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David Urquhart

David Urquhart (1 July 1805 – 16 May 1877) was a Scottish diplomat, writer and politician, serving as a Member of Parliament from 1847 to 1852.[1]


Early life and familyEdit

Born at Braelangwell, Cromarty, Scotland,[2] Urquhart was educated, under the supervision of his widowed mother, in France, Switzerland, and Spain. He returned to Britain in 1821 and spent a gap year learning farming and working at the Royal Arsenal, Woolwich before attending St John's College, Oxford.[2] He never completed his classics degree as his mother's finances failed.

In 1854 Urquhart married Harriet Angelina Fortescue,[3] an Anglo-Irish aristocrat, and the couple had three sons (one of whom, William, died aged only thirteen months; Francis Fortescue Urquhart was another), and two daughters. She wrote numerous articles in the Diplomatic Review under the signature of Caritas, and died in 1889.[3]


Role in Greece and TurkeyEdit

In 1827, Urquhart joined the nationalist cause in the Greek War of Independence. Seriously injured, he spent the next few years championing the Greek cause in letters to the British government, a self-promotion that entailed his appointment in 1831 to Sir Stratford Canning's mission to Istanbul to settle the border between Greece and Turkey.[2]

Urquhart's principal role was to nurture the support of Koca Mustafa Reşid Pasha, intimate advisor to the Sultan Mahmud II. He found himself increasingly attracted towards Turkish civilisation and culture, becoming alarmed at the threat of Russian intervention in the region. Urquhart's campaigning, including publication of Turkey and its Resources, culminated in his appointment on a trade mission to the region in 1833.[2] He struck such an intimate relationship with the government in Istanbul that he became outspoken in his calls for British intervention on behalf of the Sultan against Muhammad Ali of Egypt in opposition to the policy of Canning. He was recalled by Palmerston just as he published his anti-Moscow pamphlet England, France, Russia and Turkey[1] which brought him into conflict with Richard Cobden.

The Circassian national flag that was designed by David Urquhart.

In 1835 he was appointed secretary of embassy at Constantinople,[1] but an unfortunate attempt to counteract Russian aggressive designs in Circassia, which threatened to lead to an international crisis, again led to his recall in 1837. In 1835, before leaving for the East, he founded a periodical called the Portfolio, and in the first issue printed a series of Russian state papers, which made a profound impression.[4][5] Urquhart was also the designer of the Circassian national flag.

In 1838 Urquhart published a book, Spirit of the East, where he examines Turkey and Greece, while also drawing on work previously done by Arthur Lumley Davids.[6]


From 1847 to 1852 he sat in parliament as member for Stafford, and carried on a vigorous campaign against Lord Palmerston's foreign policy.[4][5]

He was against the imposition of sanitary reform, and vehemently opposed the passage of the Public Health Act 1848.[7]

The action of the United Kingdom in the Crimean War provoked indignant protests from Urquhart, who contended that Turkey was in a position to fight her own battles without the assistance of other powers.[1] To attack the government, he organized "foreign affairs committees" which became known as Urquhartite, throughout the country, and in 1856 (with finance from ironmaster George Crawshay) became the owner of the Free Press[8] (in 1866 renamed the Diplomatic Review), which numbered among its contributors the socialist Karl Marx. In 1860 he published his book on Lebanon.[3][5]

Later lifeEdit

From 1864 until his death, Urquhart's health compelled him to live on the Continent, he lived in Clarens, Switzerland next to Lake Geneva. Here he devoted his energies to promoting the study of international law. He is buried in Clarens [3][5]

Promoter of the Turkish bathEdit

Turkish Baths in Jermyn Street, 1862

Urquhart introduced Turkish baths into Great Britain.[3] He advocated their use in his book The Pillars of Hercules (1850), which attracted the attention of the Irish physician Richard Barter. Barter introduced them in his system of hydropathy at Blarney, County Cork. The Turkish baths at 76 Jermyn Street, London were built under Urquhart's direction.[3][5]

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ a b c d Lee, Sidney, ed. (1899). "Urquhart, David" . Dictionary of National Biography. 58. London: Smith, Elder & Co. pp. 43–45.
  2. ^ a b c d Dictionary of National Biography (1899), vol.58, p.43
  3. ^ a b c d e f Dictionary of National Biography (1899), vol.58, p.45
  4. ^ a b Dictionary of National Biography (1899), vol.58, p.44
  5. ^ a b c d e   One or more of the preceding sentences incorporates text from a publication now in the public domainChisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). "Urquhart, David". Encyclopædia Britannica. 27 (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press. p. 801.
  6. ^
  7. ^ Urquhart, D (1848) in Hansard , Commons Sitting, 5 May 1848, 98, p717
  8. ^


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