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Nigel Baker

Ambassador to the Holy See (2011-2016)

Part of UK in Holy See

1st March 2012

St David’s Day

St David’s Day Parade in Cardiff, 2011. Photo: Visit Wales, all rights reserved

St David, or Dewi, is the patron saint of Wales. The arrival of his feast day – 1 March – always gives a sense, at least in the United Kingdom, that Spring is now definitely on the way. But it is also a useful reminder to non-Welsh of the importance of Wales to the United Kingdom, its prosperity and identity.

The First Minister’s St David’s Day Message highlights the attractions of Wales to the outsider, including its natural and cultural beauties. It also notes Wales’s contribution to pioneering research in areas like medical research, engineering and supercomputing. Welsh coal and industrial muscle help power Britain’s development in the 18th and 19th centuries. Its knowledge skills are doing the same in the 21st.

It is surprising to learn that St David is the only Welsh saint to have been canonised in the Western Church. In the 12th century, two pilgrimages to St David’s were worth one to Rome. But Welshmen have always been great travellers. The records of the English and Welsh hospice in Rome show many Welsh visitors. The Welsh-speaking communities in Argentina attest to Welsh travellers crossing continents. My own Welsh connections also had careers that would be considered normal in 2012: my Welsh great grandmother spent many years in Shanghai and Hong Kong; her son, my great uncle, served in what is now Pakistan with the Welsh Regiment.

The St David mosaic in Westminster Cathedral, dedicated by Pope Benedict during his 2010 visit, is a tangible reminder of the recognition given in the Holy See to the importance of Christianity as an integral part of Welsh history and development. Happy St David’s Day to you all!

About Nigel Baker

Nigel was British Ambassador to the Holy See from 2011-2016. He presented his Credentials to Pope Benedict XVI on 9 September 2011, after serving 8 years in Latin America, as…

Nigel was British Ambassador to the Holy See from 2011-2016. He presented his Credentials to Pope Benedict XVI on 9 September 2011, after serving 8 years in Latin America, as Deputy Head of Mission in the British Embassy in Havana, Cuba (2003-6) and then as British Ambassador in La Paz, Bolivia (2007-11). In July 2016, Nigel finished his posting, and is currently back in London.

As the first British Ambassador to the Holy See ever to have a blog, Nigel provided a regular window on what the Embassy and the Ambassador does. The blogs covered a wide range of issues, from Royal and Ministerial visits to Diplomacy and Faith, freedom of religion, human trafficking and climate change.

More on Nigel’s career

Nigel was based in London between 1998 and 2003. He spent two years on European Union issues (for the UK 1998 EU Presidency and on European Security and Defence questions), before crossing St James’s Park to work for three years as The Assistant Private Secretary to His Royal Highness The Prince of Wales. At St James’s Palace, Nigel worked on international issues, including the management of The Prince of Wales’s overseas visits and tours, on the Commonwealth, interfaith issues, the arts and international development.

Nigel spent much of the early part of his FCO career in Central Europe, after an initial stint as Desk Officer for the Maghreb countries in the Near East and North Africa department (1990-91). Between 1992 and 1996, Nigel served in the British embassies in Prague and Bratislava, the latter being created in 1993 after the peaceful division of Czechoslovakia into the separate Czech and Slovak Republics.

Nigel joined the FCO (Foreign and Commonwealth Office) in September 1989. Between 1996 and 1998 he took a two year academic sabbatical to research and write about themes in 18th century European history, being based in Verona but also researching in Cambridge, Paris and Naples. The research followed from Nigel’s time as a student at Cambridge (1985-88) where he read history and was awarded a First Class Honours degree, followed by his MA in 1992.

Before joining the Foreign Office, Nigel worked briefly for the Conservative Research Department in London at the time of the 1989 European election campaign.

Nigel married Alexandra (Sasha) in 1997. They have one son, Benjamin, born in Bolivia in September 2008.

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