The Two Lives of a Hero 1: The Seventh Son

Yesterday, I introduced a new series where I will be going through the biography: “Baden-Powell: The Two Lives of a Hero” by William Hillcourt. In this post, I will be giving a brief synopsis and commentary of the first Chapter: “The Seventh Son”.


This first chapter covers the years 1857-1870, the first 13 years of Robert Baden-Powell’s (B-P) life. William Hillcourt opens this chapter with the focus on the newly widowed Henrietta Powell, B-P’s mother. B-P was three years old when his father died, leaving B-P’s mother a widow at thirty-five. 

Henrietta Powell had married her husband at 21 years of age. He was 49 years old at the time. Although it may seem rather strange today, marriages of people many years apart in age were more common in this time period. She was the daughter of an Admiral of the British Navy and astronomer. She had a strong character and maintained stability and order in the house after B-P’s father (who’s full name was, incidentally: Baden Powell) had died.

Professor Powell was a respected Oxford professor. He was also a mathematician and a priest of the Church of England. Even though he had a busy schedule, he managed to spend time with B-P and his older siblings until his death.

Baden-Powell himself was born on the 22nd of February in 1857. He was an active little boy and his mother took advantage of every opportunity to encourage his inquisitive spirit. With older and younger siblings, B-P got the chance to be both a leader and a follower in various activities. From an early age, B-P showed a special interest in art. He enjoyed painting and drawing equally and showed a natural talent for it as he speedily worked with both his left and right hands, sometimes simultaneously.

When he was eleven years old, the time came for him to enter an established school to continue the learning he had begun under his mother. The first school he attended was a small one located near his home. During his two years of attendance there, throughout which he did very well, he also took piano lessons and continued to actively pursue his drawing and painting.

After two years of the local school, B-P’s mother decided that he needed to attend a reputable public school to continue his education. B-P, now 13 years old, was fortunate enough to receive a scholarship at the Charterhouse School in London. The end of chapter 1


No one would’ve been able to tell who Baden-Powell would grow up to be by looking at his early years. He was a fairly ‘normal’ boy. He had his advantages and disadvantages. Although bright, he was by no means exceptional. The thing which he showed the most natural talent for was art. But although this eventually plays an important role in his life (as we will see later), it is not what he became famous for or what ended up defining his life.

Baden-Powell’s mother certainly didn’t know what he would grow up to be, but it is through her influence that Baden-Powell was able to follow the successful path he did. She provided needed stability to his life, she encouraged him to learn and expand his mind, and she never passed up an opportunity to use her influence and that of her late husband to secure the best for her son.

Without the love and discipline of Baden-Powell’s mother in raising him, the Scouting movement would probably not exist. It is amazing how much influence we have in the lives of those around us. We can use this influence for either good or bad. We don’t know, but it is certainly possible that we could have a profound impact on history indirectly through somebody else.


Thank you for reading, I hope you enjoyed this post! If you liked it, please share it and leave a comment in the box below. In the next chapter, William Hillcourt describes Baden-Powell’s life at the Charterhouse school, and how it profoundly shaped his character. Until then,

Scout on, my friends!

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The Two Lives of a Hero II: Charterhouse Boy « Scouting Rediscovered

[…] I will be giving a brief synopsis and commentary of the second Chapter: “Charterhouse Boy”. Last chapter, we left off with Baden-Powell leaving for the ‘Charterhouse School’ at 13 years […]