Major-General Sir John Hanbury-Williams GCVO, KCB, CMG (19 October 1859 – 19 October 1946) was a Military Secretary to the Secretary of State for War and later Brigadier-General in charge of Administration (Scotland). In 1911 he was elected as a member of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) to represent Canada and served on the IOC until 1921. During the First World War he was head of the British military mission with the Russian Stavka with direct access to Tsar Nicholas II. He later wrote a book titled "The Emperor Nicholas II, as I knew him". He retired from the Army in 1919.
After attending Wellington College, John Hanbury-Williams went to the Royal Military College, Sandhurst, and in 1878 he was commissioned into the 43rd Light Infantry. He was ADC to Lieutenant General Sir E Hamley in Egypt in 1882. That same year he took part in the Battle of Tel-El-Kebir, and was mentioned in despatches. He was extra ADC to Sir M. E. Grant Duff, Governor of Madras in 1884 and 1885. Hanbury-Williams was Adjutant of the 3rd Oxfordshire Light Infantry from 1892 to 1897. He served in South Africa between 1899 and 1900 and was mentioned in despatches. He was Military Secretary to Sir Alfred Milner from 1897 to 1900 and Military Secretary to the Secretary of State for War from 1900 to 1903. He was the Canadaian Governor-General's Secretary and Military Secretary from 1904 to 1909. He was Brigadier-General in charge of Administration (Scotland) from 1909 to 1914. In 1911 he was elected as a member of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) to represent Canada and served on the IOC until 1921. He was employed on the General Staff in 1914.
During the First World War he was head of the British military mission with the Russian Stavka and was mentioned in despatches. This post provided Hanbury-Williams with direct access to the Tsar. He later wrote a book titled The Emperor Nicholas 11 as I knew him. He was in charge of the British Prisoners of War Department at the Hague from August 1917 to March 1918 and at Berne from April 1918 to December 1918. He retired from the Army in 1919. He was Her Majesty's Marshal of the Diplomatic Corps in the Royal Household of the Sovereign of England from 1920 to 1934. Hanbury-Williams was Colonel Commandant of the Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire Light Infantry from 1918 to the time of his death when he was succeeded in the post by General Sir Bernard Paget. He was Extra Equerry to the King from 1934. He was appointed GCVO in 1926, KCB in 1917, KCVO in 1908, CMG in 1899 and CVO in 1902.
John Hanbury-Williams was the youngest son of Ferdinand Hanbury-Williams, of Coldbrook Park, Monmouthshire. John Hanbury-Williams married Annie Emily, youngest daughter of Emil Reiss, in 1888, with whom he was to have four children. His wife pre-deceased him in 1933.
Partly as a result of what he had seen at first hand in Russia during the First World War, Hanbury-Williams became a fierce opponent of Bolshevism, and was a founding member of the Liberty League which was formed in the United Kingdom after the War with a view to combat the spread of this political creed.
In 1934 he appeared as a witness in Princess Irina Alexandrovna of Russia’s famous and successful libel suit against Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Pictures Limited following the release in England of the film Rasputin, the Mad Monk (USA title: Rasputin and the Empress).
In later life Sir John Hanbury-Williams resided in an apartment in the Henry III Tower at Windsor Castle, where he died on 19 October 1946, on his eighty-seventh birthday. His oldest son, Sir John Coldbrook Hanbury-Williams (1892-1965), retained the Windsor connection: he served as Gentleman Usher to Edward VIII, George VI and Elizabeth II, and married Princess Zenaida Cantacuzene, daughter of 2nd Count Speransky, and great-granddaughter of Ulysses S. Grant. One of Hanbury-Williams's sons was killed in 1916 whilst serving with the Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire Light Infantry.
- Death/Funeral Notice, The Times, Saturday 25 November 1933, page 17 column B.
- See Letters to the Editor, The Times, Wednesday 3 March 1920, page 12 column A.
- Law Report, The Times, Friday 2 March 1934, page 4 column A.
- Obituary, The Times, Monday 21 October 1946, page 7 column E.