Wednesday, September 05, 2012

Lady Florence Baker

Lady Florence Baker
In my earlier post Hunting Elephants I excerpted one of Sir Samuel W. Baker's, who was a the 19th century explorer, descriptions of an elephant hunt from his book In the Heart of Africa. In passing I also mentioned that Baker's wife accompanied him on that expedition, and that she likely saved him when he fell sick from the fever at the end of it.

A commenter by the name of Raven left the follwing comment to the post:
Baker purchased his wife in an Ottoman slave market. Although she could not speak a word of English the universal language of love was enough- she was his devoted companion for the rest of his life.
Intrigued by that bit of information I looked up Lady Florence Baker's biography and, not that I ever doubted Raven, sure enough he did buy her from a slave market in 1859.

Her story reads like a barely believable Victorian era potboiler.

She was supposedly born to a aristocratic Hungarian family, only to see them slaughtered during the Hungarian Revolution. Her nurse escaped with her and took her to Bulgaria, then part of the Ottoman empire. From there her nurse ran off to get married and she got kidnapped by slavers who groomed her to be a concubine in a harem.

At the age of somewhere between 14-17 (they're not sure exactly when she was born) she was finally being auctioned in Vidon's slave market when Baker, who had gone to the auction on a bit of a lark, saw her. He was smitten by her and attempted to buy her, but he was outbid by the Pasha of Vidon.

Undeterred, Baker bribed her guards and ran off with her. They eventually got married.

Lady Florence continued to travel with Baker. As I mentioned, she was on his expedition down the Nile when he discovered Lake Albert, and likely saved him when his expedition collapsed and he nearly died of the fever. The were to return to The Sudan and battle against the slave trade. However, luckily for them, they left the region just before the Mahdi overwhelmed Gordon in Khartoum.

There are two books about her, at least one of which I plan on getting: To the Heart of the Nile: Lady Florence Baker and the Exploration of Central Africa and Stolen Woman.

So, if you pass back through here -- thanks Raven, I appreciate the information about her.

1 comment:

raven said...

You are welcome!