Shackleton celebrated in London

June 14, 2024

Following his return from his Nimrod Antarctic expedition, Ernest Henry Shackleton was in demand from high society. The Royal Societies Club gave a luncheon in his honour on 15 June, 1909.

Shackleton, 1909, Nasjonalbiblioteket

Hardinge Giffard, 1st Earl of Halsbury, the president of the club, chaired the meeting and paid tribute to Shackleton in his speech:

‘He had accomplished without loss of life that which had been attempted over and over again and not always with such immunity. What Mr. Shackleton [Edward VII conferred the honour of Knighthood upon Shackleton on 13 December] had done had been done with limited means and with very few assistants. His feat had been accomplished in an old whaler of little more than 200 tons and with but 14 companions. It was one of the characteristics of great men—and their guest would be recollected as a great man when all the people in that room had passed away (cheers)—that they had been able to accomplish great things with small means. (Renewed cheers.)’

Hardinge Stanley Giffard, 1st Earl of Halsbury, National Portrait Gallery, London.

Members of the expedition in attendance included Brocklehurst, Adams, Marshall, Wild, Mackintosh, Joyce, Armytage, Priestley and Mackay. Also present at the luncheon was Prince Roland Napoléon Bonaparte, president of the Société de Géographie, the world’s oldest geographical society, from 1910 until his death in 1924. The press noted that ‘[n]ot since the death of the ill-fated son of Napoleon III, in 1879, has a Bonaparte been seen at any public festive or other gathering in this country.’

Prince Roland, George Grantham Bain Collection, Library of Congress.

The publisher William Henry Heinemann (soon to publish Shackleton’s Heart of the Antarctic) held a dinner to honour Shackleton at the Savoy Hotel in London later that same evening and many significant literary figures attended. Following a speech by Shackleton, Sir W. Robertson Nicoll, one of the guests, said of him:

‘He is a born speaker and a born leader of men. With perfect self-possession, with easy command of himself and his audience, with an ample choice of fitting language, and with a rare modesty, he summed up the lessons of the expedition.’


The Irish Times (Dublin), 16 June, 1909.

The Times (London), 16 June, 1909.

H. Lucy, The Diary of a Journalist: Later Entries (London, 1922), pp. 273-274.

R. H. Mill, The Life of Sir Ernest Shackleton (London, 1923), p. 160.

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