Arthur Weigall

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Weigall at the Temple of Edfu, before 1913

Arthur Edward Pearse Brome Weigall (1880 – 3 January 1934) was an English Egyptologist, stage designer, journalist and author whose works span the whole range from histories of Ancient Egypt through historical biographies, guide-books, popular novels, screenplays and lyrics.


Arthur Weigall was born in the year in which his father, Major Arthur Archibald Denne Weigall, died on the North West Frontier. The Weigall family were prominent in Victorian society as artists, marrying into the aristocracy; his cousins were Conservative politician Sir Archibald Weigall, 1st Baronet, Governor of South Australia from 1920 to 1922, and the cricketers Gerry and Louis Weigall.[1][2] As a young widow, his mother, the former Alice Henrietta Cowen, worked as a missionary in the inner-city slums of late-Victorian England. Arthur Weigall went from an unconventional home life in Salford to Wellington College, a school with strong establishment and military connections. He started work as an apprentice clerk in the City of London, but a youthful fascination with genealogy led him to the pharaohs of Ancient Egypt and so into Egyptology. A mysterious patroness encouraged him to apply for New College, Oxford. This was a mistake (Egyptology was not yet studied at Oxford) so before completing his admission tests he went on to Leipzig, hoping to learn German and then enrol in a German university.[3] This didn't happen, and on his return to England Weigall found work with Egyptologist Flinders Petrie, first at University College London and then at Abydos in Egypt.

Life with Flinders Petrie was notoriously harsh, and after a while Arthur Weigall went to work for Friedrich Wilhelm von Bissing, a German Egyptologist. In early 1905 Howard Carter was staying with Arthur Weigall at Saqqara when after an incident with some French tourists, Howard Carter was forced to resign his post as Chief Inspector of Antiquities for Upper Egypt. Suddenly, at the age of 25, Arthur Weigall was appointed to replace Howard Carter at Luxor, responsible for protecting and managing the antiquities of a region that extended from Nag Hammadi to the border with Sudan.

At Luxor, Arthur Weigall threw himself with immense energy into aspects of the job that in his view had been somewhat neglected – the protection and conservation of monuments that were steadily being bought up and moved to Europe and North America. He remained in Luxor until 1911. This was a time of intense activity – the discovery of the tombs of Yuya and Tuya, KV55, the tomb of Horemheb, travels in the Eastern Desert, a popular biography of Akhnaten, a Guide to the Antiquities of Upper Egypt. He worked with Alan Gardiner on the tombs of the nobles and may well have helped Howard Carter to the placement with Lord Carnarvon that led to the discovery of the tomb of Tutankhamun. He was deeply enmeshed in the bureaucratic and social entanglements of Luxor and Cairo, coming into close contact with Flinders Petrie, Gaston Maspero, Theodore Davis, Percy Newberry, Howard Carter and others, and making friends with Sir Ronald Storrs and the wider Edwardian society in Egypt. However, a breakdown took him from Egypt, and World War I cut off his plans to create an institute of Egyptology for Egyptians.

In London during World War I Arthur Weigall became a successful set-designer for the London revue stage. An association with film began: he worked with Bannister Merwin, Jack Buchanan, and Phyllis Monkman on the film Her Heritage (1919), and in the 1920s Lord Northcliffe appointed him film critic for the Daily Mail. Later, one of his novels was made into the film Burning Sands (1922) by the producer George Melford.

Journalism brought him back to Egypt. He covered the opening of the tomb of Tutankhamun as correspondent for the Daily Mail, in direct opposition to Howard Carter and Lord Carnarvon's attempts with The Times to monopolise the story, which Weigall regarded as both wrong and politically damaging to British relations with Egypt at a time of strong nationalist feeling. At the tomb of Tutankhamun he saw Lord Carnarvon joke as he prepared to enter the tomb, and is reported as saying 'if he goes down in that spirit, I give him six weeks to live'.

Arthur Weigall died in 1934. During his first marriage to Hortense Schleiter, an American, he wrote vivid personal accounts of his life in Luxor and Upper Egypt. His second marriage (to the pianist Muriel Lillie, sister of the comedian Beatrice Lillie) returned him to the world of show business as a talented writer of lyrics.

Selected publications[edit]

  • Arthur Weigall, A Report on the Antiquities of Lower Nubia, Thornton Butterworth, London, 1907
  • Arthur Weigall, A Catalogue of the Weights and Balances in the Cairo Museum, 1908
  • Arthur Weigall, A Treasury of Ancient Egypt, Rand McNally & Company, Chicago and New York, 1913
  • Arthur Weigall, Travels in the Upper Egyptian Deserts, William Blackwood and Sons, London, 1913
  • Arthur Weigall, The Life and Times of Cleopatra, Queen of Egypt, G. P. Putnam's Sons, New York, 1914
  • Arthur Weigall A History of Events in Egypt from 1798 to 1914, William Blackwood and Sons, London, 1915
  • Arthur Weigall, Madeline of the Desert, 1920
  • Arthur Weigall, The Life and Times of Marc Antony, Garden City Publishing Company. New York, 1921
  • Arthur Weigall, Bedouin Love, George H. Doran Company, New York, 1922
  • Arthur Weigall, The Life and Times of Akhnaton, Thornton Butterworth, London, 1922, reprinted 2000, ISBN 978-0-8154-1092-8
  • Arthur Weigall, The Glory of the Pharaohs, Thornton Butterworth, London, first published March 1923, reprinted 1923, First impression Keystone library, 1936
  • Arthur Weigall, Tutankhamen And Other Essays, Thornton Butterworth Ltd., London, first published November 1923
  • Arthur Weigall, A History of the Pharaohs, Thornton Butterworth Ltd., London, 1925: Volume 1 - The First Eleven Dynasties, Volume 2 - The 12th to 18th Dynasties
  • Arthur Weigall, Wanderings in Roman Britain, Thornton Butterworth, London, 1926
  • Arthur Weigall, Wanderings in Anglo-Saxon Britain, George H. Doran Company, New York, 1927
  • Weigall, Arthur (1927). The Grand Tour of Norman England. London: Hodder and Stoughton.
  • Arthur Weigall, Personalities of Antiquity, Doubleday, Doran, & company, 1928. ISBN 0-8369-1217-9
  • Arthur Weigall, Paganism in Our Christianity, orig. pub. 1928, Kessinger Publishing 2003 reprint, ISBN 0-7661-3541-1
  • Arthur Weigall, Sapho of Lesbos: Her Life and Times, Thornton Butterworth, London, 1932
  • Arthur Weigall, Alexander The Great, 1933. ISBN 9989-920-86-9
  • Arthur Weigall, Laura Was My Camel, Thornton Butterworth Ltd, London, 1933
  • Arthur Weigall, Nero: Emperor of Rome, Thornton Butterworth, London, 1933
  • Arthur Weigall, The Dweller in the Desert
  • Arthur Weigall, A Guide to the Antiquities of Egypt, ISBN 0-09-185047-9
  • Julie Hankey, A Passion for Egypt: A Biography of Arthur Weigall, ISBN 1-86064-566-6


  1. ^ Burke's Peerage, Baronetage, Knightage and Companionage, 107th edition, ed. Charles Mosley, Burke's Peerage Ltd, 2003, vol. 2, p. 1987, vol. 3, p. 4139
  2. ^ "Henry Weigall - Mapping the Practice and Profession of Sculpture in Britain and Ireland 1851-1951".
  3. '^ Julie Hankey, A Passion for Egypt: Arthur Weigall, Tutankhamun and the 'Curse of the Pharaohs, Londra 2007, TPP, pp. 24–25.

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