On this day in history : 19th April 1824 – Leading figure of the Romantic Movement, Lord Byron, dies from a fever whilst assisting the Greeks in their fight for independence from the Turks….
George Gordon Byron was born in Aberdeen in 1788; at the age of 10 he inherited his great uncle’s title and became 6th Baron Byron….or ‘Lord Byron’….
After attending Harrow and then Trinity College, Cambridge he was to embark on what can be described as a flamboyant life journey…. The great poet, peer and politician was renowned for his often scandalous behaviour….he ran up enormous debt and had countless affairs with both men and women…. Married twice (for money rather than love) he had one legitimate child – and at least two illegitimate…. His very name coined a word – ‘Byronic’ – meaning romantic, arrogant, dark and cynical….
By all accounts he was a beautiful man – something he was obviously aware of, even to the point of vanity – he apparently wore curlers in his hair whilst he slept! His beauty no doubt detracted from his limp – due to a deformed foot he had from birth….
His life was full of exotic travel – and adventure…. At the age of 36 he found himself in Messolonghi, Greece, training troops – even though he had little military experience himself…. He was there to help the Greeks gain independence – a cause he also helped to fund….
In the February of 1824 he had become ill; possibly he had contracted malaria…. The ‘cure’ for many ailments at the time involved bloodletting; this in itself would have left him weak…. Although he recovered enough to travel to Messolonghi on his arrival he caught a heavy cold – once again bleeding was carried out…. Of course the equipment would not have been sterilised and it is believed this may have led to sepsis….which in turn led to a fit of fever – from which he died….
His body was embalmed and returned to England, accompanied by his faithful man-servant ‘Tita’…. Some say the Greeks wanted to keep a little part of him with them and so his heart remained in Messolonghi…. To the people of Greece Byron had become a national hero – after his death he was mourned by both the Greeks and British alike…. The Greek version of his name,’Vyron’, is still a popular choice of name for boys in Greece today – and a suburb in Athens, ‘Vyronas’, is named for him….
The intention had been for him to be buried in Westminster Abbey – but the Church authorities refused to allow this…. He lay in State in London and huge crowds visited…. Lord Byron was finally laid to rest in the Church of St. Mary Magdalene, Hucknall in Nottinghamshire – a slab of marble given by the King of Greece placed over his grave…. His legitimate daughter, Ada Lovelace, was later buried beside him….