The portrait of Lord Frederick North, 5th Earl of Guilford (1766-1827) and the degree awarded to him by the University of Oxford in 1819, as part of the honoured person’s efforts to establish and organise the Ionian Academy, now adorn the Ionian University.
The items were donated by the President of the Rothschild Foundation, Lord Jacob Rothschild, and the President of the Corfu Heritage Foundation, Count Spiro Flamburiari.
The exhibits for the tribute to Guilford have been placed in the reception hall of the Rectorate of the Ionian University, on the ground floor of the Ionian Academy.
The enlarged portrait of Guilford, founder of the Ionian Academy, was incised by Pietro Mancion (1803-1888) around 1830, and the Degree of Doctor of Civil Law was awarded by the University of Oxford to Guilford as recognition of the British philhellene -although he declared himself a Hellene and not Philhellene- to establish the Ionian Academy, which officially took place on 29 May 1824.
The work of the archival mounting was overseen by the conservator of works of art Spyridoula Prifti, while the back of the degree is a donation of the Director of the Printshop Corfu Nikos Zabelis.
The degree is inscribed in the official Latin language and states the following:
“The Chancellor, Masters and Scholars of the University of Oxford, all to whom the present Document shall come, everlasting greetings in the Lord. Since the most honourable Lord Frederick Earl of Guilford, Baron Guilford distinguished in rank, intellect and study of humane pursuits, has auspiciously enhanced the glory and honours of his ancestors, and has given exceptional service both to this university and, especially, to all Greek universities. And since he has been elevated to the highest office and dignity of the Chancellorship in the Academy established by his own counsels in the Ionian Islands, be it known that we, the Chancellor, Masters and Scholars, praying for all that is favourable and auspicious for him and for his Academy, adorning with our greatest honour the aforesaid man, being distinguished with such great and varied merits, appoint and announce this same most honourable Lord, Lord Frederick, Earl of Guildford, Baron Guildford, as a Doctor of Civil Law, and desire him to enjoy and rejoice in all rights and privileges of the doctorate. As evidence whereof we have affixed hereto the common Seal of the University of Oxford, used for this function. Announced in our Convocation House on the thirtieth of October 1819.” [Translation by Barnaby Taylor, MA MSt DPhil Oxford – Faculty of Classics – University of Oxford].
Lord Frederick North, 5th Earl of Guilford (1766-1827) – British classicist scholar and collector of rare books and manuscripts; son of the 2nd Earl of Guilford; first British governor of Ceylon 1798-1805; and founder of the Ionian Academy, Corfu, 1824 – was a great philhellene, known above all for his philhellenic activity, especially during his life in the British protectorate of the United States of the Ionian Islands (1815-1827). In spite of the fact that the Ionian Academy was short-lived and eclipsed by the Union in 1864, it was the first Greek academic institution of modern times and forerunner of the University of Athens. Guilford promoted not just classical Greek culture but helped establish modern Greek as a language of education. His fascination with all things Greek had led him, earlier in life, to become a member of the Orthodox Church, secretly, at the instigation of Georgios Prosalentis. The Megas Protopapas Dimitrios Petrettinis (1722-1795) baptised Guilford in the Orthodox faith in the Petrettinis House, at 10 Kapodistriou Street, on 23 January 1791, at the age of 25, giving him the name “Dimitrios”. He later became a member of the British House of Commons and the first British governor of Ceylon, before becoming involved in his Ionian project. The unveiling of the portrait of Lord Guilford and the degree awarded to him by the University of Oxford in 1819 is expected to take place at a special event to be held at the Ionian University on Saturday, 7 May 2022.