10 things to know about Baron Bliss – Belize’s Greatest Benefactor
Being the only nation in Central America with English as its official language, Belize occupies a unique role in the region. But one of the truly curious facts about Belize is that its greatest benefactor never once stepped foot in the country although he donated the bulk of his estate to the country after his death.
Below are 10 facts about Baron Bliss.
- Baron Bliss never set foot in Belize – Baron Bliss was an avid angler and learned about the country from local fisherman who would accompany him on his expeditions. They impressed him so much that he gave the bulk of his estate to the then-colony when he died.
- Belize’s capital was established with money from Baron Bliss – When the government decided to build a new capital, they used money from the Baron’s endowment to buy the land.
- Baron Bliss didn’t trust Americans – Although he never explained why, Baron Bliss stipulated in his will that no American would ever be allowed to manage his trust fund.
- His will included details about his tomb – Baron Bliss’s will included a number of details, including the construction of what is now the Baron Bliss Tomb and Lighthouse right down to the kind and type of iron railing to be erected around his grave.
- The Baron Bliss Regatta – As part of the trust fund, Baron Bliss set aside money to hold a sailing race every year on the anniversary of his death. Today, the Baron Bliss Regatta is one of Belize’s biggest sporting events.
- His title came from Portugal – Baron Bliss was born and grew up in England but inherited his royal title from a branch of his family that was ennobled by the then-Kingdom of Portugal.
- He fished from a wheelchair – At age 41, Baron Bliss was struck by polio which left him confined to a wheelchair for life. Nonetheless, he spent the last decades of his life fishing from a specially-equipped boat.
- No churches or dance halls – Baron Bliss’s will included the specific instructions that none of his money was to be used for churches or dance halls.
- Agricultural and vocational schools – Baron Bliss stipulated that none of his money could be spent on schools except for vocational or agricultural schools.
- Only spend the interest – Baron Bliss stipulated that the trust fund that he established only spend money from the interest garnered from investments and never from the principle. Thanks to this foresight, the fund continues to grow and prosper today.
In 2008, the government of Belize officially renamed the March 9 holiday to “National Heroes and Benefactors Day” but it is still widely referred to by locals as Baron Bliss Day.