“Captain Shakespear is a familiar figure to any British diplomat or soldier who has served in Saudi Arabia. ... [B]ecause the Al Sa‘ud themselves have never forgotten him.”
—Sir John Jenkins,
British Ambassador to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, 2012-2015
In 1914, two years before British Colonel T. E. Lawrence met with leaders of what became the Arab Revolt against Ottoman rule, Captain William Shakespear, also a British officer, was roaming the Najd of central Arabia, where he cultivated a relationship with ‘Abd al-’Aziz ibn Sa‘ud—who in 1932 became the founding king of Saudi Arabia. Although little-known in the West, Shakespear remains a legend in Saudi Arabia for his prescient support of Ibn Sa’ud. Dillon first learned of his subject while working in the British Embassy in Riyadh, and this biography conveys the talent, flair and diplomatic finesse that made Shakespear’s career possible. Although Shakespear’s entreaty to back Ibn Sa‘ud was initially ignored by the British, on the eve of World War I, Ibn Sa‘ud’s bond with Shakespear made the diplomat an asset as Britain sought to counter Ottoman influence in the Najd. Drawing on records unavailable to Shakespear’s sole previous biographer, Dillon’s vivid tale offers the fullest portrait of the man yet.