The Strange Case of Lord Kitchener

The Strange Case of Lord Kitchener

10 June 2014
Arguably the most intriguing headline The Boston Daily Globe ever produced was "Did Kitchener Wield Excalibur? Was He Reincarnation of King Arthur? Growing Belief that Kitchener Fulfilled a Prophecy." The article's author, who quite understandably preferred to remain "Anonymous," goes on to claim that: In England the belief finds growing credence that Lord Kitchener was the reincarnation of King Arthur. Merlin's prophecy that he should live again and Arthur's own words as he lay dying are recalled.
Lord Kitchener
Lord Kitchener
In England the belief finds growing credence that Lord Kitchener was the reincarnation of King Arthur. Merlin's prophecy that he should live again and Arthur's own words as he lay dying are recalled. The manner of his death, the mystery of the man, his aloofness and his isolation all lend color to the belief. So much was Lord Kitchener the object of speculation when he lived, so greatly did Britain depend upon him for her salvation, so startling was the tragedy of his death, it is not strange that the imagination and the heart of the people are quickened to a belief that this man was not as are the others of his day and generation, but that he came forth from out the vast mystery of power and space to save his people in their hour of peril, even as King Arthur in the long ago had issued from the unknown, a shining personage, to free his people from their enemies and make his Nation age-renowned.
Proof then, of nothing more than the fact that conspiracy theorists were as prevalent in 1918 as today? Anyone who's read Bulwer-Lytton would be less than surprised by that possibility. Nonetheless, the story of Lord Kitchener's life is a conspiracy theorist's dream.
Lord Herbert Kitchener was the epitome of British imperialism, both a hero and a butcher, his campaign to control the Sudan so ruthlessly effective that he was nicknamed "The Machine of the Sudan." His excesses were questioned by many, but the outbreak of WWI reinforced the value of his militaristic ideology. As the Secretary of State for War, his image on recruiting posters was ubiquitous, and his penchant for ruthless warfare proved invaluable - up until the moment he died in 1916, when the boat that was taking him on a diplomatic mission to Russia, sank off the Orkney Islands, apparently the victim of a German mine. Kitchener's body was never recovered.
Immediately, rumors of a cover-up began to circulate. One of the first to come forward was Frederick Joubert Duquesne, who claimed that he had signaled a German submarine from the doomed vessel and escaped to safety before it was torpedoed. No sooner was his story dismissed than a new claim arose that the IRA had actually killed Kitchener by hiding explosives on the vessel. In no time, a similar theory was being advanced about Russian communists.
Josef
Josef
Then there were those that believed Kitchener didn't die at all. It goes without saying that many believed that the Freemasons were the ones who spirited him away - for reasons unknown to even Dan Brown. But that idea seems practically unimaginative compared to the theory that Kitchener disappeared to Russia, to be reborn as Stalin. That's right. As in Josef Stalin. After all, a picture - or a recruiting poster - can't lie. Can it?
The Boy's King Arthur
The Boy's King Arthur
Separated at birth? You decide. But while you're at it, you might always want to consider whether it's really all that much more far-fetched to think that Lord Kitchener actually was the Once and Future King, who didn't die in 1916, but instead sailed away across the North Sea back to his home in Avalon, after having once more risen to save England in its hour of direst need.
© - Erica Obey
Photos © - George Baird