Sumbal (Sunbal), Samuel

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SUMBAL (Sunbal ), SAMUEL (d. 1782), Moroccan diplomat. After a prosperous career in trade, Sumbal entered the service of the sultan of *Morocco as an interpreter and confidential adviser. Ultimately, he was responsible for the conduct of the sultan's foreign policy and was the Moroccan representative in all negotiations with the envoys of the European states. In recognition of his potential utility, the Spanish government granted him a yearly allowance. In 1751 he was sent on a special mission to *Denmark as ambassador.

Sumbal occupied an important position in the life of the Moroccan Jewish communities and was recognized as their *nagid. In 1780 he fell into disgrace on the charge of smuggling currency abroad, but escaped from prison and made his way to Gibraltar. There he helped to provision the fortress during the siege which was in progress. He subsequently returned to Morocco, and died in *Tangier.

Sumbal's son joseph Ḥayyim sumbal (d. 1804) then went to Denmark, where he successfully asserted his father's financial claims. In 1787 he created a great stir by proclaiming a new syncretistic religion. Later he settled in *London where by his eccentricity he attracted great attention. In 1794 he was appointed Moroccan ambassador to the English court. In 1797 he married a well-known actress and journalist, Mary Wells, who converted to Judaism. Subsequently, they quarreled and separated, as she recorded in lurid detail in her autobiography. He ultimately settled in Altona (Hamburg), where he died.


M. Sumbel (Wells), Memoirs of the Life of Mrs. Sumbel, late Wells, 3 vols. (London, 1811); C. Roth, in: Commentary, 10 (1950), 569–76 (= Jewish Monthly, 4 (1940), 339–53); idem, in: Studies and Reports of the BevZvi Institute, 3 (1960), 13–17 (Heb. sect.).

[Cecil Roth]