Gertrude Bell: Queen of the Desert



By: Nathan Chandler

5 Min Quiz

Gertrude Bell was an Englishwoman who had a tremendous influence on which area?

Bell was an Englishwoman who ultimately had a lot of influence in the Middle East. She was a highly educated woman who was also extremely active in government and politics.


Bell's life course was profoundly impacted by which world event?

Bell was born in 1868, but some of her biggest life events unfolded during the time of World War I. Her expertise on Middle East matters made her a tremendous asset to English authorities.


Bell was extremely adept at which skill?

She was a talented and thorough writer who documented her travels in detail. Her prolific writing details the life of an adventurous and daring woman.


Bell was born into what sort of family situation?

Bell's father was a wealthy business owner. His money helped to fund her substantial education and her travels, too.


What subject did Bell study at Oxford University?

In Victorian times, women were only allowed to study certain subjects, such as history. That was just fine -- Bell actually loved history and received a degree in just two years.


Bell's uncle was an ambassador in which country?

Bell's uncle, Sir Frank Lascelles, was an English diplomat in Persia. She visited him in 1892, an act that sparked a lifelong interest in the region and its politics.


In the years after her visit to Persia, Bell developed a passion for which subject?

She was fascinated by archaeology, particularly in the Middle East. She spent many years traveling the region and documenting her findings.


Bell spoke at least how many languages?

Her travels and keen intellect exposed her to many new languages. She was fluent in at least four and spoke two others passably.


She was very fond of which outdoors activity?

Bell was an avid climber, and she attacked mountains all over the world. She honed many of her climbing skills in the Alps of Switzerland.


How was Bell's grandfather involved in politics?

Bell was exposed to the nature of politics from an early age. Her grandfather was a member of Parliament, and his views on foreign policy greatly affected her ideas on power and influence.


How did Bell's father view her desire for education?

Bell's father was atypical of his day -- he wanted his daughter to learn as much as she could. He encouraged her willingness to learn and travel.


Bell never expressed interest in romantic relationships.

Gertrude never married but did have romantic relationships. She simply never settled long enough to marry. At one point she developed a relationship with a married man ... who nearly left his wife to be with Gertrude.


How did Bell almost die in 1902?

Bell climbed many mountains, but during one 1902 ascent, a blizzard struck. She and her fellow climbers were stuck on the mountain, and they nearly died during the storm.


How did Gertrude feel about mountain climbing following the near-death experience?

The event left her with frostbite, but it didn't chill her enjoyment of the mountains. She continued climbing even after the mountains nearly claimed her life.


Bell's expertise on the Middle East helped to establish which country?

After World War I, the Middle East was a jumbled mess. The fall of the Ottoman Empire meant that new borders would have to be drawn ... and one of the results was Iraq.


Gertrude published numerous books during her life. What was her first book?

Her first book was a travel book regarding the Persian region. It was titled "Safar Nameh: Persia Pictures."


What was Bell's first task during World War I?

Like many privileged British women, she decided to volunteer for the Red Cross. But her stint in the Cross didn't last long. Adventure came knocking on her door.


Why did British intelligence recruit Bell during World War I?

Bell knew her way through some of the deserts and cultures of the Middle East -- and the Allies needed help finding their way through local politics. Bell was the only woman recruited to help with this task in Cairo.


What was the name of the government organization that Bell joined in Cairo?

The Arab Bureau was meant to help further Britain's political influence in the Middle East during World War I. Bell turned out to be very adept at diplomacy.


Bell worked as a spy during World War I.

Her political savvy and personal confidence made Bell a good candidate for espionage. During her time in the Middle East, she rooted out information and offered it up to British authorities.


During her time with the Arab League, Bell was also tasked with what job?

The British were looking to turn local Arab tribes against the Ottoman Empire. Bell did a skillful job of developing relationships with various factions, a fact that helped Britain's aims in the region.


While in Syria, Bell was a witness to what event?

While in Syria, Bell witnessed the systematic removal of Armenians from the area. Bell saw people forcibly removed from the city … and they never returned. Thousands of people died during the purge.


In 1917, British troops captured Baghdad. Where did Bell wind up?

British authorities once again trusted Bell for information on the area. They called her to Baghdad and made her a political officer who helped navigate local power struggles during the city's rapid changes.


Bell eventually became a confidante to the king of which country?

King Faisal became the ruler of the brand-new Iraq, and Bell was often on hand to listen to his concerns and offer advice. Her political savvy gained her respect from Faisal … and served British interests quite well, too.


Her influence in the new Iraq became obvious. What was the meaning of Bell's nickname, Khatun?

She was regarded as Khatun, a gentlewoman or fine lady, who had the ear of the king. Bell's insights were sometimes misguided, but she was often correct in her political assessments of Middle East.


Which habit eventually caused Bell serious health problems?

Bell smoked heavily during her travels through the Middle East, often as a bonding ritual with the locals. But tobacco use drained her health, and combined with stress, took a serious toll on her well-being.


How was Bell regarded by many of her diplomat peers?

Gertrude had a famously aggressive personality that turned off many other people in the intelligence community. Her skills were rarely questioned, but her type-A nature and arrogance were a problem at times.


While serving in Baghdad, what did Bell do besides political work?

Gertrude was instrumental in creating the Baghdad Archaeological Museum. The museum was looted following the 2003 U.S. invasion but has since been reopened as the National Museum of Iraq.


What killed Bell?

Bell took sleeping pills one night and never woke up. No one is certain whether the overdose was accidental … or if it was suicide.


In 2015, a movie called "Queen of the Desert" dramatized Bell's life. Who played the starring role?

The 2015 movie starred Nicole Kidman as Bell. The film was a terrible disappointment, but that it was made shows just how large Bell's legend has grown since her death many decades ago.


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Image: Wiki Commons

About This Quiz

Gertrude Bell died in 1926, but before then, she lived the kind of life that most people can scarcely dream of. She traveled the world, gained enormous power and even helped build a country from scratch. How much do you know about this ferocious queen of the desert?

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