Tuesday 1 April 2014

General György Kmety, 1813-1865, Kensal Green Cemetery

The Kmety Obelisk in Kensal Green Cemetery

Hungarian General György Kmety's funeral took place in Kensal Green on Monday 1st May 1865. The newspapers reported that the General was buried in the morning “in the presence of a numerous assemblage of private and personal friends. The procession consisted of two mutes in silk robes, state lid of feathers, hearse surmounted feathers, drawn by four horses with feathers and velvet trappings, ten mourning coaches, each drawn by two horses with feathers and velvet trappings. The private carriages of his Excellency the Turkish Ambassador, the Earl of Ducie, Lord Dufferin, Count Svtaray, and a number of carriages of the ambassador's suite and the friends of the late general, followed…… The brass engraved plate on the lid of the coffin bore the following inscription: —'General George Kmety (Ismail Pacha), of the Imperial Turkish and the late Hungarian Armies. Born May, 1813, in Hungary; died in London April 25, 1865.'" (Dublin Evening Mail 03 May 1865).

General Kmety with his troops during the Crimean War

The General was born in 1813 in Pokoragy, a village now on the Hungarian-Slovack border. His father, a protestant clergyman, died when he was four and his mother took him to live with her uncle, also a clergyman. He was a bright youngster who did well enough at school to be sent to the Protestant Lyceum in Pressburg and to win a scholarship to a German University. Unfortunately a clerical error awarded his place to another student with the same name. “This disappointment so much chagrined the youth that he went to Vienna and turned soldier,” said the General’s obituary in the London Standard. In 1848 Kmety joined the Hungarian revolution as a Captain and ended it as a General after distinguishing himself in several engagements. With the failure of the revolution and under sentence of death he fled to the Ottoman empire and joined the army as Ismail Pasha (though he never converted to Islam). He was instrumental in modernising the Ottoman Army and served with his old comrade Józef Bem (one of the leaders of the 1848 revolution in Hungary) who had become a Muslim and been rewarded by being made the Governor of Aleppo. When Bem died in 1850 Kmety moved to London where he kicked his heels for a couple of years and relieved the tedium of civilian life by entering into a public squabble with another Hungarian General, Artúr Görgey who had published a book trying to justify his controversial leadership during the revolution. When the Crimean War broke out Kmety raced back to Constantinople and rejoined the Ottoman Army. He became famous serving under the British commander, General William Fenwick Williams, at the heroic siege of Kars where only cholera and starvation eventually forced the gallant garrison to surrender to the Russians. He retired in 1861 and returned to London where he died four years later.    

Kmety by Károly Brocky (or Charles Brocky as he became known), a fellow Hungarian exile and member of the Royal Academy