Cyril Pelham Foley

Cricketer, sportsman, adventurer, soldier and writer

The Raider

Cyril Pelham Foley was a cricketer, writer, journalist, gambler and soldier. He was a journalist and has given us an often witty account of the Parker expedition.

Given that he went on an expedition to find the Ark of the Covenant it is fitting that his nickname was The Raider, which he gained when he was a member of the disastrous Jameson Raid which helped spark the Boer War. The raid’s goal was to spark an uprising in the Dutch-speaking Boer republic of Transvaal and bring its gold and diamonds under British control. The operation turned out to be a disaster and Foley and the other raiders were captured by the Boers.

During his cricketing career he played for Middlesex, Marylebone Cricket Club, Lord Brackley’s XI, AJ Webbe’s XI, Cambridge University scoring over 3,000 runs during his career. Reports describe him as a patient batsman, a slow left-arm bowler and an almost comically awful fielder! He played against many of the great cricketers of the day including WG Grace and in his autobiography he recounts what is possibly the earliest recorded account of a reverse sweep. It happened in a game between Gloucestershire and Middlesex at least seventy years before that stroke’s supposed invention, William Woof was the bowler and Sir Timothy O’Brien was the batsman:

‘The latter treated him as he afterwards treated W.W. Read at Lords, except that he back-handed him through the slips, and did not, ofcourse turn round to do so. E.M. Grace who was fielding close in at slip, narrowly escaped injury, the ball passing with great velocity through his whiskers twice. W.G., whose fraternal affection was aroused, said to O’Brien: “You mustn’t do that Tim, you’ll kill my brother.” O’Brien, who disliked E.M. replied: “And a good thing too” and promptly did it again. W.G. then warned O’Brien that if the stroke was repeated, he would take his men off the field. Needless to say O’Brien repeated it, and W.G. marched off the field.’

WG Grace

Cyril Foley came from a privileged background and was educated at Eton and Cambridge. He was the second son of a general and the grandson of a baron. The Foley family had a long military tradition encompassing both glorious success and disastrous failure. One relative was a member of Nelson’s band of brothers and rose to the rank of admiral. During his illustrious career he led the manoeuvre at the Battle of the Nile that destroyed Napoleon’s fleet. Cyril’s father was a general in the British Army. During the Crimean War he watched his wife’s uncle, Lord Cardigan, lead the infamous Charge of the Light Brigade. Foley himself served in the Boer War, the First World War and the Irish War of Independence, surviving all three. In the latter conflict he served in British Military Intelligence  in Dublin Foley narrowly escaped one of the most notorious and bloody days of the war, the original Bloody Sunday. He returned to London at the end of October 1920 and shortly afterwards relinquished his commission. On the 21st November 1920, the Irish Republic Army or I.R.A. killed fourteen members of British Military Intelligence in Dublin in a single day.

Foley always looked for adventure and in 1909 he went to Jerusalem in search of the Ark of the Covenant. The Parker expedition consisted mainly of upper-class young Eton-educated Englishmen who believed that a Finnish scholar had found secret cyphers hidden in the Bible which told where the Ark was hidden. It sounds improbable; Downton Abbey meets Indiana Jones meets Dan Brown, but it is absolutely true. They tried to keep secret what they were looking for but could not help drawing attention to themselves Foley wrote that one day while they were playing cricket he hit a six into the Pool of Siloam, where the Bible records Jesus healed a blind man. Foley wrote that his six was ‘a thing which I believe, has never been done before, not even by the Hittites.’

Sunday Express Headline from 1926



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Another book about SPARES (I wrote mine first!)

In 2021 I wrote a book about the lives of a group of aristocratic British Spares and specifically their extraordinary expedition to Jerusalem to find the Ark of the Covenant. The expedition ended in riots and disorder and headlines around the world. In January 2023 Penguin Books launched Prince Harry’s autobiography entitled Spare. It similarly has produced an enormous number of headlines around the world.

Prince Harry at the Invictus Games 2020

The title of the Duke of Sussex’s book refers to the fact that Harry’s elder brother William is the Heir and Harry, the younger brother, is the Spare. This fate which has faced countless royal and aristocratic brothers. It is inherent in the system whereby the title and position passes automatically to the eldest son. The fate of sisters has traditionally been worse, as in a hereditary system they were simply there to be married off in a suitable dynastic match determined by their father.

The issue for the male Spare is what to do with their life. Initially Prince Harry followed a familiar path which has been trodden by generations of young royal and aristocratic British men. Only later did he have to worry about what to do with his life. As a spare in the British Royal Family Harry did not have to really worry about money.

Eton College

As mentioned earlier most British members of the Parker expedition were spares and this is not the only similarity between them and the Duke of Sussex. The first of these is Harry’s upbringing and education. Prince Harry, like his elder brother, was educated at Eton College. King Henry VI founded the College in the 15th century. The King is possibly best remembered by the famous quote that he “lost his wits, his two kingdoms and his only son”. Henry VI’s goal for the College was to educate poor children around Windsor Castle, the king’s principal residence. However, over the years, the College changed its role. Its purpose became, and in no small degree still is, to create the next generation of English gentlemen. Eton was and still is a school for those who came from power and money and who assume, generally correctly, that this situation will continue. Most Etonian schoolboys have traditionally known that their academic achievements or otherwise at the College were not the prime drivers of their future. Over the centuries many boys have realised that there was no absolute necessity for them to work hard. This was certainly true of Prince Harry who left the College with decidedly underwhelming academic qualifications. In his autobiography he says he confessed to Meghan on their second date that he is “Not really big on books”.

An Eton schoolboy’s uniform in the 1890s.

Most of the members of the Parker expedition were younger sons, not necessarily destined to inherit their father’s titles. The eponymous expedition leader, Montagu Parker was the second son of an earl. Cyril Foley was the second son of a general and the grandson of a baron. Clarence Wilson was the third son of a rich, knighted member of parliament. Cyril Ward was the fifth son of an earl. These men, like Harry, were not meant to inherit their father’s title, estate or realm. So the question was what they did with their lives.

The Royal Family

Many of the members of the Parker expedition were very close to the Royal family. Gordon Wilson even helped ensure the continuation of the monarchy. When he was a schoolboy at Eton he helped foil an assassination attempt on Queen Victoria in Windsor. A mentally ill man named Roderick Maclean fired at Queen Victoria’s carriage as she drove from the station to the castle. Gordon hit Maclean over the head with his umbrella a number of times and ensured he could be subdued by the police before he could fire any more shots.  

Roderick Maclean firing at Queen Victoria

Other connections were very personal, Cyril Ward’s aunt, Lady Harriet Mordaunt, had been one of Edward VII’s many mistresses. She was also one of the most notorious. Her husband divorced her for adultery, a highly unusual move in Victorian England.  In court, Sir Charles Mordaunt as good as accused the heir to the throne of adultery with his wife. The Prince of Wales felt obliged to give evidence. It is hard to overemphasise how scandalous it was for the heir to appear in court to deny he had committed adultery. Many newspaper reports said that Robin Duff was a cousin of the King, albeit a distant one. However, he was close to the English (and German) Royal families. Robin Duff married Lady Juliet Lowther, a favourite of the Royal family and King Edward VII and Queen Alexandra attended their wedding. Cyril Foley knew many of the Royal family well and shot regularly with George V and VI. In his autobiography he 

The British Army

Prince Harry had many of the same constraints as late Victorian aristocratic men. They and he could not go into, what was called, trade to make money. One route which many royal and aristocratic young men took after finishing education was to go into the military. This is exactly what many of the Parker expedition and Prince Harry did. Military service, of course was as officers typically in an elite regiment such as the Guards, Hussars or Lancers. In the Edwardian era aristocrats dominated the officer corps of such regiments. Prince Harry joined one such regiment, the Blues and Royals of the Household Cavalry. Several members of the Parker expedition served in the Household Division and one, Gordon Wilson, rose to command the Royal Horse Guards. Monty Parker served in the Grenadier Guards and Robin Duff served in the Royal Life Guards. Most of the other British members of the expedition served as officers in the British Army, the only exception being Cyril Ward who served as an officer in the Royal Navy.

Lieutenant Colonel Gordon Wilson  

Active Service in a Foreign War

Most of the members of the expedition who served in the British Army saw active service, just as Harry did. In the case of the Parker expedition this was the Second Boer War. Like the war in which Harry fought, the war was fought against irregular and guerrilla forces. In March 1900, Montagu Parker sailed with a contingent of the Grenadier and Scots Guards to South Africa. He was twenty-one years of age and one of the youngest officers in the Grenadier Guards. Before they sailed, Queen Victoria inspected the regiment at Buckingham Palace, with the officers being presented individually to the Queen. During the Boer War Gordon Wilson fought at the siege of Mafeking with Robert Baden-Powell, his brother Clarence was wounded and another brother Wilfred was killed in action. Clarence went on to be the main funder of the Parker expedition, ploughing the equivalent of millions of pounds into it.

Cyril Foley, like Harry, wrote an account of his time in the war and recounted the tale of one night when there was a tremendous fusillade from two blockhouses under his command. This went on for forty minutes. When Foley got through to the blockhouse, his men told him they had fought off a massed attack by the Boers, who had driven a herd of cattle at the wire. The two blockhouses fired 1,200 rounds of ammunition, fighting off the supposed attack. In the morning, when he inspected the battlefield, Foley found the sole casualty was a single cow!

What To Do Next? Marriage to a famous American divorcee perhaps

The members of the Parker expedition who fought in South Africa came home to a more cynical country and were possibly more cynical and damaged themselves.  For example Monty Parker was diagnosed with PTSD caused by his service in the war. After Harry’s service in Afghanistan he resigned his commission in 2015 and had to find a new role for himself. It was while he was looking for this new role that he met Megan Markle and the rest, as they say, is history. 

Once again there are many similarities with the members of the Parker expedition, many of whom had finished their military careers shortly before the expedition. They had to find new lives, which given their status as Spares was difficult. One possibility was to make a good match and marry well. Monty Parker, if you believe the newspapers of the time was a favourite of Ava Astor, one of the most beautiful women of the age. One newspaper report said

‘His attentions during the recent visit of Mrs Astor were indefatigable, while in his company the beautiful American seemed to lose that wearied look she continually wears, and occasionally smiled, something she rarely does.’

 There seemed a possibility that she and Monty Parker might wed once she divorced her first husband. He was one of the richest men in America, John Jacob Astor, commonly known as Jack. Ava Astor was one of the most beautiful women of her age and with her eventual divorce settlement of $10 million from her husband would be worth over $300m today.

Ava Astor

The Parker expedition

In the end Monty and Ava did not marry and instead he led the expedition to find the Ark of the Covenant together with other Spares. The expedition seemed the perfect opportunity for young men who were searching for something to do with their lives.

The Parker expedition believed they had solved the 2,500-year-old mystery of the location of the Ark. The expedition members were convinced the Ark and the Temple treasures were not lost. They believed the precious objects had been hidden to protect them when Jerusalem was once again under threat. The participants were confident they knew the hiding place and had come to retrieve the Ark. The venture started when a Finnish poet and biblical scholar convinced the aristocratic Spares that he had discovered hidden cyphers in the Old Testament which showed the Ark’s hiding place.

The story of the Parker expedition includes secret codes, bribery, betrayal, gun-running, madness, bankruptcy, untimely death and more. It sounds improbable; Downton Abbey meets Indiana Jones meets Dan Brown. However, there is no need for invention. When Rudyard Kipling, the most famous writer of the day, heard the story of the expedition from one of its participants, he wrote to a friend: ‘Talk of fiction! Fiction isn’t in it.

Newspaper Headlines

It does not spoil the story of the Parker expedition to say that the expedition did not succeed in its goal and the members live happily ever after. Instead it created riots and disorder in Jerusalem in 1911 resulting in headlines around the world. Many of these were inaccurate and some contained outright journalistic invention. To use a modern phrase, there was a great deal of fake news about the expedition. However, a well-sourced story in the Jewish Chronicle reported that one cypher the expedition used contained a curse. The report said that any unauthorised person who attempted to disclose the secret chamber containing the Ark would be cursed ‘sixty and six fold’. Another newspaper report asked rhetorically what fate would await the Ark’s robbers. In my research I have found that the answer to this question was often an unhappy one. Within a few years, three were dead, one was mad, two were bankrupt, one divorced and another deported.

Hopefully the Duke of Sussex’s path is smoother and does not lead to the same unhappy endings as many of the Spares on the Parker expedition!

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The Godfather of Invasion Fiction, MI5 & James Bond


While they were in Jerusalem members of the Parker expedition complained that individuals from the Jewish community spied on them to thwart the expedition in their search for the Ark of the Covenant. Yet the British expedition itself was nearly led by someone who helped create British secret services and its most famous fictional secret agent, James Bond.

William Le Queux

Valter Juvelius could not raise the money in Finland to pursue his cypher theories of the hiding place of the Ark of the Covenant. So he asked Swedish businessman Johan Millen to go to London to try and raise the money there. He came to London with a letter of introduction from a Swedish baroness and one of the people he approached was William Tufnell Le Queux

A literary godfather of James Bond

Le Queux has been largely forgotten but was arguably one of the most influential men in the creation of the British secret services, British spy fiction and its most famous figure, James Bond. Le Queux was a journalist and author.  He wrote close to 200 books during his career and many dealt with the threat to the United Kingdom from foreign enemies and spies. He was obsessed with the danger he believed Britain was in and wrote passionately and prodigiously about it. 

Arguably his most famous work was The Invasion of 1910, published in 1906 and serialised in the Daily Mail.  He wrote it in conjunction with the Field Marshall Lord Roberts, a hero of the Indian Rebellion of 1857, during which he won the Victoria Cross, Abyssinia and Afghanistan and the Second Boer War. They wrote about an upcoming German invasion of Britain. Lord Northcliffe, the owner of the Daily Mail, promoted the book heavily including using men in Prussian uniforms complete with spiked helmets walking round central London to advertise it. This was after Lord Northcliffe had altered the route the invading forces took in the book to go through towns and cities where he could boost his circulation!

Cover of the Invasion of 1910

The book was an enormous success selling over a million copies and being translated into twenty-seven languages. There was even a German translation which altered the ending so that the Germans were victorious. This was not Le Queux’s first book about an invasion. In 1894 he published The Great War in England in 1897 about a combined French and German invasion. These two books helped create the genre of Invasion Fiction which was incredibly popular in Britain before the First World War, and includes such works as the Riddle of the Sands by Erskine Childers and John Buchan’s The 39 Steps.

Le Queux did not just write about invasion. He was obsessed with spies and wrote innumerable books about them, including Spies of the Kaiser, England’s Peril, The Under-Secretary, Whoso Findeth a Wife, Revelations of the Secret Service and many more. Many writers on spy literature credit Le Queux with inventing the archetypal British gentleman secret agent. He created several characters, often with alliterative names, the most famous of whom was Duckworth Drew. He is a cosmopolitan much-travelled bachelor who is

“discreet about his age, we think of him as in his late thirties: old enough to have recovered from the heartache of a passionate and thwarted romance while a junior attaché, yet young enough to win the hearts of the many ladies he meets on his travels.”

In the bookIn Le Queux’s books English gentleman agents must foil dastardly foreign plots and agents. Le Queux’s writing is often mocked for cliches and terrible prose. However, he was highly influential. His legacy has been recognised by many. Graham Greene, who wrote many spy novel’s dedicated The Spy’s Bedside Book:

“To the immortal memory of William Le Queux and John Buchan.”

Le Queux almost single-handedly created spy fiction and the British gentleman agent, which reached its peak with Ian Fleming’s James Bond books. Ian Fleming was an avid reader of Le Queux’s works when he was a young man and many have credited Le Queux as an influence on Fleming’s work. The 2006 edition of The Oxford Companion to English Literature, described Fleming’s James Bond novels as ‘updated versions of Le Queux and Buchan designed for the Cold War consumer boom and changed sexual mores of the 1950s and 1960s’. Fleming wrote his first Bond book Casino Royale in 1953. He wrote it quickly, from memory and without research. Many elements in Fleming’s stories echo Le Queux’s works. Fleming Bond formula of a British gentleman up against an evil foreign villain was one which Le Queux had great success with. Further the Bond villains are often disfigured, much like many Le Queux villains. Fleming seems to have borrowed some plot lines from Le Queux’s work as well. In Le Queux’s Mademoiselle of Monte Carlo the protagonist Hugh Henry is gambling in Monte Carlo and confronts the eponymous mademoiselle in order to gain information about his father’s death. However, before she can say anything, she is shot with a rifle disguised as a walking stick. In Casino Royale Le Chiffre’s henchman threatens Bond with just such a weapon at the baccarat table in a fictional French gambling resort.

Sean Connery as James Bond

The catalyst to the creation of British secret services

However, William Le Queux did more than merely influence spy fiction. He is credited with having played a leading part in the establishment of Britain’s first modern secret service. During the Edwardian era, fuelled in large part by the invasion and spy fiction of writers such as Le Queux there was great pressure on the British government to counter this foreign spy menace. Papers such as the Daily Mail branded virtually every German in the country as a spy. It singled out waiters as a particular problem and said that people should refuse to be served by an Austrian or German and if the waiter claimed to be Swiss to demand to see their passport. In May 1907 the Morning Post newspaper printed a letter claiming that there were 90,000 German reservists and spies hiding in the country. In March 1909 under mounting pressure the British government set up a committee under RB Haldane, the Secretary of State for War, to examine the ‘nature and extent of foreign espionage’ in the country. Initially they found little evidence. However, one of the committee’s members was Major James Edmonds a close friend of Le Queux’s. He kept on providing information on massive numbers of alleged spies operating in the country. None of this evidence had been provided to the police and it often consisted of minor trivia; a bald German barber in Portsmouth who wore a wig and took an interest in gossip from naval personnel, a series of Germans living living near the naval base who received registered mail from Germany. Much of this ‘intelligence’ appears to have come from Le Queux himself. There were other sources of information and the Russian government helped convince Haldane that the government should set up a body to counter foreign espionage in the country and the Secret Service Bureau was set up in 1909, the precursor to MI5 and MI6.

Le Queux’s deadly cigars

Once these agencies were set up, including later the CIA, there have been occasions where the reality of espionage imitated Le Queux fiction. Famously the CIA concocted innumerable plots to kill Fidel Castro. Two of the most famous involved Castro’s love of cigars. The CIA proposed to give him both poisoned cigars and exploding cigars. Le Queux had used both these ideas in his books decades before. In the Czar’s Spy of 1905 there is the following assassination: 

“Suddenly, while the Privy-Councillor lay back in his chair pulling thoughtfully at his cigar, there was a bright, blood-red flash, a dull report, and a man’s short agonized cry. Startled, I leaned around the corner of the deck-house, when, to my abject horror, I saw under the electric rays the Czar’s Privy-Councillor lying sideways in his chair with part of his face blown away. Then the hideous truth in an instant became apparent. The cigar which Oberg had pressed upon him down in the saloon had exploded, and the small missile concealed inside the diabolical contrivance had passed upwards into his brain.”

In his 1911 work Hushed Up! the prologue commences with a death which has been certified as a heart attack:

“Nothing very extraordinary in that, surely? He died while smoking.”

“Yes,” said the bald-headed man, bending towards the other and lowering his voice into a harsh whisper. “He died while smoking a cigar—a cigar that had been poisoned! You know it well enough. What’s the use of trying to affect ignorance—with me!”

Le Queux also used cigars in another of his works Secrets of the Foreign Office. In the book Duckworth Drew is once again called upon to foil a foreign plot, on this occasion involving the French and he uses a drugged cigar in order to gain vital intelligence from the French Foreign Minister. When the two meet the French Minister asks for one of Drew’s Corona Superbos cigars. However, the cigar was drugged and Drew was able to get the vital information he sought out of the befuddled opponent.

‘To this day Monsieur le Ministre is in ignorance that that particular Corona had been carefully prepared by me with a solution of cocculus indicus’

The potential leader of Juvelius’ expedition to Jerusalem

As mentioned earlier Johan Millen approached Le Queux to raise funding for an expedition to Jerusalem based on Juvelius’s cyphers. Le Queux wrote about the encounter in his autobiography published in 1923. He wrote that he was approached in the Cecil Hotel in London, where he was living at the time with the letter of introduction from the Swedish Baroness Nernberg:

“This letter explained that my visitor was a well-known civil engineer in Sweden, that he was highly trustworthy, and that he had a very curious disclosure to make to me. We sat down, and certainly what he told me caused my eyes to bulge. Briefly, it was that a friend of his, a certain Professor Afzelius (sic), at Abó University, had discovered in the original text of the Book of Ezekiel preserved in the Imperial Library at Petrograd a cipher message that gave the whereabouts of the concealed treasures from King Solomon’s temple. At first I was inclined to laugh, but he assured me that he wished for no money, only my influence and support to induce a London newspaper to take up the matter and send out an expedition to Jerusalem to explore.”

Neither Millen nor Le Queux gives any reason why he specifically was approached.  Certainly he was a well-known author and journalist. However, there were many of these in London. There are two possible reasons Johan Millen may have known William Le Queux and thought he might have been receptive to the idea.

In 1907 Le Queux travelled to Sweden, Denmark and Norway while preparing for an expedition he planned to take to Lapland and round the top of Norway to Russia. The expedition was planned in conjunction with the explorer Harry de Windt. Le Queux and de Windt travelled to Copenhagen, Stockholm, Narvik and Tromso in the summer of 1907 and they seem to have met the Swedish King and Prime Minister. They were introduced to Swedish society by Baroness Barnebour a friend of Le Queux’s. Bizarrely they also hitched a ride on the yacht of the Prince of Monaco when they were stranded on the Lofoten islands in the very north of Norway.

According to the journalist and BBC broadcaster Alistair Cooke, Le Queux books were pot boiling melodramas of the most lurid and preposterous sort.  In 1903 Le Queux wrote one book which certainly fitted Cooke’s description. It was a mysterious tale including an Ark, the discovery of old secret cyphers and a search for buried treasure. It was entitled The Tickencote Treasure. Its plot is an incredible one and bizarrely echoes much of the start of the Parker expedition. The book starts with a doctor called Paul Pickering who goes to sea and on the voyage off the African coast, the ship he is on encounters a mysterious vessel floating nearby.

“Look, Joe!” exclaimed Seal. “What the dickens do you make out o’ that?”
Thorpe swung his body with the motion of the vessel and took a long look at the object of mystery.
“Thunder, cap’n!” he cried. “Looks like Noah’s Ark, sir.”

It turns out incredibly that the ship dates not from Noah but from the time of the Spanish Armada. Onboard it they find skeletons, gold, ancient scrolls with cyphers and even more incredibly someone alive, dressed in Elizabethan dress and carrying a sword, who cannot speak.

When Pickering returns to London he shows the parchments to an expert who verifies that they are authentic. He says they relate to the story of Bartholomew da Schorno who captured a ship from the Spanish Armada in 1588 with an enormous fortune on board. He brought this to England and buried the treasure. However, its location was hidden by a secret cypher.

Illustration from The Tickencote Treasure

The story then progresses in the normal Le Queux fashion as a race between Pickering and a deadly rival named Black Bennett who is also on the trail of the fortune and who will stop at nothing, including murder to get his hands on it. The plot involves a beautiful innocent young woman who the evil Bennett is blackmailing to help him get his hands on the treasure. This does not stop Pickering falling in love with her. Le Queux describes her in typically melodramatic form.  

“But her face held me fascinated; I could not take my eyes off it. It was oval, regular, with beautifully-moulded cheeks, a small, well-formed mouth, and fine arched brows, while the eyes, dark and sparkling, looked out at me half in wonder, half in fear. Hers was a kind of half-tragic beauty, a face intensely sweet in its expression, yet with a distinct touch of sadness in its composition, as though her heart were burdened by some secret.”

The story takes many twists and turns but ends with Bennett falling to his death while fleeing the police and the beautiful Dorothy Drummond inheriting the fortune.

“And the rest? Need I tell you? I think not. All I shall say further is that within two months of our sudden fortune Dorothy, whom I had loved long before I knew her to be heiress of the treasure, married me at Hampstead, where we now live—in Fitzjohn’s Avenue, to be exact—leading an idyllic life of peace and love. If you pass up the thoroughfare in question you will probably notice the name, “Mr. Pickering, Surgeon,” upon a brass plate, for although the sum realized by the sale of the jewels has provided us with a comfortable income for life, yet I am not by any means an idle man.”

We cannot know why Millen chose to approach Le Queux. He certainly approached several individuals before he was introduced to Montagu Parker. However, it seems so incredible or appropriate that he chose someone who had written a story with are so many similarities between the project that Juvelius and Millen were proposing. Both centred on cyphers found in an ancient document showing the location of long-buried treasure. They both had Arks (though different ones). Who knows, maybe Juvelius had read The Tickencote Treasure. 

After he was approached Le Queux says that he took the papers to a Dr Adler, a friend who was also the Chief Rabbi, to verify the documents. Le Queux says that Dr Adler came back and said that there was something to the documents.

Dr Adler, Chief Rabbi

On the basis of the positive response to the cypher documents Le Queux approached Sir C. Arthur Pearson, the proprietor of the Standard newspaper for funding for the expedition to Jerusalem. He described what happened next:

“To this he most generously acceded, and an initial sum was agreed between us for its cost. I was to head the expedition to Palestine. That afternoon I walked along the Strand full of suppressed excitement.”

We do not know how long this process took, although Le Queux suggests it was quick. However, when he informed Millen that he had secured the funding Millen told Le Queux that they were not pursuing the matter. We know that this was because they had decided to move forward with the syndicate led by Montagu Parker. However, he did not tell Le Queux this and he was bemused. 

The author was not completely frustrated as it gave him the idea for another novel The Treasure of Israel (known as the Great God Gold in the USA), which was another international bestseller for him. In it he took much of the cypher information that Millen had given him and then added many of the elements from The Tickencote Treasure!

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King Edward VII’s connections to the Parker expedition

1901 Portrait of King Edward VII

King Edward VII was neither a participant nor investor in the Parker expedition but he did know most of the British members of the expedition very well. Many of the British members of the expedition were married but three were married. These were Gordon Wilson, Robin Duff and Cyril Ward. Edward attended two of the three weddings and might well have attended the third if it had not been scaled down to a small family affair due to bereavements in the family.

The first wedding he attended was Gordon Wilson’s marriage to Lady Sarah Spencer-Churchill in November 1891. The wedding was performed by the Archbishop of Canterbury and the Prince of Wales, as he then was, was foremost amongst the guests. He was not the only royal in attendance; the Duke of Cambridge, a cousin of Queen Victoria and at that time Commander-in-Chief of the Army attended as did his wife the Duchess of Teck and their daughter Princess Victoria of Teck who later married the future King George V.

As ever the Prince of Wales complicated love life intersected with the family. He had a brief affair with Jennie Jerome the future wife of Lord Randolph Churchill, Lady Sarah’s brother.

In June 1903 Robin Duff married Lady Juliet Lowther. Her stepfather was Lord de Grey, who was the Treasurer of the household of Queen Alexandra, Edward VII’s consort. Lady Juliet was a favourite of the royal family. King Edward VII, Queen Alexandra and Princess Victoria all attended the wedding at St. Peter’s, Eaton Square, London. The Press Association reported that

‘on the marriage yesterday of Lady Juliet to Mr Robert Duff, Count von Bernstorff, Councillor and First Secretary to the German Embassy, conveyed to the bride the sincere congratulations of His Majesty the German Emperor, and presented her with a bouquet on behalf of the Emperor. The King and Queen, with Princess Victoria, were present at the ceremony at St. Peter’s, Eaton Square, London.’

Kaiser Wilhelm II in 1902

Lady Juliet and Robin Duff had two children, a boy and a girl. Princess Mary of Teck, the future Queen Mary, was godmother to their son. Princess Victoria was godmother to their daughter.

Robin Duff was an officer in the Life Guards of the Household Cavalry and was at one point was Silver Stick in Waiting to Edward VII. In 1902 before his marriage to Lady Juliet he was involved in an episode of bullying of a fellow officer. He and several other junior officers stripped 2nd Lieutenant, Charles Dalton Gregson and auctioned off his clothes. They emptied horse manure over him, rolled him in mud, ducked him in a water trough then threw his furniture out of his room. Finally, they made him run around the green outside the mess dressed only in his boots and underwear. They were punished by having their leave cancelled for six months. King Edward VII thought even these sanctions were too harsh. The victim arguably suffered a worse punishment; Gregson was transferred out of one of the most prestigious regiments in the British army and posted to the Indian army.

The third married member of the expedition was Cyril Augustus Ward. He was the fifth son of the Earl of Dudley and in April 1904 when he married Baroness Irene de Brienen, the daughter of a wealthy Dutch aristocrat. The families of both the bride and groom were in mourning so the wedding at St. Peter’s, Eaton Square was a small family one with few guests. However, King Edward VII would likely have attended the marriage in different circumstances as he attended weddings of several of Cyril’s brothers and had invested Cyril with the Royal Victorian Order.

Once again the Prince of Wales love life played a role in the close connections. He also had a very close personal relationship with Cyril’s aunt Lady Harriet Mordaunt. She had been one of Edward VII’s many mistresses and also one of the most notorious. Her husband divorced her for adultery, a highly unusual move in Victorian England. He did this after Lady Mordaunt told her husband she was pregnant and the baby was not his. The Prince of Wales paid regular visits to Lady Mordaunt at her home. In court, Sir Charles Mordaunt as good as accused the heir to the throne of adultery with his wife. The Prince of Wales felt obliged to give evidence. It is hard to overemphasise how scandalous it was for the heir to appear in court to deny he had committed adultery with a married woman. At the end of the case, Sir Charles gained his divorce. Lady Mordaunt was conveniently found to be insane and committed to an institution, away from public view.

Cyril Foley was another member of the expedition who knew King Edward VII both when he was sovereign and when he was the Prince of Wales. Foley was a very keen sportsman and shot regularly including with the German and British royal families. In his autobiography he recounted an incident in which both royal families were shooting at Sandringham. They had hoped to be hunting but there was a hard frost so they had to shoot hares instead. Some of the German party became overcome with enthusiasm and instead of staying in their places pursued the hares. During this period one of them accidentally shot King Edward VII. He received a pellet in the nose before lunch. Foley recounted how

‘and with his abundant good nature, which was one of his chief characteristics, merely shook his head and said, ‘Very dangerous, very dangerous,’

Foley added reassuringly that no one was killed that day!

Clarence Wilson who provided the largest amount of funding to the Parker expedition was a keen sailor and a member of the Royal Yacht Squadron. At the time the Commodore was King Edward VII. This period was considered the golden age of the R.Y.S. At the meeting in which Clarence Wilson was elected an active member of the R.Y.S., he was one of three new members. One of the two others was the Prince of Wales, the future King George V.

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