King's College London
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West of Suez: Britain and the Mediterranean, 1704-1967

Stanhope on the Greek revolution

Title page and frontispiece portrait of Mustapha Ali, with the Turkish boy dressed in traditional and brightly coloured clothesTitle page and frontispiece portrait of Mustapha AliThe British government adopted a position of neutrality towards the Greek War of Independence. But there was considerable support for the cause in Great Britain among those who had travelled in Greece or took an interest in Greek affairs.

This support was coordinated by the London Greek Committee, established by John Bowring and Edward Blaquiere in order to publicise the Greek struggle, to collect finances for a military expedition to Greece and to raise a substantial loan for the Greek government.

Its first meeting was held on 28 February 1823 in the Crown and Anchor tavern on the Strand and its early membership included Lord Byron and Jeremy Bentham.

Leicester Stanhope (1784-1862), a lieutenant-colonel in the British Army, became the committee’s agent and travelled to Greece in September 1823, where he met his fellow representative, Byron, in Cephalonia. In December he arrived in Missolonghi, where Alexander Mavrocordato, the leader of the Greeks in the west of the country, was based.  

Byron and Stanhope had both been nominated by the London Greek Committee as commissioners to look after the distribution of the committee’s loan. Byron died from fever in April, and Stanhope, as a serving army officer, was recalled to England by the foreign secretary, George Canning. Their absence caused difficulties when the gold sovereigns reached Zante in late April 1824; the first and second loans were eventually despatched to the Greek government but spent without any intervention from the committee.

Stanhope’s letters to the London Greek Committee were published in September 1824. The Turkish boy shown in the frontispiece image, Mustapha Ali, lost his family during the war and was brought back to England by Stanhope. Stanhope set up several schools while in Greece and the committee arranged for a number of Greek boys to be educated in England, with the intention of sending them back to Greece as school teachers.

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