When Adrian Green (Director) gave his pre-exhibition briefing to staff and volunteers, he pointed out that the iconic exhibit is the painting of Col.T.E. Lawrence, 1919 (Fig.1), which was bought by the Duke of Westminster, who presented it immediately to The Tate. This painting came out of the Paris Peace Conference held at Versailles in 1919 where John was one of two official artists. Lawrence was present as adviser and interpreter for the Emir Faisal.
This prompted a member of the audience to recall that T.E. Lawrence’s robes could be seen at The National Army Museum in London. Adrian replied that they could also be seen at the Ashmolean Museum in Oxford. I had the opportunity to view these when I visited for the ‘Spellbound’ exhibition (about witchcraft) last year (Fig 2).
The Ashmolean Museum writes that these are the actual robes worn by Colonel Thomas Edward Lawrence (1888 – 1935) during WW1. Headdress: Saudi Arabia from 1916, silk with gold thread and a silk core. Robe: Saudi Arabia from 1916, Silk with gold and silver thread. Shirt: (Thob) Saudi Arabia from 1916, white silk embroided. Gold dagger: (khanjar) and belt Saudi Arabia from 1916, steel and gold filigree.
In Seven Pillars of Wisdom (Ch.XX) Lawrence wrote, “I was…[fitted out]…in splendid white silk and golden-embroidered wedding garments which had been sent to Faisal lately (was it a hint?) by his great-aunt in Mecca.”
Also of interest is that, in 2016, a family friend of mine, Rodney Havelock Walker, who lived locally, died. Among his possessions were some artefacts pertaining to T.E. Lawrence. These included: 1. Book, ‘Battles and Sieges in the Peninsula, with a label fixed inside stating:
City of Oxford High School
Midsummer Examination, 1903
Prize for: Upper Fourth Form
Awarded to: T.E. Lawrence
A,W.Cave (Head Master)
2. Book: Seven Pillars of Wisdom, containing the Dedication:
“To Rodney Havelock Walker, on your Christening Day. As a memento that you were Christened in the author’s Christening robe” (Fig. 3).
3. A page from The Times newspaper, dated January 30th 1936, pertaining to ‘A Memorial to Lawrence in St Paul’s Cathedral’.
4. A pair of sandals said to have belonged to T.E. Lawrence. There was no proof of provenance beyond their association with these other artefacts.
Fig.4. below Fig.5. below
Fig.4. shows artefacts belonging to Rodney Havelock Walker
Fig.5. shows artefacts as shown on BBC TV
5. B&W photograph, labelled ‘Cyrene’ (a city in Libya) on the back.
I had the privilege of exhibiting these artefacts (Fig. 4) at a meeting of Fisherton History Society in April, 2017 following a talk on ‘Lawrence of Arabia’ by one of our members.
Readers will be interested to know that the sandals were sold at auction, by Hanson’s Auctioneers of Derbyshire, in December, 2017 for £2500.
A report of this auction, in Antique Collecting, can be accessed here
Charles Hanson, owner of Hanson’s Auctioneers, commented that,
“When I pulled Lawrence of Arabia’s sandals out of a carrier bag I was astonished – and delighted. He is one of Britain’s most iconic figures, a man who played a key role in world history and inspired one of the most famous films ever made.”
We don’t know what the connection of Rodney was with T.E. Lawrence. However, Rodney’s father, Cecil, was a banker in Parkstone area of Dorset, and it is possible that this is how he encountered T.E. Lawrence, who must have become a close family friend.