Michael Shea (diplomat)

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Michael Sinclair MacAuslan Shea, CVO (10 May 1938, Carluke, Lanarkshire, Scotland – 17 October 2009) was press secretary to Elizabeth II of the United Kingdom from 1978 to 1987. Earlier he had been a career diplomat and was also an author of political thrillers and non-fiction.

Early life[edit]

Until the age of 14 Shea attended Lenzie Academy, where his mother was a teacher. He then attended Gordonstoun as a result of gaining a scholarship. He graduated from the University of Edinburgh, having read Economics; he also completed his doctorate at Edinburgh[1] on economic development in West Africa. He entered the Foreign Service in 1963 and served in Ghana, West Germany, Romania and New York.[2]

Royal press secretary[edit]

After helping to arrange the Queen's official visit in 1976, Shea became her press secretary two years later. He was at the centre of a "mole hunt" in 1986 for the person who gave a briefing to a journalist on Sunday Times in which it was said the social policies being followed by the Thatcher government were causing the Queen "dismay",[3] and Mrs. Thatcher's negative attitude to the Commonwealth of Nations caused displeasure.[4] Members of Parliament called for Shea's resignation if he was responsible. The Queen's Private Secretary Sir William Heseltine responded to the controversy in a letter to The Times confirming Shea as the contact, but asserting that Shea's comments had been misreported.[5] Shea left royal service the following year, although he denied that there was any connection with the earlier controversy.[3]

Other activities[edit]

While First Secretary in Bonn, then the capital of West Germany, Shea began his career as a writer. A thriller, Sonntag, was published under the pseudonym Michael Sinclair in 1971, the first of 20 books, most of them political thrillers, some set in the near future. State of the Nation (1997) and Endgame (2002) take place in an independent Scotland. His memoirs were published as A View from the Sidelines (2003).

After he resigned as the Queen's press secretary, Shea worked for six years at Hanson plc as director of public relations. He can be heard in a private interview given to Brendan Bruce (former Conservative Party Director of Communications under Margaret Thatcher) for his book 'Images of Power' (Kogan Page 1992) in the British Library Sound Archive ( BL reference C1251/21 http://cadensa.bl.uk/uhtbin/cgisirsi/gR0fld7fWI/WORKS-FILE/11570052/123)

Michael Shea was married to Mona Grec Stensen, a native of Norway; they married in 1968. The couple had two daughters. He was a Lieutenant of the Victorian Order (LVO) from 1985 and Commander (CVO) from 1987.[1]

His last years were affected by the onset of dementia. He died at age 71 in 2009.

Partial Bibliography[edit]

Fiction[edit]

Non-fiction[edit]

  • Influence: How to Make The System Work for You - a handbook for the modern Machiavelli (Ebury, 1988, ISBN 0712623906)
  • Personal Impact: Presence, Paralanguage and the Art of Good Communication (Sinclair-Stevenson, 1993, ISBN 1856192571)
  • To Lie Abroad: Diplomacy Reviewed (Sinclair-Stevenson, 1996, ISBN 1856192547)
  • The Primacy Effect: The Ultimate Guide to Effective Personal Communications (Orion, 1998, ISBN 0752811878)
  • A View from the Sidelines (Sutton, 2003, ISBN 0750932457)

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b Dennis Griffiths (ed.) The Encyclopedia of the British Press, 1492-1992, London and Basingstoke: Macmillan, 1992, p.516
  2. ^ David McKittrick Obituary for Michael Shea in The Independent
  3. ^ a b "Michael Shea", Daily Telegraph, 19 October 2009
  4. ^ Stephen Bates Michael Shea Obituary, The Guardian, 21 October 2009
  5. ^ Obituary for Michael Shea in The Times