William Richard Hamilton (Biographical details)

William Richard Hamilton (official; academic/intellectual; British; Male; 1777 - 1859)

Also known as

Hamilton, William Richard


British antiquary and diplomat born in London (9th January 1777) and educated at Harrow and the Universities of Oxford and Cambridge. He entered the Diplomatic Service and was appointed Secretary to Lord Elgin, Ambassador to Constantinople, in 1799.
He was sent by Elgin on a expedition into Egypt following the exvacuation of the French, he discovered that they had secretly shipped the Rosetta Stone and with a military escort recovered possession of it. (He published a translation of the Greek text in 1809.) He also superintended the shipment of the Parthenon Sculptures for Lord Elgin and the recovery of those subsequently lost at sea.
He was Under-Secretary for Foreign Affairs from 1809 until 1822 and British Minister in Naples from 1822 until 1825. He was Secretary to the Society of Dilettanti from 1830 to 1859, and was also a Trustee of The British Museum from 1838 until 1858, donating a number of antiquities to the institution. . Frederic Madden, the notoriously acerbic Keeper of Manuscripts, recorded in his diary on Thursday 11 February 1858: "I was informed today that Mr W. R. Hamilton, the Trustee, had resigned. God be thanked! This is the man who has carried his Italian friend [Antonio Panizzi, q.v.] through thick & thin from the time when he first came to the Museum to the present time. A more prejudiced person never existed, nor a greater jobber, when it related to himself or his friends. A man also of violent temper & insolent tongue, whose only & sole aim at the Museum seems to have been to glorify Mr. P. and abuse every thing but the Elgin Marbles. I say again, God be thanked he is gone, and I hope never again to see his ugly face and his crooked legs! He is the only man who ever insulted me in the Committee Room, & yet mean enough to solicit me to lend myself to his dirty jobs, which I always refused to do. The officers of the Department of Antiquities know better than myself what a curse this man has been to the Museum as a Trustee!" (transcribed by Marjorie Caygill)
He died in London on 11th July 1859.


'Who Was Who in Egyptology', Dawson & Uphill, Ed. Bierbrier, Third Revised Edition, EES, London, 1995.