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Saturday, February 13, 2016

Gertrude Bell: Brains and Beauty

The world of 1895 is a breathtaking and fascinating time of adventure and discovery.  Though the London papers have been dominated with the recent headlines involving the daring adventures of Sherlock Holmes, Alan Quartermain and Major Dugald Campbell, DSO - there has also been distress as master criminals, evil doers and the rise of other regional powers threaten the peace and stability of the British Empire and its allies.

Entering on the world stage at this time were two unlikely pair of adventuress:  Gertrude Bell and Coira Armstrong.

The meeting of Coira Armstrong (L) and Gertrude Bell (R) in the British Museum.

The eldest daughter of a British steel magnate, Gertrude Bell was born in 1869 at the height of stodgy, Victorian England. Possessing a keen mind and a determined disposition, she rejected the narrow life of a stayed and dignified British lady to excel at Oxford University at the age of 17. History was one of the few subjects women were allowed to study so she specialized in modern history receiving a first class honors degree in two years. 

 Gertrude Bell

Upon graduation and supported by her family's wealth she was free to indulge her passion for adventure, be it climbing the Swiss alps or traipsing through Arabian deserts. before ambitiously embarking upon a series of grueling travels through the Middle East. 

 Gertrude Bell in Babylon.

Though famous as an English writer and traveler, Her Majesty's government realized her importance and she has served as political officer, administrator, spy and archaeologist exploring and mapping the unknown regions of the earth. She has become highly influential to British imperial policy-making due to her knowledge and contacts, built up through extensive travels in North Africa, Greater Syria, Mesopotamia and Arabia. In addition, she is the first female Intelligence officer employed by the British Army.

"Huzzah!" proclaims Professor Nightingale in celebration of Gertrude Bell discovering another lost city. "I'll drink to that", says Private Hook.

Here are some suggested rules for using Gertrude Bell, CBE as a character for In Her Majesty's Name:

Pluck: 2+
Fighting Value: +1
Shooting Value: +1
Speed: +0
Cost: 69 points
Talents: Leadership +2, Erudite Wit, Fearless, Inspirational, Stealthy, Impervious, Meticulous Planning, Master of Disguise
Basic Equipment: Brigandine and pistol

Gertrude can join the following companies: Any British or Imperial Rifle Company, The Explorer's Club, Scotland Yard, The Hunting Party and The Queen's Own African Rifles.

Who is that mysterious man keeping an eye on Gertrude?

Next up: Coira Armstrong!


  1. Replies
    1. Phil - Thanks. In doing research for IHMN I stumbled across an entry about Gertrude. Fascinating woman.

  2. Very cool, Phil. Great background story and also love the library bookshelves.

  3. She might have stayed, staid, but she had an adventuress spirit. A good character for adventure for sure.

  4. Splendid stuff, although I should point out that women were not permitted to be given degrees at Oxford until 1920. They could take courses and do the exams to gain honours but it wasn't a degree until they matriculated (not permitted until 1920). Forty ladies gained degrees in 1920, many of them having taken the exams years before. Annie Rogers gained the first degree equivalent marks in 1877 but couldn't collect her degree until 1920.