Damian Lewis as Charles Doughty-Wylie in Queen of the Desert


Queen of the Desert , a very highly anticipated film directed by Werner Herzog, and starring Nicole Kidman, Damian Lewis, Robert Pattinson and James Franco will have its world premiere on February 6 at Berlinale 2015. The festival program schedule is here and you can see a first clip from the movie here.


You may have noticed that, in the clip, Charles Doughty-Wylie kindly tells Gertrude Bell to call him “Richard.” Note that Doughty-Wylie’s name is sometimes referred to as Charles (Dick) Doughty-Wylie in wiki pages and articles. It seems that his close circle called him Dick — short for Richard.

Now, as the world premiere fast approaches, let’s dig more into this character Damian Lewis brings to life in Queen of the Desert.

Queen of the Desert is a biopic of Gertrude Bell, a traveler, writer, archaeologist, explorer, cartographer, political attaché and a spy for the British Empire in the Middle East in the early 20th century. She shaped the politics of the Middle East and drew up the borders of modern Jordan as well as Iraq. Think of more or less  a female Lawrence of Arabia.

As Nicole Kidman stars as Gertrude Bell, Damian Lewis takes on the role of Lieutenant Colonel Charles Doughty, who is considered to be the love of Bell’s life.

As I was researching the character, it’s been truly fascinating to find out that Lieutenant Colonel Charles Doughty-Wylie was pretty connected to my native Turkey.

Lt. Colonel Doughty-Wylie was the British Consul in Mersina, Ottoman Empire during the Young Turks Revolution in 1909. When the Armenian Massacres started along with the revolution, according to Richard Bell-Davies, who wrote in his autobiography, Sailor in the Air, it was largely due to the efforts of Doughty-Wylie that these were halted in Mersina. Doughty-Wylie then went to Adana, a neighboring city, and persuaded the governor of the city to give him a small escort of Ottoman troops and was able to restore order there as well. Mrs. Doughty-Wylie turned part of the dragoman’s house into a hospital for wounded Armenians. Newspaper reports of the period record that Doughty-Wylie was shot in the arm, while trying to prevent these massacres.

source: wikipedia.org
source: wikipedia.org

Moreover, Doughty-Wylie died in Turkey, at a young age of 46, in Gallipoli, during the First World War. On 26 April 1915, Doughty-Wylie and another officer made an attack through and on both sides of the village of Sedd-el-Bahr on the Old Fort at the top of the hill. The attack was a complete success, however, both officers were killed in the moment of victory. Doughty-Wylie was shot in the face by a sniper and died instantly. His grave is the only solitary British or Commonwealth war grave on the Gallipoli peninsula: The Turkish authorities moved the graves of all other foreign soldiers to the “V Beach” graves except for his.

If you want to find more about Doughty-Wylie, his wiki page is here.

Doughty-Wylie is considered to be the love of Gertrude Bell’s life. He was married, and he and Bell  had an unconsummated relationship and exchanged love letters between 1913-15 until his death. Jeremy Seal, in his personal pilgrimage to Gallipoli article says that the local legend identifies Gertrude Bell “as the veiled woman seen at his grave shortly before the eventual allied evacuation.”

It turns out that those letters Doughty-Wylie and Gertrude Bell exchanged are in the archives of Newcastle University where Damian Lewis paid a visit last year to research and find out more about the character he would play in the movie as well as about the relationship between Bell and Doughty-Wylie.

Damian Lewis at Newcastle University Gertrude Bell archives, source: thenorthernecho.co.uk
Damian Lewis at Newcastle University Gertrude Bell archives, source: thenorthernecho.co.uk

University librarian Wayne Connolly said: “The character he plays in the new film was considered the love of Gertrude Bell’s life.” 

The visit appeared in the media, and you can see the entire article here:

“Staff at the library said Lewis was “extremely nice” and offered to pose for pictures during the flying visit.

“Charles Doughty Wylie was married and they had an unconsummated affair, but it’s believed he is the reason Gertrude Bell never wed.

“Damian was extremely interested in our archive as it contains correspondence between them and was able to give him a unique perspective on their relationship.

“Now, we are looking forward to next year when the film is released and we can see the characters from one of our most important archives brought to life.”

Same here! Firstly, we are first looking forward to the Queen of the Desert world premiere at Berlinale 2015 in February, and then having the movie coming soon to a theater near us 🙂

Author: Damianista

Academic, Traveler, Blogger, Runner, Theatre Lover, Wine Snob, Part-time New Yorker, and Walking Damian Lewis Encyclopedia :D Procrastinated about a fan's diary on Damian Lewis for a while and the rest is history!

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