19th April 1824

Lord Byron dies in Greece

Although born in London in 1809, Lord Byron’s family history is resolutely Scottish. His ancestral home was Gight Castle in Aberdeenshire, of which his mother, Catherine Gordon, was heiress. Byron himself grew up in Aberdeenshire and was educated at Aberdeen Grammar School, then the University of Cambridge.

He was already writing poetry in his teens, his first book was published before he turned 20, and he was appointed to the House of Lords in 1809, as the Sixth Baron Byron. It was at this point that he headed off on a Grand Tour to Syria, Lebanon and Palestine, and areas on and close to the Mediterranean including Seville, Gibraltar, Malta, and Greece.

Marriage, divorce, and departure

Returning to Britain, he married Annabella Millbanke with whom he had a daughter, Augusta Ada, who became a mathematician and worked with Charles Babbage on the development of the first programmable computer. The marriage didn’t last, though, and when Byron and Annabella divorced in 1816 Byron left Britain for good. He took a long tour through Europe that brought him to Italy, where he lived for several years before continuing to Greece, which was then fighting for its independence from the Ottoman Empire.

Here, he funded the refitting of Greek warships before joining Greek forces and taking direct action in support of the country’s independence. However, he contracted a fever at the sieges of Missolonghi from which he didn’t recover.

News of his illness, which lasted ten days, was sent back to Britain, and the Fife Herald of 22 April 1824 – along with several other papers – reported that “it was stated on Monday afternoon in the City, upon the authority of a letter from Zante, that Lord Byron was dangerously ill; that a vein in his neck had been opened; and that one of his Suliotes [a member of an Eastern Orthodox community] had shot the guard of Lord Byron, on refusal of the guard to admit the Suliote into the presence of his Lordship.” However, better news quickly followed this worrying missive. As the report continued, the second letter “puts an end to all fear as to the life of his Lordship. On the 15th of February Lord Byron was attacked by a nervous convulsive fit, the consequence of great excitement, which was really dangerous while it lasted, but which left no after effect than excessive weakness.”

Alas, this was not the start of a sustained recovery. By the time the report had been published in the Fife Herald and other papers, Byron was already dead.

Byron’s death reported

News didn’t travel as fast in the 1800s as it does today, and it took until May for verified reports of his death to appear in the British press. On 14 May, The Sun reported that “a courier has arrived in town this morning with the distressing intelligence of the decease of Lord Byron at Missolonghi… after an illness of 10 days. A cold, attended with inflammation, was the cause of the fatal result.”

The Greek Government issued a statement, and decreed that a gun be fired for every year of Byron’s life from the batteries of the town, all public offices and courts would be shut for three days, during which shops other than food shops would also be closed and the playing of musical instruments would be banned, all churches would perform a funeral service in his honour, and a general mourning would take place for 21 days.



Other events that occured in April

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