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150 Years
  First Ascent

Matterhorn 2015

July 14th 1865

7 men on top of the Matterhorn
3 made it home

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Disentangle fact from fiction


Lord Francis Douglas


Many of the tourists roving the alps in the nineteenth century were professionals – academics, clergymen, business men, lawyers. But there were a few aristocrats and Lord Francis Douglas was one of them. He was a second son of the Queensberry family, whose ancestral home was in Dumfriesshire, Scotland. As was often the case for a second son, he had gone into the army. He excelled in the examinations he took just a few weeks before his travels around Europe in the summer of 1865.

Losing Lord Francis was not the first calamity in the family. In 1858, Francis’ father, Lord Queensberry, died in what was reported as a shooting accident. There were rumours, however, that he had taken his own life, that it was a suicide covered up for the reputation of the family.

By the time Lord Francis joined Whymper in Breuil and agreed to make an attempt on the Matterhorn, he was already an accomplished mountaineer. His achievements in the previous years, including a remarkable crossing from Zinal to Sankt Niklaus in 1863, showed courage, agility and strength. In 1865, he had spent some time in Florence with a close friend, Robert Moncrieff. But he allowed time for a few weeks climbing in Switzerland before he was due in Scotland for his brother’s 21st birthday on July 20th. The same brother, John Sholto Marquess of Queensberry, would go on to be famous for giving his name to the Queensberry Rules of boxing, and to play a pivotal role in the downfall of Oscar Wilde.