Charles Alison and Tinco Lycklama, brothers-in-beards

Charles Alison - Tinco Lycklama - Composed image

Charles Alison (1810-1872) was Britain’s minister plenipotentiary (the top diplomat) to the Qajar court in Tehran, from 1860 til his death. He was an interesting person, and we’re working on a short biography that will highlight a few interesting aspects of his life, and cover his role in an ambivalent diplomatic relationship between Britain and Persia.

He was also a friend of Tinco Lycklama. They met soon after Tinco’s arrival at Tehran, in May 1865. Shortly before his departure from the capital (to continue his travel through Persia), Tinco sold off a few horses and thanked the servants he had employed at his rejted house in Tajrish. Charles Alison insisted that Tinco would stay another two weeks at the British summer compound in Gulhek. Tinco had at his disposal a separate house opposite the minister’s residence, in the middle of the gardens, and had free use of the horses and servants at the service of the British legation.

Charles Alison (1810-1872)
Charles Alison (1810-1872), by Capt. W.H. Pierson, courtesy of Miss Philippa Bateman-Champain – Printed in “The English Amongst the Persians: Imperial Lives in Nineteenth-Century Iran” by Denis Wright, 2001, I.B. Tauris Publishers, London/New York.

We just discovered a drawing of Charles Alison, made in 1865. When they met in 1866, Tinco wasn’t sporting a beard, but he did so no later than 1883 (as the picture shows). Was Tinco’s beard inspired by Charles Alison?

They became really good friends. Tinco hints at the awkward diplomatic situation of Charles Alison (without going into details). He also expresses his view that the man was underestimated and unjustly neglected by his peers and superiors in London. He describes him as a most interesting and educated person, and an excellent host. The man also carried a personal burden, having been in love with Elizabeth Baltazzi – a married lady in Constantinople; they married in 1863, after the death of Elizabeth’s husband – but she died barely nine months later.

Charles Alison passed away at Tehran in 1872. When Tinco is in the process of writing his travel stories, he learned about Alison’s death and sadfully refers to the loss of a good friend.

We have been able to obtain maps of the British compound at Gulhek and have identified the comfortable house where Tinco stayed for two weeks, in September 1866. We will do more extensive research and cover these topics in future articles.

Readers with access to diplomatic archives in London and Tehran are most welcome to contribute with biographical information about Charles Alison.


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