William Gifford Palgrave (1826–1888) was an Arabic scholar, born at Westminster, England. He was the son of Sir Francis Palgrave, K.H. and Elizabeth Turner. He joined the order of the Jesuits, (Society of Jesus), and served as a member of the order in India, Rome, and in Syria, where he acquired a colloquial command of Arabic. He convinced his superiors to support a mission to the interior of Arabia, which at that time was terra incognita to the rest of the world. He also gained the support of the French emperor, Napoleon III, representing to him that better knowledge of Arabia would benefit French imperialistic schemes in Africa and the Middle East. Palgrave then returned to Syria, where he assumed the identity of a travelling Syrian physician.Stocking his bags with medicines and small trade goods, and accompanied by one servant, he set off for Najd, in north-central Arabia. He traveled as a Christian. The service he would do for the Society of Jesus and the French empire would be as a spy, not a missionary. Palgrave became friendly with Faisal bin Turki bin Abdullah Al Saud while in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. Faisal's son, Abdul Rahman in Faisal, asked Palgrave to get him strychnine. Palgrave believed that Abdul wanted it to poison his father. Palgrave was accused of espionage and was almost executed for his Christian beliefs.After travelling for a year from Syria, through Najd, and on to Bahrain and Oman, he returned to Europe, where he wrote a narrative of his travels. This narrative became a bestseller.
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