Ralph Paget

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The Right Honourable
Sir Ralph Paget
1st British Ambassador to Brazil
In office
Preceded by Mission upgraded
Succeeded by Sir John Tilley
British Minister to Denmark
In office
Preceded by Sir Henry Lowther
Succeeded by Sir Charles Marling
British Minister to Serbia
In office
Preceded by Sir James Beethom Whitehead
Succeeded by Sir Charles des Graz
British Minister to Thailand
In office
Preceded by Sir Reginald Tower
Succeeded by Sir Arthur Peel
Personal details
Born 26 November 1864
Died 11 May 1940(1940-05-11) (aged 75)
Nationality British
Spouse(s) Dame Louise Paget; no children
Relations Sir Augustus Paget (father), General Sir Arthur Henry Fitzroy Paget (father-in-law, cousin)
Residence Warren House, Kingston upon Thames, England, UK
Alma mater Eton College
Profession Diplomat

Sir Ralph Spencer Paget KCMG CVO PC (26 November 1864 – 11 May 1940) was a British diplomat in the Foreign Service, culminating in his appointment as Ambassador to Brazil in 1918.

Early life and career[edit]

Ralph Spencer Paget was born on 26 November 1864 at the British Legation in Copenhagen, where his father Sir Augustus Paget served as Minister to Denmark.[1] His great-uncle, who died ten years before his birth, was Henry Paget, 1st Marquess of Anglesey who had led the cavalry at Waterloo, and his uncle was the distinguished naval officer Lord Clarence Paget. As the third child and second son of a senior career diplomat Paget attended public school in England. He was educated at Eton College, where he won the Prince Consort's prize for German.[2] He shone at rowing, being part of the winning "Novice Eight" in 1881, which also won in the Procession of Boats on 4 June of that year and later in the "House Four".[3] After finishing school he studied abroad, becoming an "Arabic and Turkish scholar"[4] before being nominated in April, 1888 attaché in the Foreign Service and sent to Vienna to serve with his father, the Ambassador to Austria-Hungary. In the autumn of 1889 he was sent to Egypt to work with Sir Evelyn Baring, the British Agent and Consul-General, who was in effect the de facto ruler of the country. While there he "gained an insight into the realities of administrative reform" while Baring introduced his financial reforms.[2]

He was dispatched in 1891 to Zanzibar, recently exchanged with Heligoland, and worked with Gerald Portal (the colonial commissioner) to promote "the first beginnings of European civilisation in the East of Africa".[2] In June, 1892 he was sent to the British mission in Washington, DC where he stayed for only a year. In June, 1893 he then joined the legation in Tokyo, where he served as chargé d'affaires, where he served for six years. In 1895 he was promoted to Second Secretary.[4] He made such a good impression that upon his arrival the Japanese journal Nichi Nichi Shimbun wrote;

Mr. Paget has plenty of springs and autumns to come, the future of great promise [is] before him and [he] will certainly make himself a name as a diplomatist of mark.[5]

At the beginning of his service in Tokyo the First Secretary was Gerard Lowther, later one of the architects of the Entente Cordiale was considered to be acceptable neither to the Chinese or Japanese lobbies at the time of the Sino-Japanese War and there relied heavily on his subordinates, Paget included.[6] He then served for five years under Sir Ernest Satow who took over in Tokyo.

In 1901 Paget was sent to the legation in Guatemala as chargé d'affaires, though with much increased responsibility as neighbouring Nicaragua came under his legation's jurisdiction also.[7] The primary motivation of the diplomatic staff was economic, protecting British interests in Central America. He was kept busy, and saw varied service in the two countries. In a 1901 official visit to Nicaragua, his modesty was offended by the fact that every time he visited a town, he was greeted by brass bands playing the National Anthem. Despite his diplomatic bearing he felt compelled to ask that the practice cease. In September 1902 he was promoted and appointed chargé d'affaires at the Bangkok legation in the Kingdom of Siam.[8]

Sojourn in Siam[edit]

In Siam he was quickly put in de facto charge of the legation due to the recall of the Minister, Sir Reginald Tower. The climate was no better than Guatemala, and the Foreign Office had trouble filling the post for two years. Eventually, it was decided that after a period as First Secretary to the Legation from March, 1904 Paget would become Envoy Extraordinary and Minister Plenipotentiary in November at the age of forty.[2]

Upon taking charge in Bangkok he tried to have the Legation (built 1876) moved to land at the Royal Bangkok Sports Club due to its nearness to the river and generally unfavourable position. However the Foreign Office and the Ministry of Works refused to allocate funds and the project was eclipsed by first Paget's own work, and after his departure by the First World War.[9]

During his tenure he had to deal with German economic encroachment in Siam and try and negotiate a new standard in Anglo-Siamese relations. The status of British nationals in Siam had to be addressed, along with a long-running dispute over the lengthy Siamese-Malay border and the construction of a Bangkok-Singapore railway. Paget was able to deal with all of these issues and brooked no opposition either from London or Bangkok. The Anglo-Siamese Treaty of 1909 led to four tributary Siamese states coming under autonomous British control as the Unfederated Malay States, while Britain recognised Siamese control of four other states, officially demarcating a border which remains today between Thailand and Malaysia. Under the terms of the treaty, signed in March 1909, Britain undertook to build a railway between the two spheres of influence.[citation needed]

Back to Europe[edit]

While laying the groundwork for this eventual success, in 1907 Paget married his third cousin once removed, Louise Margaret Leila Wemyss Paget (1881–1958), daughter of General Sir Arthur Henry Fitzroy Paget. Later that year he was made a Companion of the Royal Victorian Order.

In 1908 he was seriously considered for the position of British Ambassador to the German Empire in succession to Frank Lascelles.[10] Instead he was dispatched to Munich to become the Minister Resident in the Kingdom of Bavaria and the Kingdom of Württemberg, where his workload was relatively light as all major diplomatic intercourse taking place at the consulate in Berlin.

In recognition of his services in Siam, Paget was promoted Knight Commander of the Order of Saint Michael and Saint George in the King's Birthday Honours for 1909 and knighted.[11]

Despite being popular in his new position, Paget managed to alienate the Permanent Under-Secretary back in Whitehall, Sir Charles Hardinge with his "mild" reports.[12][13] He would only be able to return to work at the Foreign Office in 1913, when Hardinge had been ennobled and made Viceroy of India.[14] In July 1910 Paget was appointed Envoy Extraordinary and Minister Plenipotentiary to the Kingdom of Serbia,[15] being succeeded in Munich by Sir Vincent Corbett.

George V, wrote a letter to the Prince Regent of Bavaria personally informing him of Sir Ralph's departure from Germany.[16] News of Paget's promotion to Minister to Serbia was announced in The Times on 5 August 1910.[17]

Minister in Serbia[edit]

Paget arrived in Serbia on 21 September 1910[18] and presented his credentials to King Petar three days later.[19]

Return to England[edit]

In August 1913 Paget was called back to England and appointed an Assistant Under-Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs in succession to Sir Louis Mallet.[20] He was placed in charge of the FO American Department, where he during the first two years of the Great War worked on establishing and improving the British economic blockade of the Central Powers. This work put him firmly on track for promotion to an ambassadorship when the British Government sought to improve its blockading efforts in the European neutrals in 1916.[21]


In 1916 Paget returned to his birthplace, when he replaced Sir Henry Lowther as the British Ambassador to Denmark. In 1916 and 17 he was deeply involved in trade negotiations with the Danish government, working closely with the wartime British Ministry of Blockade. Yet following US entry into the war the American embassy took up many of these duties and Paget became thoroughly bored with Copenhagen. He also disliked the Scandinavian winter climate intensely, and when an opportunity to take up the ambassadorship to Brazil presented itself in the summer of 1918 he eagerly took it.[22]


On 26 September 1918 it was announced that the Legation in Rio de Janeiro was being upgraded to an Embassy and that Paget had been approved by the King to be the first Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary to Brazil.[23] His departure was delayed however by being a permanent official of the British delegation to the Paris Peace Conference with responsibility for the Balkans. Most of the salient points of the Paget-Tyrrell Memorandum for the distribution of Central and Eastern Europe were eventually adopted. On 18 August 1919 he was sworn a member of the Privy Council before finally taking up his appointment in Brazil.[24] He arrived in Rio in style, having been transported from the West Indies, where he had "been employed on a special mission"[25] being transported in the battle cruiser HMS Renown, arriving on 2 October.[26] On 8 October he was officially received by President Pessoa.

He spent only a year in Brazil though, despite being a success there, being awarded the honorary presidency of the British Chamber of Commerce in Brazil. Before he had been appointed to the post, he had written to a friend; "What I really long for in my innermost heart is an old cotton shirt, an old pair of pants, a good horse and open prairie or desert." In conversation with Sir John Tilley, who at the time Assistant Secretary at the Foreign Office, he was reminded that his ultimate ambition had been to become an ambassador. He responded that the goal was fulfilled as soon as the appointment was made. Paget's plan to increase British immigration in Brazil was thwarted by the Overseas Settlement Office. Eventually recurring bad health and a bout of depression forced him to tender his resignation in August 1920.[citation needed]


After 1920 Sir Ralph Paget lived a further 20 years in the obscurity of private life. When in October 1934 the Yugoslav King Aleksandar I was assassinated, Lady Paget visited Belgrade and was present at his funeral. Sir Ralph died on 10 May 1940 while in Saint-Raphaël, France. His widow, Dame Louise Paget, continued her active interest in the Balkans. With the German invasion of Yugoslavia and the influx of Yugoslavian exiles into Britain, she did all she could to assist those in need, including selling her estate in Surrey. She died at Kingston upon Thames on 24 September 1958.


  1. ^ Kaarsted. Great Britain and Denmark 1914-1920. p. 28. 
  2. ^ a b c d "Sir Ralph Paget". Obituaries. The Times (48614). London. 13 May 1940. col E, p. 9. 
  3. ^ The Eton Boating Book, 3rd Edition. 
  4. ^ a b "Foreign Service Appointment". Official Appointments and Notices. The Times (40291). London. 15 August 1913. col C, p. 6. 
  5. ^ "Nichi Nichi Shimbun". 22 August 1893. 
  6. ^ Antić. Ralph Paget. p. 19. 
  7. ^ Antić. Ralph Paget. p. 21. 
  8. ^ Antić. Ralph Paget. p. 21. , ibid.
  9. ^ "History of the British Embassy, Bangkok". Retrieved 18 March 2008. 
  10. ^ Lee. King Edward VII. p. 619. 
  11. ^ "Birthday Honours". Official Appointments and Notices. The Times (38995). London. 25 June 1909. col A, p. 9. 
  12. ^ Steiner. British Foreign Policy. p. 25. 
  13. ^ Antić. Ralph Paget. p. 26. 
  14. ^ Steiner. The Foreign Office and Foreign Policy. p. 102. 
  15. ^ "No. 28415". The London Gazette. 13 September 1910. p. 6541. 
  16. ^ King George V to the Prince Regent of Bavaria, London, 30 July 1910, FO 149/143.
  17. ^ "Diplomatic Appointments". Official Appointments and Notices. The Times (39343). London. 5 August 1910. col E, p. 11. 
  18. ^ Antić. Ralph Paget. p. 34. 
  19. ^ "Court Circular". Court and Social. The Times (39387). London. 26 September 1910. col A, p. 11. 
  20. ^ "Foreign Office Appointment". Official Appointments and Notices. The Times (40291). London. 15 August 1913. col C, p. 6. 
  21. ^ Lambert. Planning Armageddon. p. 384. 
  22. ^ Kaarsted. Great Britain and Denmark 1914-1920. pp. 28–29. 
  23. ^ "First Ambassador to Brazil". News in Brief. The Times (41905). London. 26 September 1918. col B, p. 7. 
  24. ^ "Court Circular". Official Appointments and Notices. The Times (42181). London. 18 August 1919. col C, p. 10. 
  25. ^ "H.M.S. Renown". News. The Times (42207). London. 17 September 1919. col C, p. 10. 
  26. ^ "Imperial and Foreign News". News. The Times (42221). London. 3 October 1919. col E, p. 7. 


  • Antić, Čedomir (2006). Ralph Paget: A Diplomat in Serbia. Belgrade: Institute for Balkan Studies SASA. 
  • Kaarsted, Tage (1979). Great Britain and Denmark 1914-1920. Odense: Odense University Press. 
  • Lambert, Nicholas (2012). Planning Armageddon: British Economic Warfare and the First World War. Cambridge: Harvard University Press. 
  • Lee, Sir Sidney (1927). King Edward VII, Vol. II. London: Macmillan. 
  • Steiner, Zara S. (1977). Hinsley, F.H., ed. British Foreign Policy under Sir Edward Grey. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 
  • Steiner, Zara S. (1969). The Foreign Office and Foreign Policy, 1898–1914. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. ISBN 0-521-07654-4. 
Diplomatic posts
Preceded by
Sir Reginald Tower
British Minister to Siam
Succeeded by
Sir Arthur Peel
Preceded by
Fairfax Cartwright
British Minister to Bavaria and Württemberg
Succeeded by
Sir Vincent Corbett
Preceded by
Sir James Whitehead
Envoy Extraordinary and Minister Plenipotentiary
to the Kingdom of Serbia

Succeeded by
Sir Charles des Graz
Preceded by
Sir Henry Lowther
British Minister to Denmark
Succeeded by
Sir Charles Marling
New title
Mission upgraded
British Ambassador to Brazil
Succeeded by
Sir John A. C. Tilley