Julius Soubise

*Print by William Austin, “The Duchess of Queensberry and Soubise”

1754 – 1798

Swordsman of the 18th century

In 1764 Captain Stair Douglas of the Royal Navy mentioned to the Duchess of Queensbury that he had in his possession a smart and intelligent Negro boy, aged about 10, whom he had bought in St Kitts. Would the Duchess like him as a present? Struck by the child’s good looks as well as his intelligence, the Duchess accepted him. She named him Soubise, sent him to school, dressed him well and generally made a pet of him as was the fashion of the day. He attended Eton and was said to be a good violinist, to have a good singing voice and oratorical skills.

Soubise was sent to Domenico Angelo’s Academy, a training academy where rich young men were taught fencing and riding skills. The Duchess and her friends frequently attended the visitors’ gallery at the Academy to watch her favourite perform his equestrian exercises. An able pupil, the Duchess persuaded Angelo to take on Soubise as his teaching assistant.

Although Angelo feared that Soubise’s ‘colour and humble birth might put off some of his high born pupils’, he gave in to the Duchess’ wishes. Soubise’s engaging manner and good nature soon proved Angelo’s fears unfounded, and he was a frequent guest at the all-male exclusive dinner parties held at the Academy. He was also a regular guest at other sporting clubs for gentlemen, where he sang songs of his own composition.

As he grew up, Soubise’s good looks, pleasant manners and undoubted gifts for gallantry won him the favour of the Duchess’ maids, as well, it was rumored, of the Duchess and numbers of other ladies. Dubbed “The Young Othello”, all this attention went to the young man’s head, and began to assume princely airs, becoming one of the most conspicuous -and seemingly over-scented – fops around town. Angelo dismissed him from his most congenial job at the Academy. Though the Duchess repeatedly discharged his large debts, he slowly also began to lose her favor.

The final straw were the accusations of rape by one of the Duchess’ maids. Two days before her death on 17 July 1777, he was dispatched to India to earn his living as an accomplished master of riding and fencing.

“Historical accounts dispute whether he was sent away simply to amend his debauchery or to evade a rape,” Wikipedia

Ignatius Sancho wrote to friends enlisting their aid for the exile, but warning them not to lend Soubise any money.

He established an academy in Calcutta, and, through connections, was able to obtain numerous patrons and pupils and even a contract to break horses for the government. Soubise died on 25 August 1798. Nothing is known of his life in India.

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* “Soubise became socially prominent enough to become the subject of several caricatures. Most notably, Soubise is attributed as the muse for A Mungo Macaroni (published September 10, 1772), part of a famous 1771–1773 satirical series of engravings depicting fashionable young men, published by Matthew and Mary Darly.The term “macaroni” was a contemporary name for a fashionable young man, a dandy, while “Mungo” was a name of an officious slave from the 1769 comic opera The Padlock by Isaac Bickerstaffe. In later performances of the play, the character Mungo was played by Ira Aldridge.” Wikipedia.