William John Bankes

(1786—1855) traveller and antiquary

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(1786–1855) [Bi]

Politician, traveller, and pioneer Egyptologist. Born at Kingston Lacey, Dorset, he was educated at Westminster School and Trinity College, Cambridge, where he received his BA in 1808 and MA in 1811. While at Cambridge he became close friends with Lord Byron, whom he accompanied on European tours. Bankes was adventurous and had many talents. In 1810 he entered politics, serving successively as MP for Truro, Cambridge University, Marlborough, and Dorset, but his lifestyle destroyed his political career. In 1815 he journeyed along the Nile, developing a deep interest in ancient Egypt. He amassed a vast collection of architectural pieces and artefacts, many of which were shipped back to Britain and assembled alongside treasures from other journeys at Soughton, his house in Flintshire, Wales, and at Kingston Lacey, which he inherited from his father in 1835. Notable amongst early acquisitions was the eastern obelisk of the pair flanking the entrance to the temple of Isis at Philae, Egypt, bearing the names of Ptolemy VII Euergetes II, who died in 116 bc; it still stands at Kingston Lacey. However, Bankes was unable to enjoy his collections fully, as he had to flee England in 1841 following homosexual indiscretions and being caught in compromising circumstances in Green Park, London. He is believed to have visited Kingston Lacey secretly shortly before his death in Venice on 15 April 1855.

From The Concise Oxford Dictionary of Archaeology in Oxford Reference.

Subjects: Archaeology.

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