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The ‘Konaki’ mansion and its extensive lands at what was then called ‘Ahmetaga’ (now Prokopi) were purchased in 1832 by Edward Noel, a prominent Philhellene, painter, poet and relative of Byron’s wife, from whom he borrowed money to buy the estate from a departing Ottoman official, Ismail Bey, at the time when the independence of Euboea was being negotiated. Turkish landowners were allowed to sell their estates before leaving, and the Greek Government under Capodistrias encouraged foreigners to purchase their lands. Edward Noel was an idealist and came to Greece with the ambition of helping to restore the country to its former (ancient) glory—in his case, by transforming the local economy of Euboea and establishing a modern agricultural college. Roads, mills, dams, stone houses for the agricultural workers, and a church were all built under his aegis.
When the Canadian-born Philip Baker married Edward Noel’s grand-daughter who had inherited the estate in 1919, the family changed its name to Noel-Baker. Philip Noel-Baker was an Olympic athlete and later a Labour Member of Parliament who served in several cabinets. He received the Nobel Prize for Peace in 1959 for his work on disarmament. Since his death in 1982 the estate has been owned by his son, Francis Noel-Baker, also a former La bour Member of Parliament. Possession of the land has, from the outset, been repeatedly challenged by the Greek Government. Co-existence with the local community has also often been problematic: the is sue of the desecration of family graves by locals be came the subject of a parliamentary exchange in the House of Lords during Margaret Thatcher’s second government. Virginia Woolf and Maria Callas are among the writers and artists who have been guests at the Konaki.
Euboea Island, Greece