Joseph W. Boyle
|Joseph W. Boyle|
6 November 1867|
Toronto, Ontario, Canada
April 14, 1923 (aged 55)|
Hampton Hill, Middlesex, England
Boyle was early to recognize the potential of large-scale gold mining in the Klondike gold fields, and as the initial placer mining operations waned after 1900, Boyle and other companies imported equipment to assemble enormous dredges, usually electric-powered, that took millions more ounces of gold from the creeks while turning the landscape upside-down, shifting creeks. Boyle organized an ice hockey team in 1905, often known as the Dawson City Nuggets, that endured a difficult journey to Ottawa, Ontario (by overland sled, train, coastal steamer, then transcontinental train) to play the Ottawa Silver Seven for the Stanley Cup, which until 1924 was awarded to the top ice hockey team in Canada and could be challenged for by a team. Ottawa thrashed the Dawson team.
During World War I, Boyle organized a machine gun company, giving the soldiers insignia made of gold, to fight in Europe. The unit was incorporated into larger units of the Canadian Army. In July 1917, Boyle undertook a mission to Russia on behalf of the American Committee of Engineers in London to help reorganize the country’s railway system. In December 1917, he successfully petitioned the new Bolshevik government of Russia to return archives and paper currency from the Kremlin to Romania. In February 1918 he served as the principal intermediary on behalf of the Romanian government in effecting a ceasefire with revolutionary forces in Bessarabia.
Boyle, in cooperation with Captain George Alexander Hill, a Russian-speaking member of the British secret service, carried out clandestine operations against German and Bolshevik forces in Bessarabia and southwestern Russia. Just one of their many exploits together had been secreting the Romanian crown jewels and Romanian treasury out of the Kremlin and back into Romania. In March–April 1918, he rescued some 50 high-ranking Rumanians held in Odessa by revolutionaries. This made Boyle a national hero in Romania and gave him influence within its royal court. At the Paris Peace Conference in 1919 he was instrumental in helping Romania to obtain a $25-million credit from the Canadian government. He was awarded the special title of "Saviour of Romania". He remained a close friend, and was at one time a possible lover of the Romanian Queen, British-born Marie of Edinburgh (who later became Marie of Romania). On the Queen's behalf, Boyle organized millions of dollars of Canadian relief for Romanians, earning the title of hero. He was decorated for his exploits by the governments of Russia, France, Britain and Romania.
His relationship with the queen remains something of a mystery. Some historians speculated they were lovers and point to a mysterious woman in black who brought flowers to his grave every year on the anniversary of his death in 1923. Queen Marie died in 1938 and nobody appeared at his grave after that year, so it was always thought that she was the mystery woman.
Boyle was reburied in his Canadian home town of Woodstock, Ontario, after being buried for 50 years in Hampton Hill.
In the graphic novel Sous le soleil de minuit, published in 2015 by writer Juan Díaz Canales and artist Rubén Pellejero, Joe Boyle accompanies Corto Maltese in 1915 in his Alaskan adventure. He is a character in the novel The Romanov Conspiracy by Glenn Meade.
- Distinguished Service Order - England
- Croix de Guerre - France
- Order of the Star of Romania (Grand Cross) - Romania
- Order of the Crown of Romania (Commander) - Romania
- Order of Regina Maria - Romania
- Order of St. Vladimir, 4th Class - Russia
- Order of St. Anne, 4th Class - Russia
- Order of St. Stanislaus, 2nd Class - Russia
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Joseph W. Boyle