19: Interdisciplinary Studies in the Long Nineteenth Century, No 16 (2013)

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When the King Becomes your Personal Enemy: W. T. Stead, King Leopold II, and the Congo Free State

Marysa Demoor

Abstract


This paper will highlight an unknown but important episode in the life of the journalist W. T. Stead, which, intriguingly, remained unmentioned in Belgian, British, and colonial historiography. It concerns a face-to-face meeting between Stead and Leopold II, King of the Belgians, which certainly did not leave Stead the ‘friend of all Kings’, as the posthumous article published by the Daily Mirror contended. Based on Stead’s own Character Sketches in the Review of Reviews, the paper will show how Stead’s perceptions of the scandalous government of the Congo Free State result to a large extent from his own meeting (probably towards the end of 1884) with King Leopold II, and the King’s refusal to cooperate with Britain in an improvised rescue of General Gordon in Sudan.

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