Sir Richard Francis Burton: A Timeline

This page attempts to present a complete and detailed timeline of Burton's life, including important events in related persons' lives and a selection of relevant world events.

This version is a bare sketch of what is to come. I expect more than a thousand entries in the first complete version, each carefully vetted against original records where possible and with more to be added over time.

Timeline Key

Red timeline bars represent life events.

Blue timeline bars represent travel and exploration events.

Green timeline bars represent language, writing and publication events.

Black timeline bars represent other world events.

The thickness of the bar (one of three levels) associated with each entry indicates its relative importance. All classifications on this page are my own choices and I apologize in advance for any choices that seem ill-suited.

Early 1820 (or 1819)
Captain Joseph Netterville Burton weds Martha Baker.

July 1820
The divorce trial of Queen Caroline begins. Joseph Burton's refusal to testify against her leads to his forced retirement at half-pay.

19 March 1821, 9:30 p.m.
Richard Francis Burton is born to Captain Joseph Netterville Burton and Martha Baker Burton at Torquay, Devon, England, their first child.

Sister Maria Katherine Elizabeth Burton born.

July 1824
Brother Edward Joseph Burton born.

Joseph and Martha Burton relocate the family to Tours, France.
(Burton's own recollection that this move was in 1821 is probably incorrect.)

20 March 1831, 8:50 a.m.
Isabel Arundell is born in London, England.

Joseph and Martha Burton return the family to England, in part to have the children near “the proper schools.” They settle in Richmond.

Burton suffers an attack of measles.

Late Summer 1833
The Burtons return to France, settling near Blois.

20 June 1837
Princess Alexandrina Victoria ascends to the throne as Queen Victoria.

September 1840
Burton arrives at Trinity College, Oxford.

Early 1841
Burton begins teaching himself Arabic.

September 1841
Burton moves from a private family residence to student rooms at Trinity College.

March 1842
Burton is “sent down“ — expelled — from Oxford after deliberately provoking the college provost. (He expected to be “rusticated” for a term or two but was permanently expelled.)

Summer 1842
In expectation of India service, Burton begins studying Hindustani with Duncan Forbes.

18 June 1842
Burton sails for India as an ensign in the British East India Company army.

27 October 1842
Burton reaches Bombay, India after a journey around the Cape of Africa.

5 May 1843
Burton passes the regimental exam for Hindustani.

September 1843
Burton passes the regimental exam for Gujarati.

25 October 1844
Burton passes the regimental exam for Maratha.

15 October 1845
Burton passes the regimental exam for Persian.

September 1848
Burton passes the regimental exam for Sindhi (probably long after mastery of the language).

20 October 1890
Burton dies of a heart attack in Trieste, attended by Isabel and Dr. Grenfell Baker and, probably posthumously, a young priest.

15 June 1891
Burton is laid to rest in the sandstone tent tomb in Mortlake, London.

22 March 1896
Isabel Burton dies of pneumonia and complications from cancer in London.

27 March 1896
Isabel is laid to rest beside Richard in the Mortlake tomb.

Page Updated 2008-08-24


All material on this site is from and in the public domain unless specifically credited. Complete copyright information can be found on the About page. All original material including content, design, organization & layout ©2008 James D. Gifford.