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Nigel Baker

Ambassador to the Holy See (2011-2016)

Part of UK in Holy See

9th September 2015

The Queen: a personal view

© Press Association
Her Majesty The Queen. © Press Association
© Press Association
Her Majesty The Queen. © Press Association, all rights reserved

This blog needs no other title. We all know who we mean when we speak of The Queen. And there is plenty of information around the web at the moment (the BBC, for example, has many fascinating details about Her Majesty’s reign on its website). At 63 years seven months and counting, The Queen this week becomes the longest serving British monarch.

In a celebratory article I wrote for the Vatican newspaper L’Osservatore Romano, I wanted to focus on the extraordinary sense of service and duty that has characterised Her Majesty’s reign. That will be the tenor of many of the words and articles we hear and read over the next few days, and quite rightly so. Her Majesty swore at her coronation in Westminster Abbey to serve God and the British people, and the other peoples over which she reigned. She has asked that 9 September, the day she “overtakes” Queen Victoria, should simply be “business as usual”. The Queen will continue as she always has.

But so many will also have personal stories to tell. I recall as a ten year old the excitement of The Queen’s Silver Jubilee, when the whole school took part in a street party and dressed up as figures in British history (if I remember rightly, I was Howard Carter, the discoverer of Tutankhamun’s burial chamber!). I was first privileged to be received by Her Majesty when I started working as a private secretary to The Prince of Wales 15 years ago. In the course of my career since I have been able to see her at work, greeting countless people, giving wise advice and counsel, supporting the unsung heroes of daily life, representing and promoting the values of decency, faith, justice, democracy, the family, and hard work in all that she says and does. The Queen’s visit to the Vatican in 2014 to meet Pope Francis gave me an opportunity again to admire at close quarters her graciousness and indefatigable energy, supported as always by the Duke of Edinburgh (they celebrate their 68th wedding anniversary this November). I have even seen her, by chance, at Newmarket race course, enjoying a rare moment of leisure in an environment she loves (although I’m afraid her horse didn’t win that day…).

Yes, Her Majesty is an institution. But she is also a real person, subject to the joys and grief of the rest of us, personal tragedy as well as family happiness (the arrival of great grandchildren surely ranks high on the scale). As such, she is an example for us all, from the young girl surrounded by elderly men who touched the hearts of the world at the coronation in 1953, to the great grandmother she is today. It is this, I believe, from which springs the deep affection in which The Queen is now held by millions in Britain and around the world.

2 comments on “The Queen: a personal view

  1. A very good piece Nigel, you hit many nails on their heads.
    I was an usher at the Diplomatic Reception for 10 years and was always struck by how easily the Queen found something to say to all the various Ambassadors, High Commissioners and their families which was relevant to each one. She made the ‘least important’ states and the C.d’As feel as welcome and special as our closest allies. The evening must be the best and most effective soft diplomacy the FCO and the Government could wish for!

  2. Dear Nigel, Before joining the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, I was fortunate to work for the Royal Household for three years. I recall on one ocassion, prior to the start of one her summer Garden Parties, the sudden appearance of the Queen, who had decided that she wanted to see how the preparations were progressing. What impressed me the most is that the Queen took time to meet and talk to many of those who were there and in particular to express her gratitude to them for their contribution. Gavin

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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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