Travelling July: a pilgrimage to the tomb of Sir Richard Francis and Lady Isabel Burton

The blog has been very quiet during June and July as it’s been quite a couple of months! At the very end of June the sale of our house was completed. Since then Karin and I have been staying with family and friends, doing some house-sitting and living in Air BnBs as we completed work commitments, and traveled around the country seeing people, prior to our departure to Denmark.

During a trip to London last week we managed to squeeze in a side trip to a place that I have longed to visit for over 30 years: the tomb of Captain Sir Richard Francis Burton and his wife Lady Isabel Burton. As I recounted in a post a few years ago, Burton’s life and exploits have long been a subject of fascination for me – see: Sex and drugs and the source of the Nile.

The couple’s burial place is in Mortlake – check out the Burtonia website for details. The mausoleum, designed by Lady Isabel, is in the form of an Arabian tent, and features both Christian and Islamic imagery – very fitting for a man who converted to Islam and was given Catholic last rights on his death bed at the insistence of his wife.

An unusual feature of the tomb is that there is a set of steel steps leading to a glass window at the rear, through which one can view the devoted couple’s coffins and grave goods. It’s a poignant and touching experience. Below are some photographs that we took on the day.

8 thoughts on “Travelling July: a pilgrimage to the tomb of Sir Richard Francis and Lady Isabel Burton

  1. quercuscommunity

    Strangely enough he came up in conversation at work yesterday – the first recorded use of the word “bint” in English. In coin shops, the convrsation ranges far and wide . . .

  2. daysontheclaise

    How wonderful! I have been wanting to write a blog post about him too, for ages. He spent part of his childhood in Montlouis sur Loire, near where I live in France. I haven’t identified the house yet. His family seem to have been part of a really significant Anglo-French community in the area, which produced some remarkable people — doctors, botanists galore, antiquarians and politicians. Now mostly forgotten, or known only as street names and to a few history buffs.

    1. jeffollerton Post author

      Oh, that’s interesting. As far as I remember (and it’s been a while since I read a biography) not that much is known about his childhood. Do let me know if you find his house.

  3. Pingback: Why are there camels carved on this late medieval tomb? | Prof. Jeff Ollerton – ecological scientist and author

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