Rennell Rodd, 1st Baron Rennell

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The Right Honourable
The Lord Rennell
Rennel of rodd.jpg
British Ambassador to Italy
In office
Preceded by Edwin Henry Egerton
Succeeded by George Buchanan
Member of Parliament for St Marylebone
In office
Preceded by Douglas McGarel Hogg
Succeeded by Alec Cunningham-Reid
Personal details
Born James Rennell Rodd
9 November 1858
Died 26 July 1941 (1941-07-27) (aged 82)
Spouse(s) Lilias Georgina Guthrie
Father Major James Rennell Rodd

James Rennell Rodd, 1st Baron Rennell GCB GCMG GCVO PC (9 November 1858 – 26 July 1941), known as Sir Rennell Rodd before 1933, was a British diplomat, poet and politician. He served as British Ambassador to Italy during the First World War.

Early life[edit]

Rodd was the only son of Major James Rennell Rodd (1812–1892) and his wife Elizabeth Anne Thomson, daughter of Anthony Todd Thomson. On his father's side he descended from the geographer James Rennell. Rodd was educated at Haileybury and Balliol College, Oxford, where he was associated with the circle of Oscar Wilde. Wilde later assisted Rodd in securing publication for his first book of verse, Rose Leaf and Apple Leaf, for which Wilde provided an introduction. As Wilde began to court scandal in his public career, their friendship subsequently cooled.


He entered the Diplomatic Service in 1883 and served in minor positions at the British embassies in Berlin, Rome, Athens and Paris. From 1894 to 1902 Rodd worked under the Consul-General of Egypt Lord Cromer. He played an important part in negotiating the Anglo-Ethiopian Treaty of 1897 with Emperor Menelik II of Ethiopia. In late 1901 he was appointed First Secretary at the embassy in Rome,[1] where he arrived in 1902 and remained for the next two years. In 1904 Rodd was made Minister plenipotentiary to Sweden (and until November 1905, Norway), but did not arrive until 17 January 1905. He played an active and neutral part in the dissolution of the Union between Sweden and Norway, for which he was rewarded the Grand Cross of the Order of the Polar Star by King Oscar II. After the secession he continued as a Minister in Sweden until 1908.

Mr James Rennell Rodd, CMG. Caricature entitled 'Diplomacy and Poetry'
illustrated by Spy for Vanity Fair, No. 668. Jan 7, 1897.

The latter year he was appointed Ambassador to Italy. He was to remain in this post until 1919, and played a key role in securing Italy's adhesion to the Entente cause. Rodd left the Diplomatic Service in 1919 but nonetheless served on the mission to Egypt in 1920 with Lord Milner and was British delegate to the League of Nations from 1921 to 1923. He also sat as Unionist Member of Parliament for St Marylebone between 1928 and 1932.

Writer and scholar[edit]

Apart from his diplomatic services Rodd was also a published poet and scholar of ancient Greece and Rome. He published his memoirs, entitled Social and Diplomatic Memories, in three volumes between 1922 and 1925. His diaries were published in 1981 by Torsten Burgman, and edited by Victor Lal in 2005.


Rodd was appointed Companion of the Order of the Bath (CB) in 1897, Knight Commander of the Order of St Michael and St George (KCMG) in 1899, Knight Grand Cross of the Royal Victorian Order (GCVO) in 1905, Knight Grand Cross of the Order of St Michael and St George (GCMG) in 1915, and Knight Grand Cross of the Order of the Bath (GCB) in the 1920 New Year Honours.[2] He was appointed to the Privy Council in 1908 and in 1933 he was raised to the peerage as Baron Rennell, of Rodd in the County of Hereford.[3]


Lord Rennell of Rodd married Lilias Georgina Guthrie, daughter of James Alexander Guthrie, in 1894. They had four sons and two daughters. His third son, Peter Rodd, married the author Nancy Mitford, daughter of David Freeman-Mitford, 2nd Baron Redesdale and one of the famous Mitford sisters. His eldest daughter Evelyn Violet Elizabeth Rodd was a Conservative politician and was created a life peer as Baroness Emmet of Amberley in 1965. His second daughter, the Hon. Gloria Rodd, married the painter Simon Elwes, by whom she had a four sons, including the portrait painter Dominick Elwes, who had three sons with Tessa Kennedy, including actor Cary Elwes.[citation needed]

Rennell Rodd, 1st Baron Rennell died in July 1941, aged 82, and was succeeded in the barony by his second but eldest surviving son, Francis, who later served as President of the Royal Geographical Society.[citation needed]




  • Legg, L. G. Wickham, Williams, E. T (editors). The Dictionary of National Biography, 1941-1950. Oxford University Press, 1959.

External links[edit]

Diplomatic posts
Preceded by
Sir William Barrington
Envoy Extraordinary and Minister Plenipotentiary
to the King of Norway

Succeeded by
Sir Arthur Herbert
Envoy Extraordinary and Minister Plenipotentiary
to the King of Sweden

Succeeded by
Sir Cecil Spring Rice
Preceded by
Sir Edwin Egerton
British Ambassador to Italy
Succeeded by
Sir George Buchanan
Parliament of the United Kingdom
Preceded by
Douglas McGarel Hogg, 1st Viscount Hailsham
Member of Parliament for St Marylebone
Succeeded by
Alec Cunningham-Reid
Peerage of the United Kingdom
New creation Baron Rennell
1933 – 1941
Succeeded by
Francis Rodd, 2nd Baron Rennell