Saturday, 22 January 2022

Travelling abroad for work or pleasure in the early 1800s

The fascination of travel and of The East

In the early years of the 19th Century Britain was isolated by land due to the wide-ranging wars with Napoleon's armies. This did not deter adventurous travellers, and as Britain was mistress of the seas from Portsmouth to Constantinople, they set off on their expeditions. Some were purely tourists, burning to see ancient civilisations for themselves, others were diplomats, military advisers and traders. 

  In 1810, Lord Byron and his friend John Cam Hobhouse arrived in Constantinople. During their stay, they accompanied the British Ambassador on a formal visit to the Sultan, Mahmud II. Hobhouse later wrote that the Sultan, dressed in yellow satin, his milk-white hands ‘glittering with diamond rings’, had an ‘air of indescribable majesty’. 

This was confirmed by the wife of the retiring British Ambassador, Robert Adair. She had attended the ceremony, disguised as a man.

When Ambassador Robert Adair left in 1810, he promoted 24 year-old Stratford Canning, [ later Viscount Stratford de Redcliffe ], as Minister Plenipotentiary.  He was an energetic young man with robust ideas on protecting British interests. He had a wide intelligence network and corresponded with all his counterparts across Europe and the Levant Consequently, news of events in Paris, ViennaSt Petersburg and Berlin often came to London in the dispatches which Canning sent from Constantinople

In 1811, Lady Hester Stanhope arrived in Constantinople. The Sultan ordered that she was to be treated with great honour, as befitted a close relative of a former British Prime Minister. Lady Hester soon found a delightful place to live - a short distance north of the main city, in the seaside village of Tarabya. That is the Turkish form of the older Greek name of Therapia. The climate was mild and healthy here.                           


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