Sherard Louis Cowper-Coles KCMG LVO (born in London, England, 8 January 1955) is a British diplomat. He was the Foreign Secretary's Special Representative to Afghanistan and Pakistan in 2009-2010. After leaving the Foreign Office, he worked briefly for BAE Systems as international business development director. He left BAE Systems in 2013 and is now a Senior Adviser to HSBC's Group Chief Executive Officer. His surname is pronounced 'cooper coals'.
Sherard Cowper-Coles is the son of Sherard Hamilton Cowper-Coles and Dorothy (née Short). He was educated at Freston Lodge School, New Beacon School, Tonbridge School and Hertford College, Oxford, where he read classics. He speaks fluent Arabic, Hebrew, and French and has studied Pashto.
In 1982, he married Bridget Mary Elliott, and they have four sons, Henry Sherard, Rupert Neil, Frederick Peter and Myles Philip, and one daughter, Minna Louise. In 2011, he divorced Bridget Mary Elliott and married Jasmine Zerinini, a French diplomat, in 2012. They have a daughter, Louise Elizabeth.
Cowper-Coles entered the diplomatic service in 1977. He was Third Secretary and later Second Secretary in Cairo, 1980–1983, First Secretary in the Planning Staff of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, 1983–1985; Private Secretary to the Permanent Under-secretary of State, 1985–1987, First Secretary in Washington, 1987–1991, Assistant in the Security Policy Department of the FCO, 1991–1993, Resident Associate, International Institute for Strategic Studies, 1993–1994; Head of the Hong Kong Department of the FCO, 1994–1997, Political Counsellor in Paris, 1997–1999; Principal Private Secretary to Robin Cook, the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, 1999–2001.
His first role as a head of mission was in Tel Aviv as the British Ambassador to Israel from 2001 to 2003. He was next appointed ambassador to Saudi Arabia in Riyadh, a post that he held until 2006. From 15 May 2007 until April 2009 he served as ambassador to Afghanistan in Kabul. In February 2009 it was announced that he would be taking up a new role as special representative of the UK Foreign Secretary to Afghanistan and Pakistan.
In early 2010 it was reported that he clashed with senior NATO and US officials over his insistence that the military-driven counter-insurgency effort was headed for failure, and that talks with the Taliban should be prioritised.
On 21 June 2010 the British high commission announced he had taken "extended leave" from his position in Afghanistan. Following comments from the Foreign Secretary, William Hague, it appeared unlikely he would return to the post.
His appointment at BAE caused some controversy, since he is thought to have “had a profound effect” on the decision by Robert Wardle, then director of the UK's Serious Fraud Office, to end an investigation into BAE's allegedly corrupt dealings with Saudi Arabia.
Memo leak regarding NATO, USA, Afghanistan
He attracted controversy in October 2008 when a leaked French diplomatic cable suggested he had been sharply critical of Karzai and US policy. While insisting Britain should support the US, he was quoted as saying: "We should tell them that we want to be part of a winning strategy, not a losing one." 
This memo leak occurred the same week another additional memo was leaked concerning fellow British ambassador, Sir Nigel Sheinwald's comments with regard to United States Senator Barack Obama. Both leaks concerned foreign policy and occurred in the final weeks of the 2008 US Presidential Election.
- British Ambassadors to Afghanistan
- British Ambassadors to Israel
- British Ambassadors to Saudi Arabia
- (2012) Cables from Kabul: The Inside Story of the West's Afghanistan Campaign
- (2013) Ever the Diplomat: Confessions of a Foreign Office Mandarin
- The Times 8 January 2010, Retrieved 2010-01-09
- Cowper-Coles, Sir Sherard (Louis), in Who's Who 2008 (London, A. & C. Black, 2008)
- Sherard Cowper-Coles & Jasmine Zerinini
- "Holbrooke on key Pakistan visit". BBC News. 9 February 2009.
- Boone, Jon; Walsh, Declan (21 June 2010). "UK special envoy to Afghanistan who called for talks with Taliban quits". The Guardian (London).
- "Straight-talking UK envoy's future in doubt". BBC News. 23 June 2010.
- Webb, Tim (18 February 2011). "BAE Systems hires Britain's former envoy to Saudi Arabia". Guardian (London). Retrieved 14 March 2011.
- "COMMITTEE MEMBERS OF THE SAUDI–BRITISH SOCIETY". Saudi-British Society.
- Hope, Christopher (12 March 2011). "Revelations in BAE Saudi case prompt inquiry call". Telegraph (London). Retrieved 14 March 2011.
- Shipman, Tim (22 June 2010). "Britain's Afghan envoy takes leave until autumn - just as war enters its 'vital' stage". Daily Mail (London).
- "British envoy says mission in Afghanistan is doomed, according to leaked memo"
- Harnden, Toby (2 October 2008). "Exclusive: Barack Obama is 'aloof' says British ambassador to US". The Daily Telegraph (London).
- Telegraph report of appointment to Kabul
- Kabul embassy biography
- Haaretz interview
- Robert Fisk column about Sherard Cowper-Coles
Sir John Grant
|Principal Private Secretary
to the Foreign Secretary
|British Ambassador to Israel
Sir Derek Plumbly
|British Ambassador to Saudi Arabia
Sir William Patey
|British Ambassador to Afghanistan