Military Wiki
General Sir
Richard Howard Vyse
Born (1784-07-25)25 July 1784
Died 8 June 1853(1853-06-08) (aged 68)
Place of birth Stoke Poges, Buckinghamshire, England
Place of death Stoke Poges, Buckinghamshire, England
Allegiance United Kingdom
Rank Major-General
Awards Knight Commander of the Order of St Michael and St George
Other work High Sheriff of Buckinghamshire
anthropologist and Egyptologist

See Richard Howard-Vyse for the First and Second World War general

Major-General Sir Richard William Howard Vyse KCMG (25 July 1784 – 8 June 1853) was a British soldier, anthropologist and Egyptologist. He was also Member of Parliament for Beverley (from 1807 to 1812) and Honiton (from 1812 to 1818).

Family life

Born Richard William Vyse on 25 July 1784 at Stoke Poges, Buckinghamshire,[1] was the only son of General Richard Vyse and his wife, Anne, the only surviving daughter and heiress of Field-marshal Sir George Howard. Richard William Vyse, assumed the additional name of Howard by royal sign manual dated 14 September 1812, on inheriting the estates of Boughton and Pitsford in Northamptonshire through his maternal grandmother, Lucy, daughter of Thomas Wentworth, 1st Earl of Strafford (1672–1739).[2]

Vyse was knighted, Knight Commander of the Order of St Michael and St George, year unknown, though late in his life. Vyse died at Stoke Poges, Buckinghamshire, on 8 June 1853. He married, 13 Nov 1810 Frances,[3] second daughter of Henry Hesketh of Newton, Cheshire. By her he had eight sons and two daughters. His will was proved on 13 August 1853[4] at the Prerogative Court of Canterbury.

Military career

Howard Vyse was commissioned as cornet into the 1st Dragoons in 1800. He transferred to the 15th Light Dragoons as a Lieutenant in 1801 and was promoted Captain in 1802 and Major in 1813. In 1815 he transferred to the 87th Foot and in 1816 to the 2nd Life Guards, and then also to the 1st West India in 1819. He was promoted brevet Lieutenant-Colonel in 1825, later nominated to rank put onto half-pay in 1825,[5] Colonel in 1837,[6] and Major-General in 1846.[7]

In 1809 he acted as aide-de-camp to his father on the staff of the Yorkshire district, and on 5 July 1810 received the honorary degree of D.C.L. from Oxford University. On 2 October 1840, Vyse undertook an official duty as the Colonel of the Life Guards in the mourning party for HRH Princess Sophia-Augusta.[8]

Parliamentary career

Vyse was returned to parliament for Beverley on 8 May 1807. In October 1812 he exchanged this seat for Honiton in Devonshire, which he retained till the dissolution of 1818. He served as High Sheriff of Buckinghamshire in 1830.[9]


Pyramids of Giza

At Giza he and John Shae Perring worked with gunpowder forcing their way into several monuments, including the burial chamber of the pyramid of Menkaure.[10]

Vyse's gunpowder archaeology made one highly notable discovery in the Great Pyramid of Giza. Giovanni Battista Caviglia had blasted on the south side of the stress-relieving chamber (Davison's chamber) on top of the King's chamber, a chamber discovered by Nathaniel Davison in 1765, hoping to find a link to the southern air channel. But while Caviglia gave up, Vyse suspected that there was another chamber on top of Davison's chamber, since he could insert a reed "for about two feet" upwards through a crack into a cavity.[11] He therefore blasted straight up on the northern side, over three and a half months, finding four additional chambers.

Vyse named these chambers after important friends and colleagues; Wellington's chamber (Arthur Wellesley, 1st Duke of Wellington), Nelson's chamber (Vice-Admiral Horatio Nelson), Lady Arbuthnot's chamber (Anne Fitzgerald, wife of Sir Robert Keith Arbuthnot, 2nd Baronet) and Campbell's chamber (Patrick Campbell, the British agent and Consul General in Egypt).

Just as amazing as the chambers were Vyse's discovery of numerous graffiti in the chambers, in red paint, dating from the time the pyramids were built. Along with lines, markers and directional notations were work gangs names, including cartouches of several Pharaohs, concentrated in Lady Arbuthnot's and Nelson's chamber, but all four chambers contained graffiti (or more correctly "quarry-marks" as Vyse called them).[11] The previously discovered Davison's chamber contained no graffiti.

The now famous single instance of Pharaoh Khufu's name (identifying him as the builder of the Great Pyramid of Giza) is found on the south ceiling towards the west end of Campbell's chamber. The Khufu cartouche is part of a short inscription that reads "the followers, gang, of Khufu", i.e. the workmen that constructed the chamber.[12] Today this chamber also contains a fair amount of 19th and 20th century graffiti. The other similar famous "Khnum-Khuf", also part of work gang graffiti, is found in Lady Arbuthnot's chamber. Several other compound cartouches can be found in this chamber.


Vyse has been accused by some people of having forged the Khufu cartouche, most notably by Zecharia Sitchin. In his book The Stairway to Heaven, Sitchin accuses Vyse (and his assistants Mr. Hill and Mr. Perring) of perpetrating the forgery because of Vyse's "determination to obtain a major find as time and money were running out".[13] However, the forgery claim is given no credence by historians and Egyptologists such as Selim Hassan,[14] Zahi Hawass,[12] Jaromir Malek,[15][16] Professor Rosalie David[17] or Bill Manley, or major museums such as the British Museum[18] and the Egyptian Museum,[19] all of whom accept that Khufu was the builder of the pyramid and by implication that Vyse's cartouche is authentic.

It should be noted that Vyse's claim about the cartouche also relies on the expert opinion of Samuel Birch of the British Museum, who is quoted at some length in Vyse's book.[11] Thus, if the forgery claim were to be true, it would have involved an improbable conspiracy between no less than four persons.



  1. 1851 England Census HO107/1718; Folio: 579; Page: 17
  2. Dictionary of National Biography states that her father the 2nd Earl of Strafford was Thomas Wentworth. He was the first Earl of the second creation, the mistake probably comes from a misinterpretation to the reference to her that states she is the 2d(aughter) Earl of Strafford.
  3. Abstract of the marriage settlement of Richard William Howard-Vyse and Frances Hesketh [no ref.] 24 Oct 1810 at Centre for Buckinghamshire Studies
  4. PROB 11/2177 Will of Richard William Howard Howard Vyse, Major General in Her Majesty's Army of Stoke Place , Buckinghamshire
  5. "No. 18174". 10 September 1825. 
  6. "No. 19456". 1837. 
  7. "No. 20670". 1846. 
  8. "No. 19902". 1840. 
  9. "No. 18653". 1830. 
  10. Mark Lehner, The Complete Pyramids, 1997.
  11. 11.0 11.1 11.2 Vyse, H. (1840) Operations Carried on at the Pyramids of Gizeh in 1837: With an Account of a Voyage into Upper Egypt, and an Appendix. Vol I. London: James Fraser, Regent Street.
  12. 12.0 12.1 Dallas and Dr Zahi Hawass inside the Great Pyramid. BBC One, Egypt's Lost Cities. Video clip available since Tue 24 May 2011.
  13. Sitchin, Z. (1987) Forging the Pharaoh's Name. In, The Stairway to Heaven (Chapter 13). Santa Fe, N.M. : Bear & Co.
  14. Hassan, S. (1960) The Great Pyramid of Khufu and its Mortuary Chapel With Names and Titles of Vols. I-X of the Excavations at Giza.
  15. Jaromir Malek.
  16. Malek, J. (2000) The Old Kingdom (c.2686—2160 BC). In, Ian Shaw, The Oxford History of Ancient Egypt. Oxford University Press.
  17. David, R. (1986) The Pyramid Builders of Ancient Egypt: A Modern Investigation of Pharaoh's Workforce. Routledge.
  18. Pyramids. Ancient Egypt. British Museum.
  19. Egyptian Museum.
  •  This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domain: "Vyse, Richard William Howard". Dictionary of National Biography. London: Smith, Elder & Co. 1885–1900. 

External references

Parliament of the United Kingdom
Preceded by
Richard Vyse
John Wharton
Member of Parliament for Beverley
With: John Wharton
Succeeded by
Charles Forbes
John Wharton
Preceded by
Sir Charles Hamilton
Augustus Cavendish-Bradshaw
Member of Parliament for Honiton
With: George Abercrombie Robinson
Succeeded by
Samuel Crawley
Peregrine Francis Cust
Honorary titles
Preceded by
High Sheriff of Buckinghamshire
Succeeded by
James Du Pré
Honorary titles
Preceded by
Robert Harvey
High Sheriff of Buckinghamshire
Succeeded by
Henry Andrewes Uthwatt

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