John Maffey, 1st Baron Rugby

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John Loader Maffey, 1st Baron Rugby, GCMG, KCB, KCVO, CSI, CIE (1 July 1877 – 20 April 1969) was a British civil servant and diplomat: he was a key figure in Anglo-Irish relations during the Second World War.


Early life[edit]

Maffey was the younger son of Thomas Maffey, a commercial traveller of Rugby, Warwickshire, and his wife Mary Penelope, daughter of John Loader. He was educated at Rugby and Christ Church, Oxford.


He entered the Indian Civil Service in 1899, and notably served Assistant Secretary to Chief Commissioner of North-West-Frontier-Province from 1912 to 1916 and then as Private Secretary to the Viceroy of India Lord Chelmsford from 1916 to 1920 and then Chief Commissioner of the North-West Frontier Province from 1921 to 1924. After a disagreement with the British government in 1924, Maffey resigned from the Indian Civil Service. In 1926 he became Governor-General of the Sudan, followed in 1933 by his appointment as Permanent Under-Secretary of State for the Colonies. At Winston Churchill's request he became the first United Kingdom representative to Ireland in 1939, a post he held throughout the war years and until his retirement in 1949.

During the war, he was undoubtedly the most important foreign diplomat resident in Dublin, given the complications of Ireland's neutrality policy. Appointed as 'British representative to Ireland', but not as ambassador because of the External Relations Act, he quickly established a good working relationship with Éamon de Valera. De Valera was personally in favour of the survival of democracy, but did not necessarily trust the British to look after Ireland's best interests. Maffey was vital in mediating between the 'Warlord' Churchill and 'the Chief' de Valera.

When de Valera was replaced by a coalition, headed by John Costello, in 1948, Maffey again established a good working relationship with its members, although he was scathing about the clumsy manner in which the declaration of a Republic was handled: "Mr. Costello has handled the business in a slipshod and amateur fashion".

He encouraged John Betjeman, the press attaché, to establish friendly relations with leading and rising figures in the Dublin literary world like Patrick Kavanagh; Maffey himself suggested the subject for one of Kavanagh's poems.

In 1947 Maffey was raised to the peerage as Baron Rugby, of Rugby in the County of Warwick.

He is a minor character in the 2010 novel Long Time Coming by Robert Goddard.


Lord Rugby married Dorothy Gladys Huggins, daughter of Charles Lang Huggins, on 28 August 1907. Their daughter Penelope Aitken became a well-known socialite, and was the mother of the former Conservative politician Jonathan Aitken and the actress Maria Aitken and the grandmother of actor Jack Davenport. Lord Rugby died in April 1969, aged 91. He was succeeded in the barony by his eldest son Alan Loader Maffey.


  • 1877–1916: John Loader Maffey
  • 1916–1920: John Loader Maffey, CIE
  • 1920–1921: John Loader Maffey, CSI, CIE
  • 1921–1931: Sir John Loader Maffey, KCVO, CSI, CIE
  • 1931–1934: Sir John Loader Maffey, KCMG, KCVO, CSI, CIE
  • 1934–1935: Sir John Loader Maffey, KCB, KCMG, KCVO, CSI, CIE
  • 1935–1947: Sir John Loader Maffey, GCMG, KCB, KCVO, CSI, CIE
  • 1947–1969: The Right Honourable the Lord Rugby, GCMG, KCB, KCVO, CSI, CIE

See also[edit]


  • Oxbury, Harold. Great Britons: Twentieth-Century Lives. London: Promotional Reprint Company Ltd, 1993.
  • Kidd, Charles, Williamson, David (editors). Debrett's Peerage and Baronetage (1990 edition). New York: St Martin's Press, 1990.
Government offices
Preceded by
Alfred Hamilton Grant
Chief Commissioner of the
North-West Frontier Province

8 March 1921 – July 1923
Succeeded by
Horatio Norman Bolton
Preceded by
Sir Geoffrey Francis Archer
Governor-General of the Sudan
Succeeded by
Sir George Stewart Symes
Political offices
Preceded by
Sir S. Wilson
Permanent Under-Secretary of State for the Colonies
Succeeded by
Sir C. Parkinson
Diplomatic posts
Preceded by
New post
UK Representative to Ireland
Succeeded by
Gilbert Laithwaite
Peerage of the United Kingdom
Preceded by
New Creation
Baron Rugby
Succeeded by
Alan Loader Maffey