David Kelly (diplomat)

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Sir David Victor Kelly GCMG MC (14 September 1891 – 27 March 1959) was a British diplomat who was Minister to Switzerland and Ambassador to Argentina, Turkey and the Soviet Union.


Kelly was educated at St Paul's School, London, and Magdalen College, Oxford, where he was a demy (scholar) and gained a first class degree in modern history in 1913.


Kelly passed the entrance examination for the Foreign Office in 1914 but on the outbreak of the First World War he volunteered for the army and was commissioned in the Leicestershire Regiment. He was brigade intelligence officer for the 110th Infantry Brigade (formed from Leicestershire Regiment battalions and known as the Leicester Tigers) from 1915. He was awarded the Military Cross in 1917.[1]

After the war Kelly joined the Diplomatic Service[2] and served in Buenos Aires, Lisbon, Mexico, Brussels, Stockholm and Cairo. He was Minister to Switzerland 1940–42[3] followed by appointments as Ambassador to Argentina 1942–46,[4] to Turkey 1946–49[5] and to the Soviet Union 1949–51.[6] He was appointed a Companion of the Order of St Michael and St George (CMG) in the King's Birthday Honours of 1935,[7] promoted to Knight Commander (KCMG) in the Birthday Honours of 1942 on his appointment to Argentina,[8] and to Knight Grand Cross (GCMG) in the New Year Honours of 1950.[9] He was also made a Knight of Malta in 1954.


In 1920, while serving in Buenos Aires, Kelly met and married Isabel Adela Mills. They had a son and a daughter, but she died in 1927. In 1929 he married his second wife, Marie-Noële de Jourda de Vaux, who as Lady Kelly became "a diplomatic hostess, traveller and writer ... one of the grandes dames of British diplomacy ... [who] presided with great panache over embassies in Bern, Buenos Aires and Ankara"[10] As Marie Noele Kelly she wrote five books including her autobiography, Dawn to dusk (Hutchinson, London, 1960) with a preface by Rebecca West, a close friend. They had two sons and she survived her husband by 35 years until she died in 1995.

Battle of Britain film[edit]

In the 1969 film Battle of Britain, Kelly was played by Ralph Richardson.


  • 39 months with the "Tigers", 1915-1918, E. Benn Limited, London, 1930
  • The ruling few : or, the human background to diplomacy, Hollis & Carter, London, 1952
  • Beyond the Iron Curtain, Hollis & Carter, London, 1954
  • The hungry sheep : a discussion of modern civilisation, Hollis & Carter, London, 1955
  • El poder detrás del trono (The power behind the throne), Ediciones Coyoacán, Buenos Aires, 1962


  1. ^ The London Gazette: (Supplement) no. 30111. p. 5480. 4 June 1917.
  2. ^ The London Gazette: no. 31323. p. 5529. 2 May 1919.
  3. ^ The London Gazette: no. 34799. p. 1100. 23 February 1940.
  4. ^ The London Gazette: no. 35714. p. 4123. 22 September 1942.
  5. ^ The London Gazette: no. 37806. p. 5913. 3 December 1946.
  6. ^ The London Gazette: no. 38702. p. 4189. 30 August 1949.
  7. ^ The London Gazette: (Supplement) no. 34166. p. 3598. 3 June 1935.
  8. ^ The London Gazette: no. 35586. p. 2480. 11 June 1942.
  9. ^ The London Gazette: (Supplement) no. 38797. p. 5. 2 January 1950.
  10. ^ Lady Kelly (obituary), The Times, London, 24 February 1995, page 10


Diplomatic posts
Preceded by
Sir George Warner
Envoy Extraordinary and Minister Plenipotentiary at Berne
Succeeded by
Sir Clifford Norton
Preceded by
Sir Esmond Ovey
Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary at Buenos Aires
Succeeded by
Sir Reginald Leeper
Preceded by
Sir Maurice Peterson
Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary at Angora
Succeeded by
Sir Noel Charles
Preceded by
Sir Maurice Peterson
Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary at Moscow
Succeeded by
Sir Alvary Gascoigne