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Nigel Baker

Ambassador to the Holy See (2011-2016)

Part of UK in Holy See

5th February 2014

Britain and the Holy See: The Royal Connection

It is great news that The Queen and The Duke of Edinburgh will meet Pope Francis at the Vatican in April this year. It will be Her Majesty’s fifth visit to the Vatican, and the seventh occasion on which The Queen has met a reigning Pope. Her Majesty of course met Popes John Paul II and Benedict XVI in 1982 and 2010 during their respective visits to the United Kingdom.

Her own visits to Rome led to audiences at the Vatican with Pope Pius XII (in 1951, when The Queen was still Princess Elizabeth), Pope John XXIII in 1961, Pope John Paul II in 1980 and, during the Jubilee Year, in 2000.

It is an extremely positive aspect of the bilateral relationship that successive British Sovereigns have taken a close personal interest in relations with the Papacy, and none more so than Queen Elizabeth II. Edward VII visited Pope Leo XIII in 1903, and King George V and Queen Mary called on Pope Pius XI in 1923, both groundbreaking encounters in their way.

The reciprocal visits since then have in turn marked the rebirth of the diplomatic and political relationship between Britain and the Holy See. 2014 sees the centenary of the re-establishment of diplomatic relations since the break during the Reformation, but it is under Queen Elizabeth II that the relationship can truly be said to have matured to its present, strong state.

One of my predecessors, Mark Pellew, noted at a Colloquium on the bilateral relationship in 2012 that while meetings between Popes and British Sovereigns take place in the context of centuries of divided history, they now serve to push back any remaining political and bilateral obstacles that linger after those years of division.

Papal and Royal visits have over the years served to inject real warmth and substance into our political, diplomatic and ecumenical relationships. The Queen’s visit to Pope Francis will mark a further milestone in that process.

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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