“That ‘Horrible’ Pasha”

September 16, 1882

Thomas Nast

“That ‘Horrible’ Pasha”


Devery, William;

Africa; Egypt; France; Great Britain;

Gen. Sir Garnet Wolseley, G.G.B, G.C.M.G., "I say, I think its inconsistent with traditions for an officer and a gentleman in the Queen's Army to break his word, you know. I promised to dine in London on the 15th of September, you know. You can't be SO horrible as to keep me HERE fooling, you know."

Throughout much of the nineteenth century, the British and French had competed for control of Egypt.  In the 1870s, after years of suffering from a poor economy, Egypt's massive debt problem became the focus of international concern.  In 1876, a commission of European powers placed Egypt's finances under the dual control of Britain and France.  In June 1882, Egyptian nationalists led by Urabi Pasha (pictured on the left), angered by the European intervention, rioted in Alexandria.  Sir Garnet Wolseley (pictured on the right) was the British adjutant general in Egypt, who put down the uprising by mid-September (shortly after this post-dated cartoon was published).

Ahmad Urabi Pasha Al-misri was born in 1839 into an Egyptian peasant family.  He studied at Cairo's al-Azhar, the most prestigious school in the Middle East at the time.  After being drafted into the Egyptian Army, he attained the rank of colonel, serving as a commissary officer during the Egypt's war with Ethiopia in 1875-1876.  Urabi joined a nationalist revolt in 1881 to oust officers from Turkey and Circassia (bordering southern Russia).  The next year, he became minister of war in a nationalist Egyptian ministry and promoted "Egypt for Egyptians."  When British and French ships docked in Alexandria's harbor, nationalists took to the streets in protest, provoking the British to bombard the city (the French left).  Urabi commanded Egyptian military forces against the British, but was defeated and captured on September 13, 1882.  He was court-martialed, but his death sentence was soon commuted to exile in Ceylon (Sri Lanka).  Urabi Pasha was allowed to return to Egypt in 1901, and died in Cairo in 1911.

Born in 1833, Wolseley joined the British Army in 1852 at the rank of second lieutenant, and earned distinction fighting in the Second Anglo-Burmese War (1852), the Crimean War (1854-1856), and the Indian Mutiny (1857-1858).  During the latter conflict, a battle wound caused him to lose sight in one eye (notice his use of an eye-piece in the cartoon), and promotion made him the British Army's youngest lieutenant colonel.  In 1860, Wolseley transferred to China, where his participation in the last months of the Second Opium War (1856-1860) was recounted in his Narrative of the War with China (1862).  Over the next decade, he served in Canada, published the Soldiers Pocket-Book for Field Service (1869), and was promoted to assistant adjutant general in the British War Office (1871).

As one of the British Army's best commanders, Wolseley was sent to various trouble spots in the British Empire.  In 1873-1874, he led an expeditionary force against the Ashanti in West Africa, who were threatening territory claimed by the British.  Wolseley captured the Ashanti capital, and the southern provinces of the Ashanti kingdom were established as the British colony of the Gold Coast (today, Ghana).  In the late 1870s, he worked to bring southern Africa under British control, forcing colonists in Natal to join a South African federation and participating in the Zulu War (1879).  In 1880, Wolseley became quartermaster general in the British War Office, and adjutant general two years later.  

When the nationalist revolt erupted in Egypt in 1882, Wolseley quickly secured the Suez Canal, and then defeated Urabi Pasha on September 13, two days before the date he had boasted to the press he would be dining in London.  For the next forty years, Egypt existed as part of the British Empire.  In gratitude for Wolseley's military success, British Prime Minister William Gladstone made him a baron.  In 1885, he was elevated to viscount after heroically but unsuccessfully trying to save General Charles "Chinese" Gordon from Sudanese rebels.  In the 1890s, Wolseley served as commander in Ireland (1890-1894) and commander in chief of the British Army (1895-1901), winning praise for mobilizing the army during the Boer War (1899-1901).  Wolseley died in 1913 in France.

Robert C. Kennedy

“That ‘Horrible’ Pasha”
December 3, 2023

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