David Ormsby-Gore, 5th Baron Harlech

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The Lord Harlech

Ambassador Ormsby-Gore at the White House, 1961
British Ambassador to the United States
In office
MonarchElizabeth II
PresidentJohn Kennedy
Lyndon Johnson
Prime MinisterHarold Macmillan
Sir Alec Douglas-Home
Harold Wilson
Preceded bySir Harold Caccia
Succeeded bySir Patrick Dean
Member of Parliament
for Oswestry
In office
23 February 1950 – 1 June 1961
Preceded byOliver Poole
Succeeded byJohn Biffen
Personal details
William David Ormsby-Gore

(1918-05-20)20 May 1918
Westminster, London, England
Died26 January 1985(1985-01-26) (aged 66)
Shrewsbury, Shropshire, England
Political partyConservative
  • Sylvia Thomas
    (m. 1940; died 1967)
  • Pamela Colin
    (m. 1969)
Children6, including Alice, Francis
ResidenceWoodhill Estate, Oswestry, Shropshire
Alma materNew College, Oxford
OccupationAirborne reconnaissance, farmer, politician, diplomat, television executive

William David Ormsby-Gore, 5th Baron Harlech KCMG PC DL (20 May 1918 – 26 January 1985), known as David Ormsby-Gore until 1964, was a British diplomat and Conservative politician.

Early life[edit]

William David Ormsby-Gore was born on 20 May 1918 in Westminster, London, the second son of William Ormsby-Gore, 4th Baron Harlech, a Conservative politician, and Lady Beatrice Edith Mildred Gascoyne-Cecil.[1] His maternal great-grandfather was British Prime Minister Robert Gascoyne-Cecil, 3rd Marquess of Salisbury. He was educated at St Cyprian's School, Eton College and New College, Oxford.

A well-known story told of him at Eton is that, when a boy in his house killed himself, the housemaster called the boys together, and asked if any of them had any idea why this should have happened. Ormsby-Gore put up his hand and asked, "Please sir, could it have been the food?"[2][3]

In 1939, he was commissioned into the Royal Artillery (Berkshire Yeomanry Field Regiment), served in the 'Phantom' reconnaissance unit, and worked with airborne and other special units. By the end of the War, he held the rank of major on the general staff.

After the war, his father handed over to him all his land, and Ormsby-Gore farmed the 400 acres (1.6 km²) of the Woodhill Estate, Oswestry, Shropshire. In 1948, he was commissioned a Major in the Shropshire Yeomanry, but left in 1950.[citation needed]


Member of Parliament[edit]

At the 1950 general election, he was elected Member of Parliament for Oswestry, which he remained until 1961. Under Prime Minister Anthony Eden he served briefly, from November 1956 to January 1957, as Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs; and under Prime Minister Harold Macmillan he was from 1957 to 1961 Minister of State for Foreign Affairs. After the election of U.S. President John F. Kennedy he was appointed British Ambassador to the United States on 18 October 1961.[4] This meant that he had to take the Chiltern Hundreds on 1 June,[5] so that he could resign from the House.

Ambassador to the United States[edit]

Ormsby-Gore knew Kennedy well from his time in London, where his father Joseph P. Kennedy had served as American Ambassador. Like Macmillan, Ormsby-Gore was distantly related to Kennedy, but had a closer relationship than did Macmillan with the President-elect and his brother Robert. Six months after Kennedy took office Ormsby-Gore was in Washington, D.C. Referred to under the Kennedy administration as "our kind of Ambassador", he supplied Kennedy with a stream of advice and Cuban cigars via his diplomatic bag. He was almost a resident at the White House, being more a friend of the family than a mere ambassador. After President Kennedy's assassination there were rumours of a romance between Ormsby-Gore and Jacqueline Kennedy. In 1968 he proposed marriage to her, but, she did not accept.[6] Ormsby-Gore was one of the pallbearers at Robert Kennedy's funeral along with Robert McNamara, John Glenn, W. Averell Harriman, C. Douglas Dillon, Kirk Lemoyne Billings (schoolmate of John F. Kennedy), Stephen Smith (husband to Jean Ann Kennedy), David Hackett, Jim Whittaker and John Seigenthaler Sr.. Under the Lyndon B. Johnson administration relations were more formal but remained excellent; and Ormsby-Gore maintained his position after the Labour government took power in Britain in 1964.

A fierce opponent of oil-barrel politics, Ormsby-Gore's terse dismissal of the phenomenon ran: "It would indeed be a tragedy if the history of the human race proved to be nothing more than the story of an ape playing with a box of matches on a petrol dump." The extent of his influence over the Kennedy administration is disputed. Unable to persuade the American government to agree with the British line over Yemen and the Congo, or to proceed with either a negotiated settlement with Soviet premier Nikita Khrushchev over Berlin or the Skybolt ballistic missile programme, he nevertheless played a significant role in the Cuban Missile Crisis and ensured that Britain's views were taken into account by the American government.

However the friendship of Ormsby-Gore and Macmillan with John Kennedy helped secure the first Test-Ban Treaty in 1963. Macmillan and Ormsby-Gore had been attempting to achieve a test-ban treaty with the Russians for the past ten years, and won Kennedy over through letters from Macmillan and frank discussions between Ormsby-Gore and Kennedy. They convinced him to act like a statesman and conclude Test-ban treaties with Russia and not fear being branded as an appeaser by political opponents in the United States.

Ormsby-Gore was a participant in what is referred to as a "twenty-five year conversation to do with the role of a leader in a democratic society". He encouraged Kennedy to remain focused on issues relevant to the world and the future, rather than attempting to protect himself politically.

According to the Duchess of Devonshire, who travelled with the British delegation to Kennedy's funeral in November 1963, Macmillan's successor as Prime Minister Alec Douglas-Home had wanted to appoint Ormsby-Gore as Foreign Secretary, but R. A. Butler had insisted on having this post as a condition of serving under Home.[7]

Later life[edit]

Ormsby-Gore retired as ambassador in 1965, a year after his father died, and took his seat in the House of Lords as Lord Harlech, briefly also holding the position of deputy chairman of the Conservative Party. He also had a successful career as a television executive, founding HTV, and served as president of the British Board of Film Classification. He had an active interest in the avant-garde, and for nearly ten years, beginning in 1969, was patron of the Institute for Research in Art and Technology.

Personal life[edit]

On 9 February 1940, Lord Harlech married Sylvia Lloyd[8] Thomas, daughter of Hugh Lloyd Thomas, Envoy Extraordinary and Minister Plenipotentiary to France between 1935 and 1938, and Hon. Guendaline Ada Bellew. Before Lady Harlech's death in an automobile accident on 30 May 1967,[9] they had five children:

In 1968, Lord Harlech proposed to the widowed Jacqueline Kennedy, whom he had been friends with since before her husband's assassination.[15] Jacqueline Kennedy declined his offer of marriage in a letter, writing: "If ever I can find some healing and some comfort — it has to be with somebody who is not part of all my world of past and pain ... I can find that now if the world will let us." She later married Aristotle Onassis.[15]

On 11 December 1969, Lord Harlech married American socialite Pamela Colin, daughter of a Manhattan top corporate lawyer, herself a London resident editor of Vogue and then food editor of the British Vogue.[16][17] The wedding was attended by Princess Margaret, the Duke and Duchess of Devonshire, the Earl and Countess of Drogheda, the Earl and Countess of Airlie, The Countess Gowrie, Lord and Lady David Cecil, Sir Fitzroy Maclean, J. J. Astor and The Hon. Michael Astor.[17] They had one daughter:

  • Hon Pandora Ormsby-Gore (b. 1972)[18]


Lord Harlech was seriously injured in a car crash at Montford Bridge near Shrewsbury on the evening of 25 January 1985 and died at the Royal Shrewsbury Hospital the following morning, aged 66.[19] Senator Edward Kennedy, Jacqueline Onassis and other Kennedy family members attended his funeral in Llanfihangel-y-traethau.[20] He was succeeded in the barony by his second and only surviving son, Francis.

In popular culture[edit]

Ormsby-Gore was portrayed by Peter Donat in the 1974 television play The Missiles of October, which was about the October 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis.

Honours, styles and arms[edit]

Honours and Crown appointments[edit]

Ormsby-Gore was appointed to be a Deputy Lieutenant of Shropshire on 12 April 1961.[21] As the British Ambassador to the United States, he was, on 29 June 1961, appointed to the Order of St Michael and St George as a Knight Commander (KCMG).[22] In 1962, he was appointed to the Order of St John as a Knight (KStJ).[23]

Styles of address[edit]

  • 1918–1938: Mr David Ormsby-Gore
  • 1938–1950: The Hon. David Ormsby-Gore
  • 1950–1957: The Hon. David Ormsby-Gore MP
  • 1957–1961: The Rt Hon. David Ormsby-Gore MP
  • 1961: The Rt Hon. David Ormsby-Gore DL MP
  • 1961: The Rt Hon. David Ormsby-Gore DL
  • 1961: The Rt Hon. Sir David Ormsby-Gore KCMG DL
  • 1961–1964: His Excellency The Rt Hon. Sir David Ormsby-Gore KCMG DL
  • 1964–1965: His Excellency The Rt Hon. The Lord Harlech KCMG PC DL
  • 1965–1985: The Rt Hon. The Lord Harlech KCMG PC DL

Coat of arms[edit]

Coat of arms of David Ormsby-Gore, 5th Baron Harlech
Coronet of a British Baron.svg
Harlech Escutcheon.png
Coat of arms of the Ormsby-Gore family
A coronet of a Baron
1st: an Heraldic Tiger rampant Argent; 2nd: a Dexter Arm embowed in armour proper holding in the hand a Man's Leg also in armour couped at the thigh
Quarterly: 1st and 4th, Gules a Fess between three Cross Crosslets fitchy Or (Gore); 2nd and 3rd, Gules a Bend between six Cross Crosslets Or (Ormsby)
Dexter: an Heraldic Tiger Argent maned and tufted Sable ducally gorged Or; Sinister: a Lion Or
In Hoc Signo Vinces (Under this sign thou shalt conquer)


  1. ^ "Index entry". FreeBMD. ONS. Retrieved 29 January 2018.
  2. ^ Brian Johnston, A further slice of Johnners (Random House, 2011)
  3. ^ Alex Renton, Stiff Upper Lip (Hachette UK, 2017)
  4. ^ "No. 42519". The London Gazette. 21 November 1961. p. 8445.
  5. ^ "No. 42378". The London Gazette. 6 June 1961. p. 4203.
  6. ^ Erlanger, Steven (February 8, 2017). "Letters From Jacqueline Kennedy to the Man She Didn't Marry". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved June 12, 2017.
  7. ^ Deborah, Duchess of Devonshire, Diary, 27 November 1963, quoted in Deborah Devonshire (2010) Wait For Me!
  8. ^ Hywel Trewyn & Tony Bonnici, "Lord Harlech's tragic life and death", Daily Post, 15 November 2016.
  9. ^ The Peerage, entry for Sylvia Thomas
  10. ^ Time magazine, 18 November 1974
  11. ^ Davis, Stephen: Old Gods Almost Dead
  12. ^ Time magazine, 16 March 1970
  13. ^ FindArticles.com "Drug Overdose", The Independent, 21 April 1995
  14. ^ "Amanda Harlech's highland fling with Chanel". Daily Telegraph.
  15. ^ a b Erlanger, Steven (8 February 2017). "Letters From Jacqueline Kennedy to the Man She Didn't Marry". The New York Times. Retrieved 9 February 2017.
  16. ^ "Lord Harlech obituary: Wife's departure was the start of peer's sad decline", The Sydney Morning Herald, February 12, 2016.
  17. ^ a b "Lord Harlech Marries Pamela Colin In London Ceremony Attended by 100". The New York Times. 12 December 1969. Retrieved 2 February 2017.
  18. ^ The Peerage, entry for 5th Lord Harlech
  19. ^ "Lord Harlech killed in crash". Shropshire Star. 26 January 1985. p. 1.
  20. ^ Hughes, Robert (30 October 2007), The Parish Church Llanfihangel-y-Traethau Ynys (PDF), archived from the original (PDF) on 10 April 2016, retrieved 24 March 2016
  21. ^ "No. 42330". The London Gazette. 18 April 1961. p. 2836.
  22. ^ "No. 42452". The London Gazette. 1 September 1961. p. 6413.
  23. ^ "No. 42573". The London Gazette. 16 January 1962. p. 433.


External links[edit]

Parliament of the United Kingdom
Preceded by
Oliver Poole
Member of Parliament for Oswestry
Succeeded by
John Biffen
Political offices
Preceded by
Douglas Dodds-Parker
Lord John Hope
Parliamentary Under-Secretary
of State for Foreign Affairs

With: Douglas Dodds-Parker
Succeeded by
The Earl of Gosford
Ian Harvey
Preceded by
Allan Noble
Minister of State for Foreign Affairs
With: Allan Noble 1957–1959
John Profumo 1959–1960
Succeeded by
Joseph Godber
Diplomatic posts
Preceded by
Sir Harold Caccia
British Ambassador to the United States
Succeeded by
Sir Patrick Dean
Media offices
Preceded by
Herbert Morrison
President of the British Board
of Film Classification

Succeeded by
George Lascelles
Peerage of the United Kingdom
Preceded by
William Ormsby-Gore
Baron Harlech
Succeeded by
Francis Ormsby-Gore