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Not to be confused with Ignatius Sancho (book).
The following article contains the fictional portrayal of one or more historical figures. Details in this article may differ from real world facts. For more information on the historical figure(s), consult the links provided within or at the bottom of the article.

"I ignore their insults as much as I can and notice they are not so loud-mouthed when out walking alone. Cowards! It's sad they have to invent reasons why they think someone with darker skin is not as clever or as good-looking, to make themselves feel better. I wonder why having white skin makes some people feel grander than everyone else? It's a mystery to me."
—Ignatius Sancho[5]

Charles Ignatius Sancho (c. 1729 – 14 December 1780) was an abolitionist and writer. He was brought to England as a baby and was a servant to three sisters until he was twenty-one. Ignatius learned how to read and write from the Duke and Duchess of Montagu. At different times of his life, he worked as a butler, a valet, and a grocer at his own shop.


Early life[]

Ignatius was born around 1729.[1] He was born on a ship sailing from Africa to South America. His parents both died when he was a baby. Ignatius was then taken aboard another ship bound for England. There he was given to three unmarried sisters as a "gift." Ignatius was unsure if "money changed hands," meaning if he was bought.[6]

The sisters initially treated Ignatius as a "plaything," dressing him up and taking him places. They gave him the last name, "Sancho," from the Don Quixote character.

Adolescence and adulthood[]

By the time Ignatius was eight in 1737, the sisters had started treating him more like a servant and were often cruel to him. They repeatedly refused his requests to learn to read and write. One day, Ignatius met the Duke of Montagu while out on an errand. He began visiting the Duke at his home frequently and gradually learned how to read and write. The Duchess also instructed him on etiquette. A few years later, Ignatius befriended the sisters' new maid, Betsy. She was his friend close to his age. They attended the frost fair together and ended up staying out too late. As a result, the sisters fired Betsy, citing that she was "too friendly" with him. Before leaving, Betsy stood up for Ignatius, which left an effect on him.

Ten years later, Ignatius was saddened by the Duke's death. Meanwhile, the sisters began treating him with increasing hostility. He overheard their plans to sell him and fled to the Duchess. Due to decorum, she hesitated on taking him in until her butler Brydges suggested he be trained to replace him. Ignatius worked as a butler until the Duchess's death in 1751. In her will, she left him an annual income, which would allow him to live comfortably and not work. Over the intervening years, Ignatius began attending anti-slave trade meetings. He made friends through these meetings, including John Osborne whom introduced Ignatius to his sister Anne in 1757. Ignatius and Anne were engaged the following autumn.

By 1767, Ignatius and Anne had had three daughters, Frances, Ann, and Elizabeth. He soon found it hard to pay rent and put food on the table. Ignatius agreed to Anne's suggestion of asking the new Duke and Duchess of Montagu, George and Mary, about employment. He was hired on as George's valet, which was beneficial to his family. After a few years, Ignatius started having problems with his knees and consulted George, who suggested a change in vocation. He helped Ignatius purchase a shop on Charles Street, where he sold various goods. His wife and daughters also helped him with the shop. The same year, Ignatius became the first black person to vote in a British general election.

Later life[]

The following year, Anne gave birth to their son, William "Billy". When Billy was five-years-old, he was stuck outside as the Gordon Riots of 1780 started. He was protected by a kind passer-by, named Pike, much to Ignatius's and his family's relief. Sometime later, Ignatius reflected on his childhood while talking about it with Billy. The same year, Ignatius came across some old letters he had written as practice. Reflecting further on his life, he wrote an encouraging letter for someone to read in the future.

Ignatius died in late 1780 around the age of fifty-one. He had been suffering from gout, which made it hard for him to walk. Ignatius was the first black Briton to have his death recorded in the newspaper. His letters to friends and other papers were collected into a book two years of his death. The book sold out immediately.[3]

Personality and traits[]

Ignatius was a good-natured person who always stayed positive, despite his circumstances. From a young age, he had a yearning to learn how to read and write. The three sisters thought it would be a waste of time for him to learn, which deeply hurt Ignatius. He attempted to learn the alphabet on his own before meeting the Duke of Montagu, who helped him with the sounds of the letters. At the Duke's home, Ignatius was taught how to read and write as well as given lessons on etiquette from the Duchess. Later on, he began writing verses and composing music.

As an adult, Ignatius became involved in the anti-slave trade movement. At meetings, he met many people passionate about the movement who would become his friends. Ignatius often wrote to newspapers to speak out against the slave trade, signing his letters "Africanus." He later wrote to an author, Laurence Sterne, about the movement. Their correspondence was published after Laurence's death, which brought public recognition to Ignatius.

Family tree[]

The Sancho Family Tree
John Osborne
Anne Osborne
Ignatius Sancho
Frances Sancho
(b. 1761)
Ann Sancho
(b. 1763)
Elizabeth Sancho
(b. 1769)
William Sancho
(b. 1775)

Behind the scenes[]



  1. 1.0 1.1 Ignatius Sancho, Judy Hepburn, page 2
  2. Though the date of his death is not stated in the book, it is included here as it can be considered public knowledge.
  3. 3.0 3.1 Ignatius Sancho, Judy Hepburn, Author's Note, Ignatius Sancho's Legacy, pages 145-153
  4. Ignatius Sancho, Judy Hepburn, page 113
  5. Ignatius Sancho, Judy Hepburn, page 52
  6. Ignatius Sancho, Judy Hepburn, pages 18, 23

See also[]

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