in 1898.

Mrs Hutchinson’s father had been a contingent pension subscriber to the Madras Medical Fund, and this meant that following his death in 1859, Mary Jane had been entitled to a pension for any periods of time that she was either unmarried or widowed.  As her marriage to Professor Roget ended one such pension period, the details of the marriage were recorded in the fund registers.

Karen Stapley
Curator, India Office Records

Further Reading:
Ac.2073 Proceedings of the Huguenot Society of London, Vol. 16 1938-1941, p. 204
IOR/L/AG/23/9/5 Madras Medical Fund List of Contingent Pensioners, 1867-1948

29 August 2023

The Use of the Term 'Qafila' in the India Office Records

Within the India Office Records (IOR) and other materials catalogued for the British Library-Qatar Foundation Partnership, there are many references to the term qafila, which appears in a variety of spellings across the records.  These include caphila, caffalla, cafila, kafila, and kafilah.  This post explores the meaning of the term qafila, and examines the way it is used within the records.

Definition of QafilaMeaning of qafila, IOR/R/15/5/384, f 91v, Crown Copyright

The term qafila (pl. qawafil) has its origin in the Arabic root qa fa la (قفل), which primarily means ‘to return’.  The word itself is used to refer to a caravan; a train of travellers; or any large party of travellers such as pilgrims or merchants moving between distant destinations.  However, beyond this common meaning of qafila, there is a literal meaning of the term, which is ‘the returning one’.  Arabs named their parties of travellers, pilgrims or merchants, who were getting ready for travel, qafila as a sign of sanguinity that the travellers would reach their destination and make a safe and successful return.

Arabic meaning of qafila by al-ZabidiArabic meaning of qafila by al-Zabidi, public domain

People working for the East India Company often used the term qafila when corresponding about trading activities in India and the wider Gulf region.  It is difficult though to know whether they were aware of its literal meaning or not.  In their correspondence, the term was often associated with trade caravans carrying commodities such as coffee, spices, cotton, silk, wool, wine, and iron.  The most numerous of these caravans was the wool qafila, which departed from Kerman (also known as Carmenia) and made its way to the port of Bander ‘Abbas (also known as Gombroon), from where the wool was shipped to the British market.

Note on supply of Carmenia wool Carmenia wool qafila, IOR/L/PS/20/C227, f 79v, Crown Copyright

The ‘Gombroon Diaries (IOR/G/29/2-14)’, and ‘the letters and enclosures received from Bandar ‘Abbas (Gombroon) and Basra (IOR/G/29/15-24)’, are rich source materials reporting on the movement of the Kerman wool qafilas, as well as the qafilas carrying English woollen goods sent to the Persian market.  These contain reports on the amount of woollen goods carried, including information about their prices, types and colours.

Woollen samplesWoollen samples IOR/G/29/17, f 4, Crown Copyright

The records also indicate that the safety of the qafilas was a major concern, with cargoes from time to time being seized while en route to their destinations.  There are also references to qafilas being delayed due to various circumstances including bad weather and internal military operations.

Circumstances affecting Caphila’s movementCircumstances affecting Caphila’s movement, IOR/G/29/16, f 192v, Crown Copyright

Caphila seized on way to YazdCaphila seized on way to Yazd, IOR/G/29/11, f 38r Crown Copyright

Other qafilas that appear in the records are the Hajj (pilgrimage) qafilas arriving from various parts of the Muslim world into the cities of Medina and Mecca during the Hajj season.  The most popular of these are Qafilat al-Haj al-Shami (the pilgrimage qafila travelling from Bilad al-Sham or Greater Syria), and Qafilat al-Hajj al-Misri (a qafila which travelled from Egypt).  These were usually received with great excitement and celebration.  One fascinating example has been mentioned by Captain Richard F. Burton in his  Personal Narrative of a pilgrimmage to al-Madinah and Meccah Vol. I  describing the arrival of the qafilas on Sunday 23 Dhu al-Qi‘da 1269 AH/ 28 August 1853 CE:

Richard F Burton's description of the arrrival of Hajj CafilaArrival of Hajj Cafila, W48/9840 vol. 1, [416], public domain

Many more examples of the various types of qafilas, and the records documenting them, can be found among the materials digitised and made available online on the Qatar Digital Library (QDL).

Ula Zeir
Content Specialist/ Arabic Language and Gulf History

Further reading:
IOR/G/29/11 ‘Diary and Consultations of Mr Alexander Douglas, Agent of the East India Company at Gombroon [Bandar-e ʻAbbās] in the Persian Gulf, commencing 1 August 1757 and ending 31 July 1758’
IOR/G/29/16 ‘Letters and Enclosures etc., Received from Gombroon’
IOR/G/29/17 ‘Letters and Enclosures etc., Received from Gombroon (Bandar-e ‘Abbas)’
IOR/L/PS/20/C227 ‘Selections from State Papers, Bombay, regarding the East India Company’s Connection with the Persian Gulf, with a Summary of Events, 1600-1800’
IOR/R/15/5/384 ‘Field Notes on Sa‘udi Arabia, 1935’
W48/9840 vol. I Personal Narrative of a pilgrimmage to al-Madinah and Meccah. Vol. I
Al-Zabidi, Taj al-‘Arus min Jawahir al-Qamus, vol 30 (Kuwait: Kuwait Government Press, 1997), 264. Accessed online 
Ula Zeir, ‘Finding Aid: IOR/G/29/2-14 Gombroon (Bandar ‘Abbas) Diaries and Consultations (1708-1763)’, Qatar Digital Library 


10 August 2023

Henrietta Anne, Duchess of Orléans, and the Secret Treaty of Dover (1670)

Henrietta Anne (1644-1670), Duchess of Orléans and sister to King Charles II, was a key negotiator of an important diplomatic agreement between England and France. In 1670, Charles II and Louis XIV of France signed the Secret Treaty of Dover. Kept hidden from the public, it included Charles’s promise to publicly convert to Catholicism (which never happened) in exchange for vast sums of money, as well as a mutual alliance against the Dutch Republic.

Painted portrait of Henrietta Anne, Duchess of Orléans, by Peter LelyHenrietta Anne, Duchess of Orleans, by Sir Peter Lely, around 1662, NPG 6028. © National Portrait Gallery, London. Terms of Use: CC BY-NC-ND 3.0.

The British Library holds a rich volume of papers relating to the Treaty which demonstrates Henrietta’s significant role and is largely written in French.

Henrietta had a brief but extraordinary life. Born in Exeter in 1644, she was quickly whisked away to France because of the English Civil War and raised at the French court. At sixteen, she married Phillippe, Duke of Orléans and brother of Louis XIV. She was highly educated and intelligent, but was embarrassed by her written English and wrote almost exclusively in French.

Title page of a flattering portrait of Henrietta, written in French by Jean Puget de la Serre (1661)Title page of a flattering portrait of Henrietta, by Jean Puget de la Serre (1661). Add MS 33752, f. 3.

In 1669, Charles II wrote a top-secret letter to Louis about the treaty, entrusting its delivery to Henrietta: ‘desireing that this matter might passe through your handes as the person in the world I have most confidence in.’ Charles even sent Henrietta a cipher, so that their correspondence would be totally confidential.

Henrietta was politically invaluable: both exceptionally close with Charles and trusted enough by Louis that he met her almost every day in early 1670 to discuss the negotiations. She provided the link between the two monarchs that allowed Louis to address Charles as ‘monsieur mon frère’ in his letters.

Henrietta’s long letter to Charles II, written in 1669Henrietta’s long letter to Charles II, 1669. Add MS 65138, f. 47.

Unfortunately, many of Henrietta’s letters were destroyed after her death. One of the most striking surviving documents is her letter to Charles about this ‘grande affaire.’ Henrietta, who was Catholic, refers to Charles’s conversion as ‘le desin de la R’ (‘the design about R’), with R standing for ‘religion.’ She advises Charles at length on finances, the prospect of war in Holland, and Louis’s motives. She even suggests that Charles conceal their scheme from the Pope, since he might die before the planned conversion!

After several pages of confident political discussion, Henrietta signs off with a show of modesty, writing that she only dares to meddle in questions above her station because of her great love for her brother.

A visit to Charles by Henrietta was the cover story for the final stage of the treaty’s formation, and she was personally charged with carrying the French copy back to Louis.

Final protocol of the Treaty of Dover, featuring the seals and signatures of Charles II's principal advisorsFinal protocol of the Treaty, featuring the seals and signatures of Charles II’s principal advisors. Add MS 65138, f. 91v.

Tragically, Henrietta died just months later at the age of 26. One first-hand account states that she drank a glass of chicory water, a medicinal drink, before collapsing in agony (Stowe MS 191, f. 22). Another account ungenerously insists on her depraved, sinful life, claiming she was poisoned and spent her final moments repenting (Kings MS 140, f. 107).

What we can be sure of is her affection for Charles. She addresses her letter to him uncharacteristically in English: ‘For the King.’

‘For the King’: a rare example of Henrietta writing in English in her letter to Charles II‘For the King’: a rare example of Henrietta writing in English in her letter to Charles. Add MS 65138, f. 51v.

Isabel Maloney
PhD candidate at the University of Cambridge and PhD placement student in Modern Archives and Manuscripts

Further reading:

Keith Feiling, ‘Henrietta Stuart, Duchess of Orleans, and the Origins of the Treaty of Dover’, The English Historical Review, Vol. 47, No. 188 (Oct., 1932), pp. 642-645.

Cyril Hughes Hartmann, Charles II and Madame (London, 1934).

08 August 2023

William Henry Quilliam – the Victorian solicitor who established Britain’s first mosque

What do the names Abdullah Quilliam, Henri Marcel Léon and Haroon Mustapha Leon have in common?  The answer is that they are all aliases of William Henry Quilliam, 19th century solicitor and convert to Islam.

William Henry Quilliam was born in Liverpool on 10 April 1856.  He was of Manx descent and raised by Wesleyan Methodists.  After training and working as a solicitor, he moved to the Middle East in 1887, where he converted to Islam and changed his name to Abdullah Quilliam.  He returned to England and opened Britain’s first Muslim institute and mosque at 8-10 Brougham Terrace, Liverpool, in 1889.  The site was a place of worship and education, with its own science laboratory and museum.

Quilliam was given the title of sheikh-ul-Islam (leader of the Muslims) of Britain by the Ottoman sultan Abdul Hamid II.  He also found time to edit a series of Islamic periodicals, publishing frequently under the alias H. [Haroon] Mustapha Leon.  A controversial figure in Victorian England, he received backlash for publicly renouncing Christianity, while Brougham Terrace became a target for vandals.  After leaving the UK for a short period he lived on the Isle of Man in the 1910s, changing his name for a third time to Henri Marcel Léon.

Photograph of William Henry Quilliam  alias Abdullah QuilliamWilliam Henry Quilliam, known as Sheikh Abdullah Quilliam. Public Domain

Quilliam is the subject of British Library manuscripts collection Add MS 89684, which has just been catalogued and is now available for research.  The papers in this collection were compiled by Patricia ‘Pat’ Gordon, granddaughter of Quilliam, while conducting research into her grandfather’s life history.  The collection comprises correspondence, newspaper and magazine cuttings, photographs and even a ceremonial silver trowel.  The trowel was presented by the United Methodist Free Churches to Quilliam’s mother, Harriet, on the laying of a memorial stone of the School Chapel, Durning Road, Liverpool, on 20 August 1877.

A ceremonial silver trowel presented to Mrs QuilliamA ceremonial silver trowel presented to Mrs Quilliam Add MS 89684/4/6

During the 1990s, Pat was in regular correspondence with the Abdullah Quilliam Society of Liverpool.  The Society was founded to restore the location of Quilliam’s mosque at Brougham Terrace.  Pat was invited by the Society to unveil a plaque outside the prayer hall on 10 October 1997, in a ceremony which was organised to commemorate Quilliam’s achievements.  Photographs of this event can be found at Add MS 89684/3/2.

Quilliam died in London on 23 April 1932.  He was buried in an unmarked grave in the Muslim section of Brookwood Cemetery, Woking, not far from the grave of the Islamic scholar and barrister Abdullah Yusuf Ali (1872-1953).  It is thanks to the work of Pat Gordon and the Abdullah Quilliam Society that William Henry Quilliam’s mosque and unique history have survived.

George Brierley
Manuscripts Cataloguer

Further reading:
Oxford Dictionary of National Biography – Quilliam, William Henry
Add MS 89684 – Papers relating to Abdullah Quilliam


06 May 2023

Monarchs enthroned: ceremonial iconography and coronations

King Charles III’s coronation continues an extremely long-standing ceremonial tradition.  The scale of coronations does vary from reign to reign, yet core elements such as the monarch’s selection, anointment with holy oil, public acclamation and enthronement remain unchanged.  Records for English coronations stretch back over a thousand years, but as David’s instructions to crown Solomon as king reveal, the Judaeo-Christian origins of the ceremony actually stretch back much further in time:
“And let Zadok the priest and Nathan the prophet anoint him there King over Israel: and blow ye with the trumpet, and say, God save King Solomon.  Then ye shall come up after him, that he may come and sit upon my throne; for he shall be king in my stead” (I Kings 1: 34-5).

The coronation on 6 May 2023 includes a rendition of ‘Zadok the Priest’ alluding to this biblical tradition.  Charles III’s enthronement appears to take its lead from early medieval religious iconography.  The Liber Vitae created around 1031CE centres upon King Cnut and Queen Emma presenting a cross to the altar of New Minster at Winchester.  Angels descend from heaven touching the Monarch’s crown.  There is an image of Christ enthroned located immediately above the cross.

King Cnut and Queen Emma presenting a cross to the altar of the New Minster  WinchesterKing Cnut and Queen Emma presenting a cross to the altar of the New Minster, Winchester British Library, Stowe MS 944 f. 6r. 

The earliest surviving English Royal Seal from Edward the Confessor’s reign 1042-1066 depicts the King crowned and enthroned, holding an orb and sceptre.  Excluding the Commonwealth era between 1649 and 1660, every monarch has been depicted in this manner on their Great Seal.

Earliest surviving English Royal Seal from Edward the Confessor’s reign Earliest surviving English Royal Seal from Edward the Confessor’s reign 1042-1066 - British Library, Lord Frederick Campbell Charter XXI 5.

This theme continues within the illuminated manuscript and other artistic traditions into modernity.  The following detail from Matthew Paris’s Historia Anglorum Chronica Majora created around the 1250s illustrates Henry III seated upon his throne holding a sceptre and a model of Westminster Abbey.

Henry III seated upon his throne holding a sceptre and a model of Westminster AbbeyPortrait of Henry III from Historia Anglorum Chronica Majora - British Library, Royal MS 14 C VII, f. 9r (detail)

Centuries later, during the 1670s, Michael Wright’s portrait of Charles II displays the monarch similarly posed, wearing the St Edward’s crown and dressed in parliamentary robes.

Portrait of Charles II wearing the St Edward’s crownPortrait of Charles II  courtesy of The Royal Collections Trust, RCIN 404951.

Philately also embraces such iconographical references.  This die proof made by the security-printing firm Perkins Bacon and Company Limited, London for the State of Victoria in Australia’s 1856 stamps carries an image of Queen Victoria enthroned on King Edward’s Chair.  Created by Edward I, it is now known as the Coronation Chair having been used in most coronations since that time.

State of Victoria 1856 penny stamp with an image of Queen Victoria enthroned on King Edward’s ChairState of Victoria 1d postage stamp 1856 - British Library Philatelic Collections: Supplementary Collection, Victoria

Edmund Dulac’s design for the 1s 3d stamp for the UK Coronation Issue of 1953 likewise includes a modern iteration of Elizabeth II enthroned.

1s 3d stamp for the UK 1953 Coronation Issue showing Queen Elizabeth II enthroned1s 3d stamp for the UK 1953 Coronation Issue - British Library Philatelic Collections: UPU Collection, Great Britain.

Cecil Beaton’s iconic 1953 photographic Coronation Portrait of Elizabeth II reveals fascinating insights regarding the planning of such symbolic imagery.  It depicts her enthronement at Westminster Abbey, but actually it was taken inside Buckingham Palace.  Beaton’s archives at the Victoria & Albert Museum include photographs illustrating preparations for the portrait which was adopted by Jersey on its 6 February 2002 £3 postage stamp commemorating of Elizabeth II’s Golden Jubilee.

Jersey £3 postage stamp with Elizabeth II at her coronation  commemorating the Queen's Golden Jubilee 6 February 2002Jersey £3 postage stamp commemorating Elizabeth II’s Golden Jubilee 6 February 2002 -British Library Philatelic Collections: The Holman Collection


Richard Scott Morel
Curator, Philatelic Collections

Further reading:
Roy Strong. Coronation: A History of Kingship and the British Monarchy. Harper Collins. 2005, p. 9.
Susanna Brown. Queen Elizabeth II: Portraits by Cecil Beaton. V & A, 2011.
The New Minster Liber Vitae 


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