George Buchanan (diplomat)
Sir George Buchanan
Sir George Buchanan
|Envoy Extraordinary and Minister Plenipotentiary to His Majesty the King of the Bulgarians|
|Prime Minister||H. H. Asquith|
David Lloyd George
|Preceded by||Position established|
|Succeeded by||Mansfeldt Findlay|
|Envoy Extraordinary and Minister Plenipotentiary to Her Majesty the Queen of the Netherlands, and also to His Royal Highness the Grand Duke of Luxemburg|
|Preceded by||Sir Henry Howard|
|Succeeded by||Sir Alan Johnstone|
|British Ambassador to the Russian Empire|
|Preceded by||Sir Arthur Nicolson|
|Succeeded by||no represention following the Russian Revolution and Civil War|
Sir Robert Hodgson
|British Ambassador to The Kingdom of Italy|
|Preceded by||Sir Rennell Rodd|
|Succeeded by||Sir Ronald Graham|
George William Buchanan
25 November 1854
|Died||20 December 1924 (aged 70)|
London, England, United Kingdom
Buchanan entered diplomatic service in 1876, and served as Second Secretary in Tokyo, Vienna and Bern, and as Secretary in Rome. By 1899 he was serving on the Venezuelan Boundary Commission, and later that year he was appointed Chargé d'affaires at Darmstadt and Karlsruhe. In late 1901 he moved to Berlin, where he was appointed First Secretary at the British embassy. From 1903 to 1908 he was Envoy Extraordinary and Minister Plenipotentiary to Bulgaria, and in 1909 he was appointed as Minister to the Netherlands and Luxembourg. Invested with the Knight's Grand Cross of Royal Victorian Order in 1909, he was next sworn to the Privy Council. In 1910 Buchanan was appointed as the British Ambassador to Russia. He kept abreast of the political developments in Russia and met some of the leading liberal reformists in the country.
When the Dardanelles were guaranteed by Germany to the Turks, Italy sent two secret documents via the British diplomatic corps from Sir Michael Rodd to Sir George at St Petersburg. In it was the evidence that Russia needed to persuade Italy to support her Serbian policy in the Balkans. On 4 March 1915 Imperiali, the Italian envoy to London presented the documents to Sir Edward Grey on an authority of 16 February from Sonnino, their foreign minister. France attached great importance to Italy's decision to join the allies. Buchanan was able to bring Count Sazonov to the negotiating table.
It has been suggested that this was secretly encouraged by the then Liberal government in London:
The British Ambassador George Buchanan was only too aware of the court's `pro-German sympathies'. He complained to the Duma President, M.V. Rodzianko, in November 1916 that he found it difficult to get an audience at court, and expressed his view `that Germany is using Alexandra Fedorovna to set the Tsar against the Allies. Elsewhere, however, Buchanan stated his view that the Empress was `the unwitting instrument of Germany'.
Buchanan had developed a strong bond with the Tsar, Nicholas II, and attempted to convince him that granting some constitutional reform would stave off revolution. Buchanan actively supported the Duma in its efforts to change Russia's stately system during war-time. Nicholas's opinion of him was under the Tsarina's sway. Knowing that there were plots to stage a palace coup to replace him, Sir George formally requested an audience with the Tsar in the troubled early days of 1917. At his last meeting with Nicholas he pleaded with him in 'undiplomatic' language: "I can but plead as my excuse the fact that I have throughout been inspired by my feelings of devotion for Your Majesty and the Empress. If I were to see a friend walking through a wood on a dark night along a path which I knew ended in a precipice, would it not be my duty, sir, to warn him of his danger? And is it not equally my duty to warn Your Majesty of the abyss that lies ahead of you? You have, sir, come to the parting of the ways, and you have now to choose between two paths. The one will lead you to victory and a glorious peace – the other to revolution and disaster. Let me implore Your Majesty to choose the former."
Although the Tsar was touched by the Ambassador's devotion, he allowed his wife's malevolent attitudes to outweigh the sensible advice he had been given. After the collapse of the Autocracy (see Grand Duke Michael Alexandrovich of Russia), he developed close relations with the liberal Provisional Government led initially by George Lvov and later by Alexander Kerensky that was formed after the February Revolution. At the same time, Buchanan developed a fear of the dangers of Bolshevism and its growing support; he feared the Russian Provisional Government would be toppled and tried to warn of the fragility of the Government and the dangers of a Bolshevik revolution. Buchanan had reported to London: "They are more active and better organized than any other group, and until they and the ideas which they represent are finally squashed, the country will remain a prey to anarchy and disorder. If the Government are not strong enough to put down the Bolsheviks by force, at the risk of breaking altogether with the soviet, the only alternative will be a Bolshevik Government." However, after the events of the October Revolution and the Bolsheviks ascension to power he was widely criticized for failing to ensure that the Tsar Nicholas II and his family were evacuated from Russia before their execution by the Bolsheviks at Ekaterinburg in 1918. It is now known that this was not his fault but that of the Tsar's first cousin, King George V who, fearful of revolutionary trends in Britain and the stability of his own throne, persuaded the Lloyd George government to rescind the offer they had made to provide sanctuary for the Imperial Family.
Buchanan was disappointed that the fledgling democracy offered by the Provisional Government was strangled by the Bolshevik coup.
At the beginning of December 1918, Buchanan fell ill and for the good of his health he agreed that it was best he left Russia. The family left St Petersburg on 26 December 1918, arriving back in Leith in Scotland on 17 January 1919. His health collapsed soon after, forcing him to spend time recovering in Cornwall. After his recovery, he was disappointed that after all his years of service he was not given a peerage and only offered a two-year ambassadorship in Rome. He accepted the post, serving as ambassador to the Kingdom of Italy from 1919–21. While in Italy his wife was found to have terminal cancer; she died in April 1921 soon after the family's return to England.
Sir George's autobiography, My Mission to Russia and Other Diplomatic Memories, was published in 1923. It is believed that he had to leave out some of what he knew under threat of losing his pension. He died in 1924.
- Order of the Bath
- CB: Companion of the Order of the Bath (civil division) – announced in the 1900 New Year Honours honours list on 1 January 1900, gazetted on 16 January 1900, and invested by Queen Victoria at Windsor Castle on 1 March 1900. – for services on the Venezuelan Boundary Commission
- KCB: Knight Commander of the Order of the Bath
- GCB: Knight Grand Cross of the Order of the Bath
- Order of St Michael and St George
- GCMG: Knight Grand Cross of the Order of St Michael and St George
- Royal Victorian Order
- CVO: Commander of the Royal Victorian Order - 1900
- GCVO: Knight Grand Cross of the Royal Victorian Order
Sir George married on 25 February 1885 Lady Georgiana Meriel Bathurst (1863–1922), daughter of Allen Bathurst, 6th Earl Bathurst by the Hon. Meriel Leicester (1839–1872), daughter of George Warren, 2nd Baron de Tabley. Their daughter Meriel Buchanan (1886–1959) wrote several perceptive books about the revolution, which she witnessed, and key figures she had personally known. Meriel married Major Harold Wilfrid Knowling (1888–1954), Army Service Corps, and Welsh Guards, in May 1925; and died on 6 February 1959.
- White Witch (London: Herbert Jenkins, 1913)
- Tania. A Russian story (London: Herbert Jenkins, 1914)
- Petrograd, the City of trouble, 1914–1918 (London: W. Collins, 1918)
- Recollections of Imperial Russia (London: Hutchinson & Co., 1923)
- Diplomacy and foreign courts (London, Hutchinson, 1928)
- The dissolution of an empire (London: John Murray, 1932; reprinted New York: Arno Press, 1971)
- Anne of Austria: The Infanta Queen (London: Hutchinson & Co., 1937)
- Queen Victoria's Relations (London:Cassell, 1954)
- Victorian gallery (London: Cassell, 1956)
- Ambassador's daughter (London: Cassell, 1958)
- Buchanan, George (1923). My mission to Russia and other diplomatic memories. London, New York: Cassell.
- "No. 27367". The London Gazette. 22 October 1901. p. 6846.
- "No. 28255". The London Gazette. 28 May 1909. p. 4060.
- Interpreting the Russian Revolution The Language and Symbols of 1917 (1999) By Orlando Figes and Boris Kolonitskii
- G Buchanan, 12 January 1917 – page 49, Vol.II autobiography
- http://spartacus-educational.com/RUSbuchanan.htm "However, Buchanan feared the growing support for the Bolsheviks: The Bolsheviks, who form a..."
- F.O 371/2995, Buchanan to Foreign Office, 13 March 1917; Hughes, p.85-90.
- Rappaport. Page 324.
- Rappaport. Page 324.
- "New Year Honours". The Times (36027). London. 1 January 1900. p. 9.
- "No. 27154". The London Gazette. 16 January 1900. p. 285.
- "Court Circular". The Times (36079). London. 2 March 1900. p. 6.
- Karl, his son Viktor, or their studio
- BUCHANAN, Rt Hon. Sir George (William), Who Was Who, A & C Black, 1920–2015 (online edition, Oxford University Press, 2014)
- F.H. Hinsley (ed.), British Foreign Policy under Sir Edward Grey Cambridge, 1977
- Michael Hughes, Inside the Enigma: British Officials in Russia 1900-1939 London: Hambledon Press, 1997
- Rappaport, Helen (2016). Caught in the Revolution. London: Windmill Books. ISBN 978-0-09-959242-6.
- Stephen White, Britain and the Bolshevik Revolution: A Study in the politics of Diplomacy 1920-1924 London, 1980
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Sir George W. Buchanan.|
- Newspaper clippings about George Buchanan in the 20th Century Press Archives of the ZBW
|| Envoy Extraordinary and Minister Plenipotentiary to His Majesty the King the Bulgarians
Sir Henry Howard
| Envoy Extraordinary and Minister Plenipotentiary to Her Majesty the Queen of the Netherlands, and also to His Royal Highness the Grand Duke of Luxemburg
Sir Alan Johnstone
Sir Arthur Nicolson, Bt.
| British Ambassador to the Russian Empire
no representation following Russian revolution
Sir Rennell Rodd
| British Ambassador to Italy
Sir Ronald Graham