These are some of the British who have made a mark on the Island through the ages.
(Special Thanks to Theodoros Metallinos)
King Richard of England 1157-1199 also known as the lionhearted king, was one of the most legendary monarchs of medieval Europe, he was the leader of the Christian Powers of the Third Crusade, in an effort to recapture Jerusalem. However in 1192 after his conquest of Cyprus bad weather forced Richard’s ship to stop in Corfu, the then lands of the Byzantine Emperor Isaac II Angelos, who objected to Richard’s annexation of Cyprus, formerly Byzantine territory. Disguised as a Knight Templar, Richard sailed from Corfu with four attendants, but his ship was wrecked near Aquileia, forcing Richard and his party into a dangerous land route through central Europe.
Sir James Campbell, Baron of Inverneill (1763 – 1819) Scottish soldier, politician and colonial administrator. After a long and heroic war record, in 1814, he was appointed to take possession of the Ionian Islands, and when the French Governor, François-Xavier Donzelot, refused to hand over the government of the Islands, Campbell threatened to open fire. He remained in the Ionian Islands as Governor and Commander-in-Chief until 1816, when Sir Thomas Maitland was appointed Lord High Commissioner. A French authority stated that Campbell acted in a most despotic way as governor, saying that he abolished the university, the academy and the press established by the French. Campbell died on 5 June 1819, and is buried with his own monument at Westminster Abbey.
Sir Thomas Maitland GCB, GCH, GCMG 1759 – 1824 He was a British Lieutenant General and colonial governor British General and Member of Parliament. He took part in many campaigns and was appointed Governor of Ceylon and Malta. Between 1816 and 1823 he took the post of Lord High Commissioner of the Ionian Islands and was the local representative of the British government in the United States of the Ionian Islands, which was a federal republic under the amicable protection of the United Kingdom, established under the 1815 Treaty of Paris.
Hugh William ‘Grecian’ Williams 1773 – 1829 was a Scottish landscape artist with Welsh origin, known for his romantic landscapes. From 1816 to 1818 he embarked on a grand tour of Europe. He travelled with a companion William Douglas of Orchardton and Almorness who seems to have helped fund the trip. On the 24th February 1817 they embarked for Greece from Italy with dispatches by Mr. Wood, the secretary for Malta, for delivery to Sir Thomas Maitland the High Commissioner of Corfu. In letter sent to his sister Douglas makes it clear that they relied on Maitland for their freedom to travel in the area and they also stayed in an apartment in the Venetian palace, where they spent ten days with their host Sir Thomas Maitland. He also gave them use of a yacht to sail around the island and provided an armed government schooner for the onward journey, where they stopped at Parga, the island of Paxos, Cephalonia and Zante. During his time on the island and around Greece he produced some beautiful works of art and was given the middle name ‘Grecian’ for his paintings of the region.
Sir George Whitmore KCH 1775 – 1862 was a British General and whilst heading the Royal Engineers in Malta he became great friends with Sir Thomas Maitland. During this time he designed and built the military hospital in Malta. In 1819 when Maitland was high commissioner of the Ionian Islands, he asked Whitmore to undertake the design and supervision of construction of the Palace of st Michaels and St Georges which still stands majestically at the end of the esplanade in the centre of Corfu town.
Sir Charles James Napier 1782 – 1853. English General, hero of the Napoleonic .In May 1819 he was appointed an inspecting field officer in the Ionian Islands, taking time off during this time to study military advantages of the position of the Isthmus of Corinth, as he had hoped to lead the Greek army. On his return to Corfu he was appointed resident of Cephalonia, a position created by Sir Thomas Maitland, the high commissioner and was designed to protect the people against feudal oppression. During this time he carried out a number of public works and built good roads. He wrote both a pamphlet on the Greek question and a memoir on the roads of Cephalonia. Napier was promoted colonel in the army in 1825, at which time the Greeks were fighting the Turko-Greek war and the Greeks turned to Napier for help. However the Greek government persuaded by the London committee brought ships instead of creating any army Napier who then withdrew his help and returned to England.
Adams, the new Commissioner, and Napier had many difference and after Napier returned to England, Adams made charges against him and publicly declared he would not allow him to return. He was later offered the residency of Zante, a higher post than that of Cephalonia which he declined as he thought he was not properly vindicated unless he returned to Cephalonia.
Sir Frederick Adam GCB GCMG 1781 – 1853 a British General with Scottish ancestry, he took part in many campaigns and battles culminating in the Battle of Waterloo. In 1824 he became the Lord high Commander of the Ionian Islands, a post he held until 1832. He was well known for the construction of roads and an aqueduct. In 1830 he constructed a beautiful house and Gardens St.Panteleimon now known as Mon Repos estate, in tribute of his Corfiot wife Nina. A bronze statue of him can be found in the gardens by the Palace of Saint Michael & Saint George.
Robert Wood 1717 – 1771. English traveller, writer, politician and MP, arrived in Corfu in May 1742 on the ship “Ercole e Rosa”, coming from Venice. The publications of his travels in 1753 and 1757, in English and French, was among the first systematic reports on the buildings of antiquity.
Sir William Gell 1777 – 1836 was a British traveller, archaeologist, writer and painter. He received classical education at the University of Cambridge and was a friend of Lord Byron and Walter Scott. He wrote many projects for the antiquities of Greece and Italy, a Member of the Society of Dilettante he took many trips to Greece and recorded impressions of the antiquities there. He was an eyewitness of the 1801 looting of the Parthenon marbles from Elgin, recorded in Zakynthos in 1811 and painted a precious plan of the city of Corfu.
Charles Robert Cockerell 1788 – 1863. Englishman, archaeologist, architect, academic professor and author was born in London and trained in classical literature and Latin. In 1810 he under took a long tour in Greece, via Istanbul and was in Corfu in 1815, where he painted views of the city and Corfiot countryside.
William Linton 1791 – 1876 was an English painter and president in 1837 of the Royal Society of British Artists. He travelled and spent a year in Corfu in 1828 and painted many beautiful and memorable paintings of the island and surrounding scenery.
Frederick North, 5th Earl of Guilford GCMG 1766 – 1827 was an English statesman, son of the Prime Minister, Governor of Ceylon. In 1824 North established the Ionian Academy on the island of Corfu, which was under British control as part of the United States of the Ionian Islands. It was the first University to be established in Modern Greece. A statue of the Earl stands in the gardens in Corfu Town by the palace of St Michael & St George and a library and street are named after him.
Jane Elizabeth Digby- Theotoky, Countess of Ellenborough 1807 -1881 was an English aristocrat who lived a scandalous life and romantic adventures in Europe and East. In 1838 she was married to Baron Venningen but she had become increasingly unhappy and began an affair with the Greek Count Spyridon Theotokis (born 1805). Venningen found out about the affair when Jane and the count tried to elope and he challenged Theotokis to a duel in which Theotokis was injured however Venningen agreed to released Jane from the marriage, but took custody of their children and they remained friends for the rest of their lives. She was not legally divorced from Venningen until 1842, at which time she converted to the Greek Orthodox faith and married Theotokis in Marseille in 1841. The couple moved to Greece with their son Leonidas but in 1846, after their son’s fatal fall off a balcony, Theotokis and Jane divorced. Greece’s King Otto, became her next lover.
Oscar Wilde 1854 – 1900. Irish novelist, poet, playwright and critic. While still a student he visited Greece, stopping first at Corfu in the spring of 1877, and inspired by the landscape of Corfu wrote the poem SAINTS IPCC. In Santa Decca, Wilde responds to Greece, beginning with his arrival on the Island of Corfu. The poem ends with a postscript mentioning Corfu and the title of the work is named after a mountain in this region of Greece. Link to Poem
Benjamin Disraeli, KG, 1804 – 1881. British politician, romantic writer, parliamentarian and twice Prime Minister of Britain. He was a trained solicitor who in 1821, began to publish his novellas from his grand tour the Mediterranean, arriving in Corfu in October 1830.
James Barry 1789 – 1865. British military physician and surgeon who studied at the University of Edinburgh. Barry was originally born a women (Margaret Ann Bulkley) but choose to live her life as a man to pursue a highly successful career as a surgeon, thus Barry would be the first British woman to become a qualified medical doctor. He served in many hospitals throughout the British Empire and was promoted to Inspector General of Military Hospitals. In this capacity he arrived in Corfu in 1851 and served in the military hospital restoring the wounded of the Crimean War and left for Canada in 1857. He fought for better hygiene to patients, prisoners and lepers.
Lawrence George Durrell 1912 – 1990. British poet, novelist and dramatist. Born in India, he failed to settle in England so after his marriage to Nancy Isobel Myers in 1935 he persuaded his new wife, his mother, and his siblings, including brother Gerald Durrell, to move to the Greek island of Corfu, where they might live more economically and escape both the English weather and stultifying English culture what Durrell called “the English death. In the same year, Durrell’s first novel, Pied Piper of Lovers was published.
In Corfu, Lawrence and Nancy lived together in bohemian style. For the first few months, the couple lived with the rest of the Durrell family in the Villa Anemoyanni at Kontokali. In early 1936, however, Durrell and Nancy moved to the White House, a fisherman’s cottage on the shore of Corfu’s north-eastern coast at Kalami, then a tiny fishing village. Durrell’s friend Theodore Stephanides, a Greek doctor, scientist and Poet was a frequent guest. This period on Corfu is fictionalised in his book Prospero’s Cell and his friendship with Marie Aspioti would lead to the publication of Lear’s Corfu.
Gerald Malcolm Durrell, OBE, 1925 – 1995. British naturalist, conservationist, writer and television presenter born in India and brother of the author Lawrence Durrell. He moved to Corfu with his family in 1935 and lived at in the Villa Anemoyanni at Kontokali. The Corfiot physician , poet and philosopher Theodore Stephanides became a great mentor in his life during this period and together they studied the flora and fauna, these experiences were later recorded in three books , most famous of which is ‘My family and other animals’.
Francis Henry King, CBE, 1923 – 2011. British novelist, poet and short stories writer was born in Switzerland and studied at Oxford. He was a conscientious objector during the Second World War, who worked for the British council in various places in Europe. In 1954 he served at the British Institute in Corfu where he wrote the novel ‘The Dark Glasses’.