Ismail Pasha, Khedive of Egypt
  • December 23, 2013
  • Posted In: Ruler

Ismail Pasha, Khedive of Egypt and Sudan (1830-1895) was responsible for the industrialisation of his nation, the expansion of its borders and the complete dissipation of Egypt’s wealth. The Khedive’s grandfather, Muhammad Ali Pasha, laid down the foundations of modern Egypt but it was Ismail Pasha who forged enduring links with Europe declaring ‘my country is no longer Africa; we are now part of Europe. It is therefore natural for us to abandon former ways and to adopt a new system adapted to our social conditions’.

Ismail Pasha was born in Cairo at the Al Musafir Khana Palace and was educated in Paris. On the death of his elder brother, Ismail Pasha was appointed heir to his uncle Said I. It was Said I’s strategy to keep his nephew out of Egypt by sending him on diplomatic missions to the courts of the Pope, Emperor Napoleon III of the French and the Sultan of the Ottoman Empire. Said I’s exclusion policy only honed the future Khedive’s diplomatic skills and opened his eyes to a rich and diverse cultural knowledge that would serve him well as a ruler. In 1861 Ismail Pasha earned his spurs as a military man leading an army of 18,000-men to quell insurrection in the Sudan.

On the death of his uncle in 1863, Ismail Pasha was proclaimed Khedive of Egypt. Taking his cue from Emperor Napoleon III, the Khedive expanded Cairo with a new quarter based on the architectural style of Second Empire Paris, built a railway system, inaugurated a postal service, reduced the trade in slaves and patronised the opera and theatre. In 1874 the Khedive successfully annexed Darfur but was repeatedly rebuffed from invading and annexing Ethiopia by its Emperor Yohannes IV.

The Khedive first visited Henry Poole & Co in 1867 and returned in person again in 1869 when he was received at Court by Queen Victoria. However, his livery orders for the year 1868 detailed below demonstrate the extravagance that would end his reign. The Henry Poole & Co livery ledgers record over twenty pages of orders for the Khedive’s stables making him the most prolific customer of the 1860s. The crowning achievement of the Khedive’s reign was the opening of the Suez Canal in 1869 attended by the Empress Eugenie of the French and the future King Edward VII when Prince of Wales.

As the Poole’s ledgers bear witness, Ismail the Magnificent was a profligate spendthrift and his ambitious building projects and personal spending on a sybaritic existence eventually caused his downfall. Towards the end of his reign, Egypt’s national debt had risen to £100 million. The Khedive sold Egypt’s shares in the Suez Canal to the British for almost £4 million and ceded control over his nation’s finances to an Anglo-French cabal.

The British government sent the 1st Earl Cromer to Egypt to monitor the Khedive’s private accounts. The Earl insisted that the Khedive sign-over his personal estates to the Egyptian nation and accept a constitutional rather than absolute monarchy. The Khedive was advised to abdicate in favour of his son Tewfik Pasha. This he did and left Egypt to live-out his exile in Naples. The ex-Khedive was allowed to return to his palace of Emirghian on the Bosporus where he lived as a state prisoner under house arrest until his death in 1895.

The Khedive’s livery orders for 1868 are listed under the lesser title Viceroy of Egypt and cover twenty pages dwarfing any other livery order in the book. The delivery address is c/o Stuart Brothers, Alexandria, Egypt. On the first page alone the 1st and 2nd coachmen and three postilions (all Englishmen) are furnished with grey doe stable coats, vests and trousers trimmed with gilt buttons and strap jackets with vests, pantaloons and leggings also trimmed with gilt buttons. The same livery is provided for four jockeys and three ‘helpers’ at a total cost of £555.

The Khedive then ordered blue Devon livery edged in scarlet with velvet collar, a scarlet vest, white leather front-button breeches, a hat with cockade, three pairs of fine white cotton gloves, six white cravats and three pairs of white silk hose for two coachmen, two postilions and an outrider costing £683. Even more elaborate was the Khedive’s order of scarlet state livery frock coats laced with gold and trimmed with gold aiguillettes and a crown, wigs, white csssimir (sic) state waistcoats laced with gold, white cassimir (sic) breeches with gold garters and tassels, black State cocked hats with feathers laced with gold and tin trunks for all the above for his two coachmen and three postilions. He also ordered two fancy satin racing jackets for his jockeys and one scarlet and one blue racing cap. The total cost was £1155 and 18-shillings.

Still not content, the Khedive made three further livery orders for his stables costing £1331, £1465 and £1678 not counting freight to Alexandria, insurance, dock duties and a Poole’s man – Foreman – to accompany the deliveries to Egypt at a cost of £96. The total bill for 1868 was £6963. This would be the equivalent of £559,500 today and this is before we calculate the cost of the Khedive’s personal orders.

(c) James Sherwood

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