Richard Ponsonby-Fane

British academic (1878-1937)

Richard Arthur Brabazon Ponsonby-Fane (8 January 1878 – 10 December 1937) was a British public servant, colonial administrator, academic, author, specialist of Shinto and Japanologist.

Richard Ponsonby-Fane, shortly before his death in 1937

Early years

Brympton d'Evercy is the Ponsonby-Fane family home in Somerset

Richard Arthur Brabazon Ponsonby was born at Gravesend on the south bank of the Thames in Kent. As a youth, he lived in London and at his grandfather's country home, Brympton d'Evercy in Somerset.[1]

He added "Fane" to his name in 1916.[2]

Ponsonby was educated at Harrow School.[3]



In 1896, Ponsonby became the private secretary to the Governor of the British Cape Colony.[4] Over the next twenty years, he was private secretary to the Governor of Natal (1896),[5] to the Governor of Trinidad and Tobago (1898),[5] to the Governor of Ceylon (1900),[5] and to the Governor of Hong Kong (1903).[5] He was re-posted to assist the Governor of Natal in 1907 and the Governor of Fiji in 1910.

In 1915-1919, he was re-posted as private secretary to the Governor of Hong Kong.[6]

Ponsonby-Fane began lecturing at the University of Hong Kong in 1916. He continued to be a university lecturer until 1926.[7]

In 1921, when the Japanese Crown Prince Hirohito visited Hong Kong, Ponsonby-Fane was his interpreter.[8]

When Emperor Shōwa became Emperor of Japan, Ponsonby was the only non-Japanese guest who was invited to witness the ceremonies from a special place in front of the palace's Kenreimon gate.[8]

In 1930, when Prince Takamatsu and his wife travelled to Europe, Ponsonby-Fane sailed on the same ship; and he was invited to attend all the welcoming receptions for them in England.[8]

After 1919, Ponsonby-Fane became a permanent resident of Japan.[9] In later life, he was always photographed with a long woolen scarf. It was hand-knit by Dowager Empress Teimei, the widow of Emperor Taishō.[10]

Ponsonby-Fane died in Kyoto, Japan in December 1937.[11]

Selected works


In an overview of writings by and about Richard Ponsonby-Fane, OCLC/WorldCat lists roughly 74 works in 136 publications in 2 languages and 1,443 library holdings.[12]

This list is not finished; you can help Wikipedia by adding to it.
  • The Imperial Family of Japan, 1915
  • The Viciissitudes of Shinto, 1931
  • The Nomenclature of the N. Y. K. Fleet, 1931
  • Kamo Mioya Shrine, 1934
  • Kyoto: the Old Capital of Japan, 794-1869, 1956
  • The Imperial House of Japan, 1959
  • Sovereiegn and Subject, 1962
  • Studies in Shinto and Shrines, 1962
  • The Vicissitudes of Shinto, 1963
  • Visiting Famous Shrines in Japan, 1964


  1. "A Biographical sketch of Dr. R. Ponsonby-Fane," Studies in Shinto and Shrines, p. 517.
  2. Britton, Dorothy. (1997). "Richard Ponsonby-Fane, A Modern William Adams" in Britain and Japan: Biographical Portraits. p. 193.
  3. Ponsonby-Fane, pp. 517-518.
  4. Ponsonby-Fane, p. 518.
  5. 5.0 5.1 5.2 5.3 Britton, p. 194.
  6. 6.0 6.1 Britton, p. 195.
  7. Ponsonby-Fane, pp. 518-519.
  8. 8.0 8.1 8.2 Ponsonby-Fane, p. 520.
  9. 9.0 9.1 Ponsonby-Fane, p. 519.
  10. 10.0 10.1 Britton, p. 203.
  11. Ponsonby-Fane, p. 522.
  12. WorldCat Identities: Ponsonby-Fane, Richard Arthur Brabazon 1878-1937 ; retrieved 29 October 2012.

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