Florence Dixie

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Florence Dixie
Lady Florence Dixie VF-detail.jpg
Detail from the Vanity Fair portrait of 1884
Born Florence Douglas
(1855-05-25)25 May 1855
Cummertrees, Dumfriesshire, Scotland, UK
Died 7 November 1905(1905-11-07) (aged 50)
Glen Stuart, Dumfriesshire, Scotland
Nationality British
Occupation War Correspondent
Known for Feminist
Spouse(s) Alexander Beaumont Churchill Dixie

Lady Florence Caroline Dixie (25 May 1855 – 7 November 1905), before her marriage Lady Florence Douglas, was a British traveller, war correspondent, writer and feminist.

Early life[edit]

Born in Scotland at Cummertrees, Dumfries, Lady Florence Douglas was the daughter of the 8th Marquess of Queensberry and his wife Caroline, daughter of General Sir William Clayton, 5th Baronet (1786–1866), Member of Parliament for Great Marlow.[1]

She had a twin brother, Lord James Douglas (d. 1891), an older sister, Lady Gertrude Douglas (1842–1893), and three older brothers: John, Viscount Drunlanrig (1844–1900), later the 9th Marquess of Queensberry, who gave his name to the rules of boxing and who brought down Oscar Wilde; Lord Francis Douglas (1847–1865), who died in a climbing accident on the Matterhorn; and Lord Archibald Douglas (1850–1938), who became a clergyman.[2][3]

In 1860, Lady Florence's father died in what was reported as a shooting accident, but was widely believed to have been suicide.[3] In 1862 his widow converted herself and her youngest children, Florence and her brother James, to Roman Catholicism and took them to live in Paris for two years. This led the children's guardians to threaten Lady Queensberry with the loss of her children, a real possibility at a time when women's rights were very limited. In later life, Lady Florence campaigned on such injustices, highlighted in her book The Story of Ijarn (1903).[4]

Lady Florence was educated at home and, after returning from Paris, in a convent school. She hated the school's repressiveness and the dogmatism of its religious teaching and took to writing poetry. Her childhood verses were published in 1902 as Songs of a Child, under the pseudonym 'Darling'.[4]

From an early age, Lady Florence showed a love of sport and travel and a gift for writing.[5]

Marriage and children[edit]

Bosworth Hall in Leicestershire

On 3 April 1875, at the age of nineteen, Lady Florence Douglas married Sir Alexander Beaumont Churchill Dixie, 11th Baronet (1851–1924), known as "Sir A.B.C.D." or "Beau".[6][7] His father of the same name, the 10th Baronet, had died in 1872.[8]

The young couple lived at first at Bosworth Hall, near Market Bosworth, Leicestershire, and had two sons, George Douglas (born 18 January 1876), who later became the 12th baronet, and Albert Edward Wolstan (born 26 September 1878, died 1940), whose godfather was the Prince of Wales.[4][9]

Sir Alexander Beaumont Dixie was High Sheriff of Leicestershire for 1876.[10] In 1877, Lady Florence published her first book, Abel Avenged: a Dramatic Tragedy.[11] Both husband and wife shared a love of adventure and the outdoor life, but a shadow was cast over them by his habit of gambling for high stakes; eventually his ancestral home and estate at Bosworth were sold to pay his debts.[4] After this, in the 1880s, the couple moved to Glen Stewart, one of the houses on Lord Queensberry's Scottish estate of Kinmount, previously the home of Lady Florence's mother, the Dowager Marchioness.[6]

Problem family[edit]

Several members of the Queensberry family were affected by mental illness. As mentioned above, Lady Florence's father is believed to have committed suicide. Her twin brother, Lord James Douglas (known to his family as Jim), was deeply attached to her and was heartbroken when she married. In 1885, he tried to abduct a young girl, and after that became ever more manic. In 1888, he married a rich woman with a ten-year-old son, but this proved disastrous.[6] Separated from his twin sister "Florrie", James suffered from depression and became an alcoholic.[6] In 1891, he committed suicide by cutting his throat.[3]

Lady Florence's eldest brother, the 9th Marquess of Queensberry, is remembered for his contribution to the sport of boxing and to the downfall of the writer Oscar Wilde. The Queensberry rules for the sport of boxing, written in 1865 by John Graham Chambers and published in 1867, were endorsed by the young Queensberry, an enthusiastic amateur boxer, and thus took his name. In 1887, Queensberry and his wife Sibyl Montgomery were divorced. During the 1890s, their youngest son, Lady Florence's nephew, Lord Alfred Douglas (1870–1945), had a close relationship with Wilde, to the growing fury of his father, who accused the writer of "posing as a somdomite" (sic). Wilde sued Queensberry for libel, a bold step which ultimately led to his downfall and imprisonment.[12]

Lady Florence's great-nephew Raymond Douglas (1902–1964), the only child of Lord Alfred, spent most of his life in a mental hospital.[13]

Travels in Patagonia[edit]

Weary of her life in English society, during 1878–1879 Dixie travelled with her husband, two of her brothers and Julius Beerbohm in Patagonia in South America.[7] There, she hunted big game and ate it with gusto.[5] On one occasion, while riding on the prairie, her party was overtaken by a huge prairie fire, and her horse bolted with her.[7] On her return to England, Dixie wrote her book Across Patagonia (1880), which discussed Dixie's observations of the country and its inhabitants.[5]

Lady Dixie shared her observations of Patagonia with Charles Darwin.[14] She took issue with the description of the Tuco-tuco Darwin included in his Journal of Researches (1839). While Darwin had suggested that the Tuco-tuco were nocturnal creatures that lived almost entirely underground, Lady Dixie had seen the Tuco-tuco out during the daytime.[15] She sent Darwin a copy of Across Patagonia; Darwin's copy of this book is part of the Library of Charles Darwin located in the Rare Books Room of Cambridge University Library.[14] A hotel at Puerto Natales in the Chilean part of Patagonia is named the Hotel Lady Florence Dixie in her honour.[3][16] When she returned from Patagonia, she brought home with her a jaguar, which she called Affums and kept as a pet. Affums killed several deer in Windsor Great Park and had to be sent to a zoo.[17]

South African war correspondent and Zululand[edit]

Lady Florence in the 1880s

In 1881, Dixie was appointed as a field correspondent of the Morning Post of London to cover the First Boer War (1880–1881)[1] and the aftermath of the Anglo-Zulu War. She and her husband traveled to South Africa together. In Cape Town, she stayed with the Governor of the Cape Colony. She visited Zululand, and on her return interviewed the Zulu king Cetshwayo, being held in detention by the British.[7]

Her reports, followed by her A Defence of Zululand and Its King from the Blue Book (1882) and In the Land of Misfortune (1882), were instrumental in Cetshwayo's brief restoration to his throne in 1883.[7][18] In Dixie's In the Land of Misfortune, there is a struggle between her individualism and her identification with the power of the British Empire, but for all of her sympathy with the Zulu cause and with Cetshwayo, she remained at heart an imperialist.[19]

Women's football[edit]

Dixie played a key role is establishing the game of women's association football, organizing exhibition matches for charity, and in 1895 she became President of the British Ladies' Football Club, stipulating that "the girls should enter into the spirit of the game with heart and soul." She arranged for a women's football team from London to tour Scotland.[3][20]

Politics and feminism[edit]

Frontispiece to "Gloriana", published by Henry & Co., 1890

Dixie was an enthusiastic writer of letters to newspapers on liberal and progressive issues, including support for Irish Home Rule.[5] Her article The Case of Ireland was published in Vanity Fair on 27 May 1882.[11] Nevertheless, she was critical of the Irish Land League and the Fenians, who in 1883 made an unsuccessful attempt to assassinate her. As a result, Queen Victoria sent her servant John Brown to investigate.[3]

Dixie held strong views on the emancipation of women, proposing that the sexes should be equal in marriage and divorce, that the Crown should be inherited by the monarch's oldest child, regardless of sex, and even that men and women should wear the same clothes.[5] She was a member of the National Union of Women's Suffrage Societies,[3] and her obituary in the Englishwoman's Review emphasized her support for the cause of women's suffrage (i.e. the right to vote): "Lady Florence... threw herself eagerly into the Women's Movement, and spoke on public platforms."[19]

In 1890, Dixie published a utopian novel, Gloriana, or the Revolution of 1900, which has been described as a feminist fantasy.[3] In it, women win the right to vote, as the result of the protagonist, Gloriana, posing as a man, Hector l'Estrange, and being elected to the House of Commons. The character of l'Estrange is clearly based on that of Oscar Wilde.[21] The book ends in the year 1999, with a description of a prosperous and peaceful Britain governed by women.[3] In the preface to the novel, Dixie proposes not only women's suffrage, but that the two sexes should be educated together and that all professions and positions should be open to both. In this preface, she goes farther and says:[22]

During the 1890s, Dixie's views on field sports changed dramatically, and in her book The Horrors of Sport (1891) she condemned blood sports as cruel.[5]

Assassination attempt[edit]

The New York Times dated 19 March 1883, reported an attack on Lady Florence Dixie by two men disguised as women, under the heading A DASTARDLY IRISH CRIME AN ATTEMPT TO ASSASSINATE LADY FLORENCE DIXIE. SHE IS WAYLAID BY TWO MEN DISGUISED IN WOMEN'S CLOTHES – HER LIFE SAVED BY A ST BERNARD DOG.[23]

The New York Times dated 30 March 1883, carried a further story headed "LADY FLORENCE DIXIE'S OWN STORY. From the Pall Mall Gazette of March 19".[24]

Reports are published of an attempt to assassinate Lady Florence Dixie at her residence, the Fishery, situated near the Thames, and about two and a half miles from Windsor. Lady Florence Dixie gives the following account of the occurrence:

Lady Ripon[25] and Sir H. Ponsonby called yesterday with a message of sympathy from the Queen to Lady Florence.

However, the New York Times of 8 April 1883, carried a further report:[26]

LONDON, March 21 – It has been boldly suggested by the St. James's Gazette that Lady Florence Dixie is labouring under a mistake in regard to the dramatic occurrence which has occupied so much attention during the last 48 hours. Possibly when this reaches you its boldness will have been justified. The Tory journal does not believe that her ladyship has been attacked at all. Others share this opinion. In a week's time, the general public may share it.


When Florence Dixie died in November 1905, the New York Times carried a report headed LADY FLORENCE DIXIE DEAD This stated that the "Author, Champion of Woman's Rights, and War Correspondent" had died on 7 November "at her home, Glen Stuart, Dumfriesshire", and included the following passage:[27]

Lady Florence Dixie was a member of the Queensberry family and inherited the eccentricities as well as the cleverness possessed by so many members of it. Some years ago she startled London by declaring that she had been kidnapped she believed by Irish agitators, and had been held for some days in captivity. Her story was never disproved, but neither was it proved, and there were many people who said that the whole affair was imaginary.[28]


Lady Florence Dixie's eldest son, George Douglas Dixie (18 January 1876 – 25 December 1948) served in the Royal Navy as a midshipman and was commissioned into the King's Own Scottish Borderers in 1895.[29] On 26 November 1914, he was promoted a temporary captain in the 5th Battalion the KOSB.[30] He married Margaret Lindsay, daughter of Sir Alexander Jardine, 8th Baronet, and in 1924 succeeded to his father's title and was known as Sir Douglas Dixie, 12th Baronet.[31]

When he died in 1948, Sir Douglas was succeeded by his son, Sir (Alexander Archibald Douglas) Wolstan Dixie, 13th and last Baronet (8 January 1910 – 28 December 1975). The 13th Bt. married Dorothy Penelope King-Kirkman in 1950, as his second wife. They had two daughters; 1) Eleanor Barbara Lindsay; and 2) Caroline Mary Jane. Both daughters have issue.

Lady Florence Dixie's grandson Sir Wolstan Dixie wrote an autobiography called Is it True What They Say About Dixie? The Second Battle of Bosworth (1972).[32] (The title apparently alludes to a 1940s song by Irving Caesar, Sammy Lerner and Gerald Marks recorded by Al Jolson in 1948.[33])


Lady Florence Dixie by Théobald Chartran, from Vanity Fair, 5 January 1884

A monochrome lithograph of Dixie by Andrew Maclure was published in 1877, a copy of which is in the National Portrait Gallery.[5]

A more significant lithograph, by Théobald Chartran, printed in colour, appeared in Vanity Fair in 1884 and is one of the long series of caricatures published in the magazine between 1868 and 1914. These were all coloured illustrations featuring notable people of the day, and each was accompanied by a short (usually adulatory) biography. Of more than two thousand people so honoured, only eighteen were women. Featured in the magazine on 5 January 1884, she joined this small band, which included Queen Isabella II of Spain (1869), Sarah Bernhardt (1879), the Princess of Wales (1882) and Angela Burdett-Coutts, 1st Baroness Burdett-Coutts (1883). Victoria, Princess Royal, and Elizabeth, Empress of Austria, followed later in 1884.[34]



The published works of Lady Florence Dixie include:


  • Abel Avenged: a Dramatic Tragedy (London, Edward Moxon, 1877)[11]
  • Across Patagonia (Edinburgh, Bentley, 1880)[11]
  • Waifs and Strays: The Pilgrimage of a Bohemian Abroad (London: Griffith, Farren Okeden and Welsh, 1880, 60 pp)[35]
  • In the Land of Misfortune (London: Richard Bentley, 1882, 434 pp)[35]
  • A Defense of Zululand and Its King from the Blue Books (London: Chatto and Windus, 1882, 129 pp) [35]
  • Redeemed in Blood (London, Henry & Co., 1889)[11]
  • Gloriana, or the Revolution of 1900 (London, Henry & Co., 1890)[21][22]
  • The Young Castaways, or, The Child Hunters of Patagonia (1890), for children[4]
  • Aniwee, or, The Warrior Queen (1890), for children[4]
  • Isola, or the Disinherited: A Revolt for Woman and all the Disinherited (London, Leadenhall Press, 1902)[11]
  • The Story of Ijain, or the Evolution of a Mind (London, 1903)[11]

Shorter works[edit]

  • "The Case of Ireland" in Vanity Fair, issue dated 27 May 1882[11]
  • "Cetshwayo and Zululand" in Nineteenth Century Volume 12 No. 2 (August 1882) pp. 303–312[11][35]
  • "In the Land of Misfortune" (1882)[19]
  • "On Cetshwayo and his Restoration" in Vanity Fair, 12 July 1884, pp 21–22[11]
  • "Memoirs of a Great Lone Land" in Westminster Review, Volume 139 (March 1893) pp. 247–256[35]
  • "The True Science of Living: The New Gospel of Health" in Westminster Review, Volume 150 (1898) pp. 463–470[11]
  • "The Horrors of Sport" (Humanitarian League publication no. 4, 1891)[5]
  • The Mercilessness of Sport (1901)[4]
  • Introduction to Joseph McCabe's Religion of Woman (1905)[3]

Private letters[edit]

Unpublished works include:

About her[edit]

  • "Woman's Mission" in Vanity Fair, 16 August 1884, pp 114–116[11]
  • "Woman's Mission" in Vanity Fair, 23 August 1884, pp 134–135[11]


  • Adler, Michelle, Skirting the Edges of Civilisation: British Women Travellers and Travel Writers in South Africa, 1797–1899 (PhD dissertation, University of London, 1996)[35]
  • Adler, Michelle, "Skirting the Edges of Civilsation: Two Victorian Women Travellers and 'Colonial Spaces' in South Africa" (about Lady Florence Dixie and Sarah Heckford) in Darian-Smith, Kate, Gunner, Liz and Nuttall, Sarah (eds.) Text, Theory, Space: Land, Literature and History in South Africa and Australia (London & New York: Routledge, 1996) pp. 83–98 [35]
  • Anderson, Monica, "Role-Play and Florence Dixie's 'In the Land of Misfortune'" in Women and the Politics of Travel, 1870–1914 (Fairleigh Dickinson University Press, 2006, ISBN 0-8386-4091-5) pp 119–154[19]
  • Czech, Kenneth P., With Rifle and Petticoat: Women as Big Game Hunter (New York, Derrydale Press, 2002, 189 pp)[35]
  • Frawley, Maria H., A Wider Range: Travel Writing by Women in Victorian England (Ph.D. Dissertation, University of Delaware, Newark, 1991, 334 pp)[35]
  • Frawley, Maria H., A Wider Range: Travel Writing by Women in Victorian England (Rutherford, New Jersey: Fairleigh Dickinson University Press and London: Associated University Presses, 1994, 237 pp) [35]
  • Qingyun Wu, "The Discourse of Impersonation: The Destiny of the Next Life and Gloriana; or, The Revolution of 1900", paper presented to the Pennsylvania Foreign Language Conference, Duquesne University, 16–18 September 1988
  • Roberts, Brian, Ladies in the Veld, especially chapter entitled "The Lady and the King: Lady Florence Dixie" (London: John Murray, 1965) pp. 75–181 [35]
  • Stevenson, Catherine B., "The Depiction of the Zulu in the Travel Writing of Florence Dixie", paper presented at the 1980 African Studies Association Conference, 15–18 October 1980, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania (New Brunswick, New Jersey: ASA, Rutgers University, 198[35]
  • Stevenson, Catherine B., Victorian Women Travel Writers in Africa (Boston: Twayne, 1982, 184 pp.) [35]
  • Stevenson, Catherine B., "Female Anger and African Politics: The Case of Two Victorian Lady Travellers" in Turn of the Century Women Volume 2, 1985, pp 7–17[35]
  • Tinling, Marion, "Lady Florence Dixie, 1855–1905" in Women Into the Unknown: A Sourcebook on Women Explorers and Travelers (Westport, Connecticut: Greenwood Press, 1989)[35]
  •  Howarth, Osbert John Radcliffe (1912). "Dixie, Florence Caroline". In Lee, Sidney. Dictionary of National Biography, 1912 supplement​. London: Smith, Elder & Co. 
  • Middleton, Dorothy (2004; online edn, Oct 2009). "Dixie, Lady Florence Caroline (1855–1905)". Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. Oxford University Press.  Check date values in: |date= (help)


  1. ^ a b DIXIE, Lady Florence, poet, novelist, writer; explorer and a keen champion of Woman's Rights in Who Was Who online at 7345683 at xreferplus.com (subscription required), accessed 11 March 2008
  2. ^ G.E. Cokayne et al., eds., The Complete Peerage of England, Scotland, Ireland, Great Britain and the United Kingdom, Extant, Extinct or Dormant, new edition, 13 volumes in 14 (1910–1959; new edition, 2000), volume X, page 694
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h i j Lady Florence Dixie at spartacus.schoolnet.co.uk (accessed 8 March 2008)
  4. ^ a b c d e f g h Middleton, Dorothy, "Dixie [née Douglas], Florence Caroline, Lady Dixie (1855–1905)" in Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004
  5. ^ a b c d e f g h [1] online at the web site of the National Portrait Gallery npg.org.uk (accessed 8 March 2008)
  6. ^ a b c d Murray, Douglas (2000). Bosie: a biography of Lord Alfred Douglas. New York: Hyperion. Retrieved 8 March 2008. 
  7. ^ a b c d e Theakstone, John, Annotated Bibliography of Selected Works by Women Travellers, 1837–1910 (dated Summer 2003) online at victorianresearch.org (accessed 8 March 2008)
  8. ^ The Illustrated London News 1872: Events of this year in the Illustrated London News online at iln.org.uk (accessed 8 March 2008)
  9. ^ Profile, staleyandco.com; accessed 11 March 2008.
  10. ^ The Office of High Sheriff online at leics.gov.uk (accessed 8 March 2008)
  11. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q Anderson, Monica, Women and the Politics of Travel, 1870–1914 page 266 online at books.google.co.uk] (accessed 8 March 2008)
  12. ^ Ellman, Richard, Oscar Wilde (Alfred A. Knopf, 1988, ISBN 978-0-394-55484-6)
  13. ^ Fryer , Jonathan, Sheila Colman, obituary in The Independent dated 27 November 2001 online at independent.co.uk, accessed 15 July 2008
  14. ^ a b Darwin Correspondence Project; accessed 8 March 2013.
  15. ^ Darwin Correspondence Database, http://www.darwinproject.ac.uk/entry-12781 accessed on Fri 8 March 2013
  16. ^ Hotel Lady Florence Dixie, chileanpatagonia.com; accessed 8 March 2008.
  17. ^ Murray, Douglas (2000). Bosie: a biography of Lord Alfred Douglas. New York: Hyperion. p. 18. 
  18. ^ Lady Florence Caroline Douglas Dixie in the Columbia Encyclopedia (sixth edition) online (accessed 8 March 2008)
  19. ^ a b c d Anderson, Monica, Women and the Politics of Travel, 1870–1914, p. 119 et seq.
  20. ^ Richard William Cox, Dave Russell, Wray Vamplew, Encyclopedia of British Football (London, Routledge, 2002) page 325 online at books.google.co.uk (accessed 9 March 2008)
  21. ^ a b Heilmann, Ann, Wilde's New Women: the New Woman on Wilde in Uwe Böker, Richard Corballis, Julie A. Hibbard, The Importance of Reinventing Oscar: Versions of Wilde During the Last 100 Years (Rodopi, 2002) pp. 135–147, in particular p. 139
  22. ^ a b Gates, Barbara T. (ed.), In Nature's Name: An Anthology of Women's Writing and Illustration, 1780–1930 (University of Chicago Press, 2002) pages 61–66 online at books.google.co.uk (accessed 9 March 2008)
  24. ^ LADY FLORENCE DIXIE'S OWN STORY. From the Pall Mall Gazette of 19 March in New York Times dated 30 March 1883
  25. ^ See Henrietta Anne Theodosia Vyner at thepeerage.com (accessed 5 April 2008)
  26. ^ GRAVE ENGLISH TOPICS LADY FLORENCE DIXIE, THE IRISH AND MR. PARNELL From the Pall Mall Gazette of 19 March in New York Times dated 30 March 1883
  27. ^ LADY FLORENCE DIXIE DEAD. Author, Champion of Woman's Rights, and War Correspondent in New York Times dated Wednesday, 8 November 1905, p. 9
  28. ^ Compare with the mysterious temporary disappearance of writer Agatha Christie.
  29. ^ The London Gazette: no. 26671. p. 5642. 15 October 1895. Retrieved 17 March 2008.
  30. ^ The London Gazette: (Supplement) no. 29111. p. 2953. 23 March 1915. Retrieved 17 March 2008.
  31. ^ Dixie, Sir (George) Douglas, 12th Bt., in Who Was Who 1941–1950(London, A. & C. Black, 1980 reprint; ISBN 0-7136-2131-1)
  32. ^ Dixie, Sir (Alexander Archibald Douglas) Wolstan, in Who Was Who 1971–1980 (London, A. & C. Black, 1989 reprint, ISBN 0-7136-3227-5)
  33. ^ Is It True What They Say About Dixie? online at theguitarguy.com; accessed 11 March 2008.
  34. ^ Vanity Fair Ladies, vanity-fair-prints-company.com; accessed 30 March 2008.
  35. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o AfricaBib (accessed 21 May 2013)

External links[edit]