Palgrave, William Gifford (1826-88) (Explorer who traversed hostile Arabian Peninsula – among other things)

William Palgrave


A scholar and a soldier, a Jesuit and a Jew, a French spy and a British ambassador – Palgrave was a man of contradictions, all of them highly compromising when in 1862-3, fortified by Pius IX’s blessing and Napoleon III’s cash, he attempted the first west-east crossing of the Arabian peninsula. To steely nerves and a genius for disguise he owed his eventual success; but not before both were sorely tested, when, as a Syrian doctor, he became the first European to enter Riyadh. The desert capital of the fanatical Wahabis, dangerous for an infidel at the best of times, was then doubly so as the sons of the ageing king Feisal intrigued for power. At one point, Palgrave was accused by a Saudi Prince of being a Christian, a spy, and a revolutionist, come to ruin the Moslem religion and state. But Palgrave bluffed his way out.
Palgrave’s father was interesting too – he was a child prodigy who at the age of eight translated Homer’s "Battle of the Frogs" from Greek into French. As an adult he changed his name from Cohen to Palgrave and converted to Christianity. He wrote many important historical works.
(Source – John Keay’s book Exploration – Classic Accounts of the Great Stories of Human Endeavour, and the Jewish Encyclopedia)

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Posted on August 31, 2011, in Explorers. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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