21 April 2021

Behind the Blue Plaque: Lord Robert Baden-Powell

Each of our majestic suites here at 100 Queen's Gate Hotel is named after a famous resident of the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea. One such is the Lord Robert Baden-Powell Suite, named after the British general and founder of the modern Scouting movement. Baden-Powell still holds a significant presence in the area with a conference centre named after him, located just along the road from the hotel.

Baden-Powell was born in Paddington, London in 1857. His father, a professor at Oxford University and a Church of England priest, passed away when Baden-Powell was just three years old, leaving his mother to raise him and his siblings by herself. He was educated at Charterhouse School and it was during his time there that he learnt basic scouting skills while playing in the nearby woods.

Following school, he joined the British Army as an officer and was subsequently posted to a number of far-flung destinations, including India and South Africa. During this period, he learned more advanced Scouting skills, which inspired him to pen the first of many Scouting publications, Reconnaissance and Scouting. The making of Baden-Powell came during the Second Boer War at Mafeking, where he commanded the garrison and successfully defended the town during a siege lasting 217 days, gaining national hero status in the process.

Initially intended for military purposes, he felt that his books could be used to promote a well-rounded education for young people, and provide them with a sense of purpose and patriotism. His writings were wildly popular and led to the creation of the Scouting Movement, which became an international organisation with groups formed all over the world. Today, there are estimated to be 58 million Scouts and Guides in over 200 countries.

Baden-Powell met his wife, Olave St Clair Soames, with whom he had three children, on the Arcadian ocean liner. He retired from the Scouts in 1937 and relocated to Kenya. After a period of ill-health, he passed away at home, aged 83. Buried in his adopted Kenyan hometown, his headstone bears the words “Robert Baden-Powell, Chief Scout of the World” alongside a circle with a dot in the centre "ʘ", which is the trail sign for "I have gone home". The Kenyan government subsequently declared the grave a national monument.