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Leigh Turner

Ambassador to Austria and UK Permanent Representative to the United Nations and other International Organisations in Vienna

Part of UK in Austria

6th September 2017 Vienna, Austria

The Charles Stewart Conversations

An ambassador punches a horse and gets involved in a fight with the coachman.

Two hundred years later, another ambassador in the same city initiates a series of discussion evenings named after his predecessor.


Lord Charles Vane-Stewart, Third Marquess of Londonderry, was the first British Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary to the Emperor of Austria and served in Vienna for nine years from 1814 to 1823.  He attended the Congress of Vienna with his half-brother Lord Castlereagh as one of the British team; and earned a reputation for unorthodox behaviour.

He was also the great-grandfather of Sir Winston Churchill.

Charles Stewart – photo Wikimedia Commons

When I arrived in Vienna in 2016, I was keen to ensure I had the best possible understanding of Austria and its relationship with the rest of the world; and good links to decision-makers and opinion-formers.  I therefore asked my team in the Embassy to suggest a format for what was once known as a “Salon” – an informal evening gathering to exchange views and develop relationships.

When someone suggested we name our salons the “Charles Stewart Conversations”, I was hooked.

We hold the Conversations every month or two, and invite a range of interlocutors from politics, business, the arts and any other sector relevant to Austria and the UK.  Subjects range around politics, business, foreign affairs and the arts.  Sometimes someone is kind enough to kick off proceedings with a short talk.

As the proceedings are held under the Chatham House rule and are designed to be informal, I will not name any of those attending here.  But I have been delighted with the response, with high-level attendees and fascinating, wide-ranging discussions.  The working language is German.

The Charles Stewart conversations have a better gender balance than this

Above all, I would like to express my gratitude to all those who have attended for taking part with such passion and engagement.  I look forward to further “Charles Stewart Conversations” as relations between Austria and the UK continue to develop.

About Leigh Turner

I hope you find this blog interesting and, where appropriate, entertaining. My role in Vienna covers the relationship between Austria and the UK as well as the diverse work of…

I hope you find this blog interesting and, where appropriate, entertaining. My role in Vienna covers the relationship between Austria and the UK as well as the diverse work of the UN and other organisations; stories here will reflect that.

About me: I arrived in Vienna in August 2016 for my second posting in this wonderful city, having first served here in the mid-1980s. My previous job was as HM Consul-General and Director-General for Trade and Investment for Turkey, Central Asia and South Caucasus based in Istanbul.

Further back: I grew up in Nigeria, Exeter, Lesotho, Swaziland and Manchester before attending Cambridge University 1976-79. I worked in several government departments before joining the Foreign Office in 1983.

Keen to go to Africa and South America, I’ve had postings in Vienna (twice), Moscow, Bonn, Berlin, Kyiv and Istanbul, plus jobs in London ranging from the EU Budget to the British Overseas Territories.

2002-6 I was lucky enough to spend four years in Berlin running the house, looking after the children (born 1992 and 1994) and doing some writing and journalism.

To return to Vienna as ambassador is a privilege and a pleasure. I hope this blog reflects that.