Famous British Diplomats

Right IconThis ranking is based on an algorithm that combines various factors, including the votes of our users and search trends on the internet.

Vote for Your Favourite British Diplomats
 1 
T. E. Lawrence
(Archaeologist & Army Officer Known for His Legendary War Activities in the Middle East During World War I)
T. E. Lawrence
down5
Birthdate: August 16, 1888
Sun Sign: Leo
Birthplace: Tremadog, Carnarvonshire, Wales
Died: May 19, 1935
T. E. Lawrence was a British army officer who participated in the Arab Revolt, against the Ottoman regime, during World War I. Nicknamed Lawrence of Arabia, he inspired a movie of the same name. His treatise of his war experiences was published as Seven Pillars of Wisdom, his best-known work.
 2 
Gertrude Bell
(Writer, Diplomat)
Gertrude Bell
down5
Birthdate: July 14, 1868
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: Washington, United Kingdom
Died: July 12, 1926

Born into a wealthy English family, Gertrude Bell was an explorer at heart and went down in history for her journeys across the Middle East and for helping establish the Hāshimite dynasty in Iraq. Though she graduated in history from Oxford, being a woman, she wasn’t awarded a degree.

 3 
Rory Stewart
(Political Leader)
Rory Stewart
down4
Birthdate: January 3, 1973
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Birthplace: British Hong Kong

The son of a soldier and intelligence officer, Rory Stewart was educated at Eton and Oxford and was also a tutor to princes William and Harry. Apart from being a diplomat and MP later, he also traveled across several countries on foot and wrote about this remarkable journey in a bestselling book.

Recommended Lists:
 4 
Richard Francis Burton
down4
Birthdate: March 19, 1821
Sun Sign: Pisces
Birthplace: Torquay
Died: October 20, 1890

Richard Francis Burton was a British explorer, soldier, and scholar. He is best remembered for his explorations in Africa, Asia, and the Americas. Along with John Hanning Speke, Burton was the first European to witness the Great Lakes of Africa. A prolific writer, Burton wrote several scholarly articles about numerous subjects like sexual practices, falconry, human behavior, travel, and ethnography.

 5 
Lawrence Durrell
down4
Birthdate: February 27, 1912
Sun Sign: Pisces
Birthplace: Jalandhar
Died: November 7, 1990
Lawrence Durrell, eldest brother of naturalist and author Gerald Durrell, was a poet and writer whose best-known work is The Alexandria Quartet, the tetralogy of novels, including the famous book Justine. Constance from The Avignon Quintet earned a Booker Prize nomination. He is also known for his extensive travel writing.
 6 
Francis Walsingham
(Principal Secretary to Queen Elizabeth I of England and Popularly Remembered as Her 'Spymaster')
Francis Walsingham
down4
Birthdate: 1532 AD
Birthplace: Chislehurst, Kent, England
Died: April 6, 1590

Remembered as the principal secretary to Queen Elizabeth I, Francis Walsingham had initially followed in his father’s footsteps to study law. He fled after Mary Tudor came to power and returned when Elizabeth took over the throne. He later employed spies to counter Catholic conspiracies such as the Throckmorton Plot.

John Montagu, 4th earl of Sandwich
down4
Birthdate: November 13, 1718
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Birthplace: England
Died: April 30, 1792

At age 10, John Montagu succeeded his grandfather, Edward Montagu, as the earl of Sandwich. The Eton- and Cambridge-educated statesman had held several important positions, such as the First Lord of the Admiralty. While gambling, he would often have bread and meat, leading to the delicacy being named “sandwich.”

You May Like
 8 
James Brooke
(Politician, Writer, Diplomat)
James Brooke
down4
Birthdate: April 29, 1803
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: Varanasi
Died: June 11, 1868

Born to an English judge in British India, James Brooke was educated in England and then served the Bengal Army. He later established the Brooke Raj, or the State of Sarawak, in Borneo and reigned as its first White Rajah. He was knighted and later handed over his Raj to his nephew.

 9 
Philip Sidney
(Poet of the Elizabethan Era Known for a Pastoral Romance Entitled 'The Countess of Pembroke’s Arcadia')
Philip Sidney
down4
Birthdate: November 30, 1554
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Birthplace: Penshurst, Kent, England
Died: October 17, 1586
Legendary Elizabethan poet Philip Sidney is best remembered for his works such as Arcadia and the sonnet sequence Astrophel and Stella. Born into an aristocratic family, he became an MP from Shrewsbury at the tender age of 18. He died in a military combat against Spain at age 31.
 10 
Donald Maclean
(Diplomat)
Donald Maclean
down4
Birthdate: May 25, 1913
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: London, England
Died: March 6, 1983

While he was a member of the British Foreign Office, diplomat Donald Maclean was also simultaneously spying for the Soviet Union as part of the Cambridge Five, supplying them confidential information. He eventually vanished from England and reappeared as a Communist in the Soviet Union, years later.

 11 
E. H. Carr
(Historian, Journalist, Diplomat, Writer, Political scientist, Professor)
E. H. Carr
down3
Birthdate: June 28, 1892
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: London
Died: November 3, 1982

Best known for his 14-volume book A History of Soviet Russia, British historian and diplomat E. H. Carr had been part of the Foreign Office for a long time, before stepping into the academic world. He had also been an assistant editor of The Times and a fellow of both Oxford and Cambridge.

 12 
John Julius Norwich
(Television presenter, Politician, Historian, Diplomat, Writer)
John Julius Norwich
down3
Birthdate: September 15, 1929
Sun Sign: Virgo
Birthplace: Oldham

Born to a popular politician father and a socialite mother, John Julius Norwich was educated at Eton and later served the navy. A diplomat, historian, and traveler, he is known for his books such as Absolute Monarchs and for hosting documentaries such as Maestro and the BBC radio show My Word!

 13 
Pamela Harriman
(Political activist)
Pamela Harriman
down4
Birthdate: March 20, 1920
Sun Sign: Pisces
Birthplace: Farnborough, England
Died: February 5, 1997

Apart from serving as the US ambassador to France and as a Democratic political activist, Pamela Harriman had also been in the news for her three marriages, all to high-profile men, namely, Randolph Churchill, Leland Hayward, and W. Averell Harriman. She also had countless affairs with rich and influential men.

 14 
George Villiers, 1st Duke of Buckingham
(British Politician, Courtier and Master of the Horse (1616 - 1628))
George Villiers, 1st Duke of Buckingham
down4
Birthdate: August 28, 1592
Sun Sign: Virgo
Birthplace: Brooksby, Leicestershire, England
Died: August 23, 1628

Rumored to be a possible lover of the English king James I, statesman George Villiers, was a royal favorite but later grew unpopular with people for his inefficiency and faulty foreign policies. He practically ruled England in the initial years of Charles I’s reign and was eventually assassinated by an army officer.

 15 
Geoffrey Howe
(Jurist, Politician, Diplomat)
Geoffrey Howe
down4
Birthdate: December 20, 1926
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Birthplace: Port Talbot
Died: October 9, 2015

Former British Conservative politician Geoffrey Howe was also the longest-serving minister in Margaret Thatcher’s cabinet. While he once served as the deputy prime minister of the UK, he is remembered as someone who virtually ended Thatcher’s reign as the prime minister with his resignation over Britain’s European policy.

 16 
Paddy Ashdown
(British Politician and Former High Representative for Bosnia and Herzegovina (2002 - 2006))
Paddy Ashdown
down5
Birthdate: February 27, 1941
Sun Sign: Pisces
Birthplace: New Delhi, British India
Died: December 22, 2018

Former British Liberal Democrats leader Paddy Ashdown was the son of a British Indian Army officer and had himself served the Royal Marines and the MI6. He knew 6 languages, including Mandarin, and had also been the UN high representative in Bosnia-Herzegovina. He eventually succumbed to bladder cancer.

 17 
Hastings Ismay, 1st Baron Ismay
(1st Secretary General of NATO (1952 - 1957) )
Hastings Ismay, 1st Baron Ismay
down3
Birthdate: June 21, 1887
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: Nainital, Uttarakhand, India
Died: December 17, 1965

Born to a British civil servant in British India, Hastings Lionel Ismay later joined the British Indian Army. During World War II, he rose to be the most trusted military advisor of British prime minister Winston Churchill. He later also served as NATO’s first secretary-general and was eventually knighted.

Edward Grey, 1st Viscount Grey of Fallodon
down3
Birthdate: April 25, 1862
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: London, England
Died: September 7, 1933

Sir Edward Grey spent a long 11-year stint as the British foreign secretary, the longest uninterrupted tenure anybody has had in the same post. He is known for his support of France in the Moroccan crises and his iconic “the lamps are going out” remark made to the Westminster Gazette.

 19 
John Sawers
(Civil servant, Diplomat)
John Sawers
down3
Birthdate: July 26, 1955
Sun Sign: Leo
Birthplace: Warwick

Former MI6 chief John Sawers has also been a Permanent Representative of the UK to the UN and the British ambassador to Egypt. His work has taken him to Yemen, Syria, and South Africa. A descendant of the aristocratic Stratford family, he later founded Newbridge Advisory and also taught at King's College London.

 20 
Victor Hope, 2nd Marquess of Linlithgow
(Governor-General of India)
Victor Hope, 2nd Marquess of Linlithgow
down3
Birthdate: September 24, 1887
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: Queensferry, Scotland
Died: January 5, 1952

Born into an aristocratic family, Victor Hope, 2nd Marquess of Linlithgow received an elite education at Eton. He later became India’s longest serving viceroy of India. He is also remembered for his numerous conflicts with the Indian National Congress and for his efforts in suppressing the independence movement.

Robert Bulwer-Lytton, 1st Earl of Lytton
down3
Birthdate: November 8, 1831
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Birthplace: London, England
Died: November 24, 1891
Apart from serving as a British viceroy of India, Robert Bulwer-Lytton had also penned poems under the pen-name Owen Meredith. His relief policy in the wake of the Madras famine of 1876-78 was highly criticized and held responsible for aggravating the famine. He also catalyzed the Second Afghan War.
 22 
James Bruce, 8th earl of Elgin
(Government Official)
James Bruce, 8th earl of Elgin
down3
Birthdate: July 20, 1811
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: London, England
Died: November 20, 1863
Born in British India, James Bruce was the son of Thomas Bruce, the 7th Earl of Elgin, who had lost much of his fortunes in buying the “Elgin Marbles.” Educated at Eton, he later rose to be the governor of Jamaica, the governor general of Canada, and the viceroy of India.
 23 
Thomas Roe
(Diplomat)
Thomas Roe
down3
Birthdate: 1581 AD
Birthplace: Low Leyton near Wanstead in Essex
Died: November 6, 1644

Renowned British diplomat Thomas Roe had started his career as an ambassador to the Mughal emperor Jahangir’s court in India, where he furthered British interests, and was later an ambassador to the Ottoman Empire. He also negotiated treaties during the Thirty Years’ War and was later knighted for his achievements.

Henry of Grosmont, 1st Duke of Lancaster
down3
Birthdate: 1310 AD
Birthplace: Grosmont Castle, Grosmont, Wales
Died: March 23, 1361

The only son and heir of Henry, 3rd Earl of Lancaster, Henry of Grosmont, 1st Duke of Lancaster, lost his mother at 12 but grew up to be one of the most affluent peers of his time. His memoir Livre de seyntz medicines revealed a lot about his life and his character.

 25 
Harold Nicolson
(Member of Parliament for Leicester West (1935 -1945))
Harold Nicolson
down3
Birthdate: November 21, 1886
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Birthplace: Tehrān, Iran
Died: May 1, 1968
Born to a British diplomat father in Persia, Harold Nicolson was a well-traveled child, due to his father’s international postings. He grew up to be a diplomat and became famous for his travel accounts and novels. Diaries and Letters remains one of his most notable collections of essays and journals.
 26 
William Hamilton
(anthropologist, diplomat, archaeologist, archaeologist)
William Hamilton
down3
Birthdate: December 13, 1730
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Birthplace: Henley-on-Thames edit 1 reference
Died: April 6, 1803

William Hamilton didn’t just hold significant posts such as that of the British ambassador to Naples, but also made extensive studies at Vesuvius and Etna, as a volcanologist. He was also a passionate collector of Greek and Roman vases, and many of his prized possessions are now housed at the British Museum.

 27 
Garnet Wolseley, 1st Viscount Wolseley
(Politician, Diplomat, Military personnel)
Garnet Wolseley, 1st Viscount Wolseley
down3
Birthdate: June 4, 1833
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: Dublin
Died: March 25, 1913

British Army field marshal Garnet Wolseley had been part of countless campaigns, such as the 1857 Indian Mutiny and the Crimean War. Born to an army major, he became the British Army’s youngest lieutenant colonel, at 25. He had lost an eye in battle and was eventually credited with modernizing the British troupes.

 28 
James Cross
(Diplomat, Engineer)
James Cross
down3
Birthdate: September 29, 1921
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: Ireland

Irish-British diplomat James Cross had worked in New Delhi, Halifax, Winnipeg, and Kuala Lumpur before moving back to Canada as a trade commissioner. In late 1970, the Quebec Liberation Front abducted him, though he was released after 2 months. He died of COVID-19 complications at age 99.

 29 
Alfred de Rothschild
(Banker, Diplomat)
Alfred de Rothschild
down3
Birthdate: July 20, 1842
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: London
Died: January 31, 1918

Part of the famous Rothschild banking family from Frankfurt, Alfred de Rothschild started his career with his family’s N.M. Rothschild Bank in London. He later had a 20-year stint as the director of the Bank of England. A passionate art collector, he later also served as a trustee of the National Gallery.

 30 
Steven Dick
(Diplomat)
Steven Dick
down3
Birthdate: May 16, 1982
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: Glasgow, Scotland
Died: March 24, 2020

Steven Dick served as the deputy British ambassador to Hungary and had previously served in Kabul and Riyadh. He was well-versed in Arabic, too. The Glasgow-born diplomat had started his career as a trainee with the Bank of Scotland. He died after contracting COVID-19 at age 37.

 31 
Mark Sykes
(British Traveller, Conservative Party Politician and Diplomatic Advisor)
Mark Sykes
down3
Birthdate: March 16, 1879
Sun Sign: Pisces
Birthplace: Westminster, London, England
Died: February 16, 1919

British diplomat and Conservative politician Mark Sykes is best remembered for his association with the Sykes–Picot Agreement, which was related to the partitioning of the Ottoman Empire following World War I. He also played a role in the Balfour Declaration. He succumbed to the Spanish flu pandemic at age 39.

 32 
Charles Hardinge, 1st Baron Hardinge of Penshurst
(Former Viceroy and Governor-General of India (1910 - 1916) )
Charles Hardinge, 1st Baron Hardinge of Penshurst
down3
Birthdate: June 20, 1858
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: London, England
Died: August 2, 1944

Once the viceroy and governor-general of India, Lord Hardinge was the grandson of another governor-general, Henry Hardinge. His tenure witnessed the transfer of India’s capital from Calcutta to New Delhi. He was also instrumental in sending a large number of Indian soldiers to fight for Britain in World War I.

 33 
Alexander Burnes
down2
Birthdate: May 16, 1805
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: Montrose, United Kingdom
Died: November 2, 1841

An explorer at heart, Alexander Burnes joined the East India Company army at 16. Proficient in languages such as Hindi and Urdu, he later explored places such as the modern-day Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Turkmenistan, and penned the autobiography Travels into Bokhara. He also earned the knighthood for his explorations.

 34 
Peter Westmacott
down3
Birthdate: December 23, 1950
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Birthplace: Somerset

Diplomat Peter Westmacott had been the British ambassador to the US, Turkey, and France. He had started his career with the Foreign Office and was initially posted in Tehran, Iran. He has been knighted for his achievements and has also received the Legion of Honour.

George Macartney, 1st Earl Macartney
down3
Birthdate: May 14, 1737
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: Lissanoure, Loughguile, Ballymoney, County Antrim Ireland
Died: May 31, 1806

Remembered as the first British envoy to China, George Macartney, 1st Earl Macartney had also been the governor of Grenada, Madras and Cape Colony. However, he hardly succeeded in furthering British trade interests in China, which considered itself self-sufficient. He termed the British empire as one on which the sun never sets.

 36 
Thomas Gresham
(Merchant)
Thomas Gresham
down3
Birthdate: 1519 AD
Birthplace: London, England
Died: November 21, 1579

The son of a former London mayor, British merchant and financier Thomas Gresham was initially trained as a lawyer. He advised Queen Elizabeth I to reform Britain’s monetary policies, giving rise to the Gresham’s law. He also established the Royal Exchange, initially known as the Bourse, in London.

 37 
Gladwyn Jebb
(Civil servant)
Gladwyn Jebb
down3
Birthdate: April 25, 1900
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: England
Died: October 24, 1996

British diplomat Gladwyn Jebb is best remembered for his service as the acting secretary-general of the UN after World War II, before the first secretary-general was declared. While his diplomatic work took him to places such as Tehran and Rome, he was later knighted for his achievements.

 38 
Austen Henry Layard
(British Archaeologist, Diplomat and Former Under-Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs )
Austen Henry Layard
down3
Birthdate: March 5, 1817
Sun Sign: Pisces
Birthplace: Paris, France
Died: July 5, 1894

British archaeologist Austen Henry Layard initially worked in a London law office but quit it suddenly to go on an impromptu trip to Syria. He was later hired as an unofficial British diplomat in Turkey. He is remembered for his excavations in Nineveh and his exploration of the Assyrian and Babylonian culture.

Samuel Hoare, 1st Viscount Templewood
down3
Birthdate: February 24, 1880
Sun Sign: Pisces
Birthplace: London, England
Died: May 7, 1959

British statesman and Conservative Party politician Samuel Hoare is best remembered for framing the 1935 Government of India Act as the secretary of state for India. Initially a military officer, he had served in Russia and Italy. His Hoare–Laval Plan for partitioning Ethiopia was highly criticized.

Sir George Downing, 1st Baronet
down2
Birthdate: 1624 AD
Birthplace: Dublin, Ireland
Died: July 19, 1684

English diplomat Sir George Downing, 1st Baronet was the person who lent his name to the iconic Downing Street in London. One of the first to graduate from Harvard, he was initially a preacher and then a military leader. An MP under Oliver Cromwell, he, however, supported the Stuart restoration later.

Thomas Darcy, 1st Baron Darcy de Darcy
down2
Birthdate: 1467 AD
Birthplace: Lincolnshire, England
Died: June 30, 1537

English nobleman Thomas Darcy, 1st Baron Darcy de Darcy initially had a promising military career under Henry VII. He later rebelled against the Dissolution of the Monasteries and was eventually convicted of treason at Westminster for his involvement in the Pilgrimage of Grace revolt and beheaded.

Evelyn Baring, 1st Earl of Cromer
down3
Birthdate: February 26, 1841
Sun Sign: Pisces
Birthplace: Cromer Hall, England
Died: January 29, 1917

Best known for his 24-year stint as the British agent and consul-general in Egypt, Evelyn Baring had started his career at the War Office and had then accompanied his cousin, Lord Northbrook, the viceroy of India, as his secretary. He is largely held responsible for modernizing Egypt and its economy.

 43 
John of Salisbury
(Author, philosopher, diplomat and bishop of Chartres)
John of Salisbury
down3
Birthdate: 1115 AD
Birthplace: Salisbury, England
Died: October 25, 1180
Charles Talbot, 1st Duke of Shrewsbury
down2
Birthdate: July 24, 1660
Sun Sign: Leo
Birthplace: England
Died: February 1, 1718

Remembered for his role in the Glorious Revolution, a plot to depose King James II of England, Charles Talbot, 1st Duke of Shrewsbury had become an earl age 7, after his father’s death. Though initially a Whig, he later switched to the Tory party. He died childless, and thus his dukedom ended.

Victor Alexander Bruce, 9th earl of Elgin
down2
Birthdate: May 16, 1849
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: Province of Canada
Died: January 18, 1917

Victor Alexander Bruce, 9th Earl of Elgin was a British politician who served as the governor-general of India from 1894 to 1899. He is remembered for presiding over an investigative enquiry pertaining to the Boer War. The enquiry, which came to be known as The Elgin Commission, was the first to consider the feelings of the relatives of the dead.

Thomas Howard, 2nd earl of Arundel
down2
Birthdate: July 7, 1586
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: Finchingfield Village, England
Died: October 4, 1646

Thomas Howard, 2nd earl of Arundel is also sometimes referred to as the 14th or 21st earl of Arundel. A lover of paintings, marble sculptures, and coins, he also gained the nickname Collector Earl. Most of his prized possessions are now housed at the Oxford University and the British Museum.

 47 
Andy Wigmore
(Sport shooter)
Andy Wigmore
down2
Birthdate: June 1, 1966
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: Chipping Norton, England

British-Belizean political activist and diplomat Andy Wigmore has been termed by the British media as the BREXIT badboy for his anti-EU campaign. A skilled trap shooter, he has also previously represented Belize in the Commonwealth Games. He once broke COVID quarantine rules in Switzerland and bragged about it.

Gilbert Elliot-Murray-Kynynmound, 1st Earl of Minto
down2
Birthdate: April 23, 1751
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: Edinburgh, Scotland
Died: June 21, 1814

While he initially studied law, Gilbert Elliot-Murray-Kynynmound, 1st Earl of Minto later became a prominent diplomat. Named the governor-general of India, he prevented the invasion of bandit leader Amīr Khan and later signed the Treaty of Amritsar with Ranjit Singh. He also controlled the French in the East Indies.

 49 
Nicholas Throckmorton
down2
Birthdate: 1515 AD
Birthplace: England
Died: February 12, 1571

English diplomat Nicholas Throckmorton was an MP and had also been knighted during Edward VI’s reign. Under Queen Elizabeth I’s rule, he was not only the chamberlain of the exchequer but also an ambassador to France and Scotland. However, he failed to prevent the marriage of Queen Mary and Lord Darnley.

 50 
William Amherst, 1st Earl Amherst
down2
Birthdate: January 14, 1773
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Birthplace: Bath, England
Died: March 13, 1857

William Amherst, 1st Earl Amherst was initially sent as an ambassador to China but returned without securing any trade relations because of his refusal to show complete subordination. He later became the governor-general of India and annexed major parts of Burma after the First Burmese War.

Find out more about the greatest British Diplomats, including Geoffrey Howe, Harold Macmillan, Alfred de Rothschild, Richard Francis Burton and Isaiah Berlin.