Queensberry was a patron of sport and a noted boxing enthusiast. In 1866 he was one of the founders of the Amateur Athletic Club, now the Amateur Athletic Association of England, one of the first groups that did not require amateur athletes to belong to the upper-classes in order to compete. The following year the Club published a set of twelve rules for conducting boxing matches. The rules had been drawn up by John Graham Chambers but appeared under Queensberry's sponsorship and are universally known at the "Marquess of Queensberry rules". Queensberry, a keen rider, was also active in fox hunting and owned several successful race horses.
In 1881, Queensberry accepted the presidency of the British Secular Union, a group that had broken away in 1877 from Bradlaugh's National Secular Society. That year he published a long philosophical poem, The Spirit of the Matterhorn, which he had written in Zermatt in 1873 in an attempt to articulate his humanistic views. In 1882, he was ejected from the theatre after loudly interrupting a performance of the play The Promise of May by Lord Tennyson, the Poet Laureate, because it included a villainous atheist in its cast of characters. Under the auspices of the British Secular Union, Queensberry wrote a pamphlet entitled The Religion of Secularism and the Perfectibility of Man. The Union, always small, ceased to function in 1884.
His divorces, atheism, and association with the boxing world made Queensberry an unpopular figure in London high society. In 1893 his eldest son, Francis, Viscount Drumlanrig, was created Baron Kelhead in the Peerage of the United Kingdom, thus giving the son an automatic seat in the House of Lords, from which the father was excluded. This caused a bitter dispute between Queensberry and his son, and also between Queensberry and Lord Rosebery, the patron who had promoted Lord Drumlanrig's ennoblement and who shortly thereafter became Prime Minister. Drumlanrig was reported to have been killed in a hunting accident in 1894, but his death may have been a suicide.
Queensberry sold the family seat of Kinmount in Dumfriesshire, Scotland, an action which further alienated him from his family.
An anecdote tells us that, eccentric to the last, Queensberry stipulated in his will that he was to be buried upright. The grave-diggers are rumoured to have buried him with his head down.
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