An encounter with Gertrude Bell
Gertrude Margaret Lowthian Bell, 14th July 1868 to 12th July 1926.
Gertrude Bell was an extraordinary woman, born into a family of great wealth; keenly intelligent she studied history and philosophy at Oxford University and embarked on world tours. She travelled alone through Arabia and the near east, befriended tribes, spoke 8 languages fluently She climbed mountains, landscaped gardens, became an archaeologist and was a skilled photographer. This exceptional woman was a poet, cartographer, and writer. Her talent as a linguist, speaking 8 languages including Arabic, Persian and Turkish, enabled her to move freely in the Middle East where she was trusted and respected, but where the Turks and Germans accused her of being a “spy. It is certainly true that as oriental secretary in Iraq, she provided vital information for British Intelligence and gained a military rank. Gertrude was an object of fascination causing intrigue over her private life, her ill-fated engagement to a young diplomat and her love affair with a married man ended in tragedy with his death. She became a political officer and Oriental Secretary in Baghdad and her multifaceted talents credited Gertrude Bell with forming the modern day boundaries of Iraq. . Most important was her crucial contribution to the formation of the modern day Iraq State, her role in the 1914-18 War, which led to her part in the nomination and promotion of Faisal to become King of Iraq in 1921. Other aspects showed her relationship with T E Lawrence (of Arabia), her attendance as the only woman at the 1921 Cairo conference, who held a key position negotiating terms for the Anglo French agreements and where she had a prominent role advising Winston Churchill and influenced the bringing about of the coronation of the Emir Faisal as the King of Iraq. This amazing woman became a legend in her own lifetime and it seems that the light that burned so brightly faded after her mysterious death in 1926, two days before her 58th birthday. When Gertrude died she was given a state funeral, King George V said ‘The nation shall mourn her passing’ and he wrote to Sir Hugh and Lady Bell expressing his sympathy for the loss of their “Gifted Daughter” Her obituary was written up in leading newspapers and journals, yet it seems that the sands of time have covered her name and brilliance, but we hope that 2015 will be Gertrude’s year.
Mrs Jan Long on 01531 650036 or e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org