Journal Volume 3 2000

A Brief Summary of the Life of Colonel Fred Burnaby (continued/1)

Burnaby accordingly returned, and wrote his "Ride to Khiva" which at once became highly popular. In a year it reached its eleventh edition, which was published in 1877; it was translated into several foreign languages, and a new edition appeared in 1884. The ‘ride’ however, was not remarkable for its dangers or difficulties of exploration. The real feat was the ride in an exceptionally hard winter across the three hundred miles of steppe, from Kazala to Khiva.

Encouraged by his success he spent his winter leave in 1876 in a five months’ tour of Asia Minor and Armenia, with the object of seeing the Turks, in their natural state, away from European influences. The Russian government watched his movements to Constantinople, and on their losing sight of him disseminated photographs of him along the frontier, and gave instructions that he should be turned back if found. On his return he published his “On Horseback through Asia Minor”, which passed through seven editions. £2,500 was paid to him as a first instalment for his book. It is a more important book than the ‘Ride to Khiva’, with some useful military appendices and extreme anti-Russian sentiments.

Being anxious to see the Russo-Turkish war, he joined General Baker at Adrianople, Romania, November 1877, nominally as the agent of the Stafford House committee. (Red Cross of its day). Actually however, he was frequently under fire, and at the fight of Tashkesan on 31 Dec. he commanded the fifth Turkish brigade. His great desire, which he did not accomplish, was to have crossed the Balkans and to have slipped through the Russian lines.

On his return to England he took to politics in the same spirit of adventure as he had travelled, professing extreme conservative and Pro-Turkish views, and advocating industrial protection, purchase of commissions in the army, and military law for Ireland. He was invited on 5 June 1878 by the Birmingham Conservative Association to contest Birmingham, and after many stormy meetings and a controversy with Mr. Gladstone about the latter’s use of phrases attributed to him by Burnaby, the election of 1880 resulted in his defeat, though he polled a large number of votes, 15,735 to be exact.

Elizabeth Hawkins-Whitshed In 1879, a busy year of political campaigning, Burnaby, as well as carrying out normal regimental duties, also found time to get married. His bride was Elizabeth Hawkins-Whitshed, only child of the late Sir St. Vincent Bentinck Hawkins-Whitshed of Killincarrig, Greystones, County Wicklow, who was therefore what the papers would refer to as an heiress.

Her estate comprised the townland of Killincarrig containing 560 acres and a further 1310 acres in West Tallaght – Jobstown, Springfield, Brookfield, Whitestown, Whitefield and Fettercairn. After her marriage the Hawkins-Whitshed estate came to be known as the Burnaby Estate.

She was eighteen years old and a ward in Chancery, a determined young lady who, having read Burnaby’s books, expressed a wish to meet the dashing author. A mutual friend introduced them at a dance, and by the end of the 1878 season, her first, they were engaged. Fred at the time was thirty-six. The wedding took place on 25 June 1879 at St. Peter’s, Cranley Gardens, London. Her cousin Arthur Bentinck, later Duke of Portland, gave the bride away.

A Guard of Honour was formed by the troopers in the Blues, and later the guests repaired to Bailey’s Hotel in Gloucester Road for a fork luncheon and an inspection of the presents, which were, in the words of a contemporary account, “considerable in number and of the costliest character. Among the most important was a magnificent silver service presented by the bride’s Irish tenantry; from his Royal Highness the Prince of Wales a curious Benares smoking service; and from the bride-groom’s brother officers two large double-handled bowls of silver, exquisitely chased and embossed.” Don Carlos Duke of Madrid sent a pearl-inlaid revolver.


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