Lord Byron

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Lord Byron in Albanian dress painted by Thomas Phillips in 1813. This painting can be viewed at the Venizelos Mansion, the British Ambassador's residence in Athens.
George Gordon Byron, 6th Baron Byron (1788-1824) is considered one of England's greatest poets. He was known not only for his poetry, but for his private life, including love affairs with both sexes. He died of a fever while fighting for Greek independence from the Ottoman Empire.

Life

The son of army officer "Mad Jack" Byron, he inherited the title of Baron Byron of Rochdale from his great-uncle "the Wicked Lord" Byron at the age of 10. Despite being born with a deformed foot, he was very athletic, and swam the Hellespont from Europe to Asia in 1810. This is sometimes taken to be the birth of the sport of open water swimming.

In 1809–10 he went on the"grand Tour" in Portugal, Spain and Greece. His travels formed the basis of one of his most famous poens, Childe Harold's Pilgrimage. While in Athens, he met the young Nicolò Giraud, and they are thought to have had a sexual relationship.

On returning to England, he had an affair with Lady Caroline Lamb, whose husband later became Lord Melbourne the Prime Minister. In 1815 Byron married Lady Caroline's cousin Anne Isabella Milbanke. They had a daughter, Augusta Ada (who later became Countess of Lovelace and is regarded as the world's first computer programmer), but the marriage was unhappy. Just a year after the wedding, Byron signed a deed of separation, and left England, never to return, among scandalous rumours of adultery, sodomy, and even incest with his half-sister.

In 1816 he stayed for a while in a villa near Lake Geneva, with the poet Shelley, Mary Godwin (later Shelley's wife) and his physician Polidori. At Byron's suggestion they each wrote a ghost story. Mary Godwin's story was the first version of her famous novel Frankenstein. On a visit to Venice he learnt Armenian, and later helped write an English-Armenian Dictionary.

Greek campaign and death

In 1823 he was approached by representatives of the Greek independence movement for help in their war of liberation from the Ottoman Empire. He sailed to Greece, spent £4000 of his own money refitting the Greek fleet, and joined in preparations for an attack on the fortress of Lepanto. However he developed a fever and died at Missolonghi.

Byron was regarded as a national hero in Greece, but his body was not allowed to be buried in Westminster Abbey, for reasons of "questionable morality". He is buried in Hucknall parish church in Nottinghamshire.