Roderick Barclay

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Sir Roderick Barclay GCVO KCMG (2 February 1909 – 24 October 1996) was a British diplomat who was ambassador to Denmark and Belgium.


Plaque dedicated by Roderick Barclay to commemorate the cricket game held by English soldiers on the eve of the Battle of Waterloo (1815) on the "Bois de la Cambre" lawn.

Roderick Edward Barclay was educated at Harrow School and Trinity College, Cambridge. He entered the Diplomatic Service in 1932 and served at British embassies at Brussels, Paris, Washington, D.C., and at the Foreign Office as head of the Personnel Department. He was then appointed Principal Private Secretary to the Foreign Secretary, Ernest Bevin, 1949–51.

Barclay was a surprising choice as Bevin's Private Secretary since, at first sight, he and his intended master had nothing in common. ... But in the event he was probably the most successful of the exceptionally able men who served Bevin as Private Secretary.
— Obituary, The Independent, 1 November 1996

After Bevin moved on due to illness in March 1951 (he died shortly afterwards), Barclay served as Assistant Under-Secretary of State at the Foreign Office 1951–53, then Deputy Under-Secretary 1953–56. He was Ambassador to Denmark 1956–60,[1] then returned to the Foreign Office with the rank of Deputy Under-Secretary, as Adviser on European Trade and relations with the newly created European Free Trade Association 1960–63.[2] He took part in Edward Heath's attempt to join the then European Economic Community which, however, was vetoed in 1963 by French President Charles de Gaulle.

Barclay's final diplomatic post was as Ambassador to Belgium, 1963–69.[3] In 1965, to celebrate the 150th anniversary of the Waterloo battle he set up a commemorative "Duchess of Richmond's Ball" and planted a tree in the Bois de la Cambre on the lawn where English soldiers had played cricket on the eve of the Battle.

Sir Roderick (as he had become) retired from the Diplomatic Service in 1969 and became a director of a unit of the family bank, Barclays Bank SA in France, 1969–79 (Chairman 1970–74), also of Barclays Bank International 1971–77, and of Banque de Bruxelles 1971–77. He was also a non-executive director of Slough Estates 1969–84.

Private life[edit]

Roderick Barclay was born in 1909 in Kobe, Japan, the son of Joseph Gurney Barclay an Evangelican Anglican-Quaker missionary by his first wife Gillian Mary Birkbeck, who died in childbirth bearing him. His father later remarried Gwendoline Watney, the daughter of a doctor and one of the first women sociology graduates. His half-brother was the Evangelical Anglican missionary Oliver Barclay (d. 2013).

In 1941 he married Jean Cecil Gladstone, only daughter of Sir Hugh Steuart Gladstone of Capenoch,[4] and his wife Cecil Emily Talbot,[5] (d. 1949), a great-granddaughter of Charles Chetwynd-Talbot, 2nd Earl Talbot (father of the 18th Earl of Shrewsbury).[6] Jean Barclay was a kinswoman of the great Victorian statesman William Ewart Gladstone.[7]

Sir Roderick and Lady Barclay had one son and three daughters. Their youngest daughter Davina Cecil Palmer née Barclay is mother of Juliet Palmer, now wife since 1991 of Hugh Cairns, Viscount Garmoyle[8] (b. 1965, eldest son and heir of the 6th Earl Cairns). Her son is in direct succession to the earldom after his father.

Diplomatic posts
Preceded by
Sir Frank Roberts
Principal Private Secretary
to the Foreign Secretary

Succeeded by
Evelyn Shuckburgh
Preceded by
Sir Eric Berthoud
Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary to the Kingdom of Denmark
Succeeded by
Sir William Montagu-Pollock
Preceded by
Sir John Nicholls
Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary at Brussels
Succeeded by
Sir John Beith


  • Ernest Bevin and the Foreign Office 1932–69, self-published, 1975. ISBN 0950455806


Roderick Barclay was appointed CMG in the King's Birthday Honours of 1948,[9] CVO in the Coronation Honours in 1953[10] and knighted KCMG in the Queen's Birthday Honours of 1955.[11] He was awarded the additional honour of KCVO in 1957[12] and promoted to GCVO in 1966.[13] The Danish government awarded him the Grand Cross of the Order of the Dannebrog and the Belgian government awarded him the Grand Cross of the Order of the Crown.


  1. ^ The London Gazette: no. 40930. p. 6575. 20 November 1956.
  2. ^ Sir R. Barclay's New Post, The Times, London, 25 February 1960, page 11
  3. ^ The London Gazette: no. 43093. p. 7201. 27 August 1963.
  4. ^ "Person Page 7768". 
  5. ^ "Person Page 27788". 
  6. ^ This made Lady Barclay a distant cousin of the earls of Shrewsbury & Waterford, via her mother (a great-granddaughter of the 2nd Earl, via his fifth but fourth surviving son, Rev. Gustavus Chetwynd-Talbot, a clergyman). Her great-uncle was Gustavus Arthur Talbot MP. Through her grandmother Susan Frances Elwes, she was also a second cousin of her husband, whose maternal grandmother was Ysabel Caroline Elwes.
  7. ^ . Her father was the great-grandson and heir male of Robert Gladstone (1773-1835) a younger brother of Sir John Gladstone, 1st Bt (1764-1851), whose fourth son was the Prime Minister. Traced via 5 July 2014. This makes Sir Hugh's grandfather Thomas Steuart Gladstone the first cousin of the Prime Minister; Sir Hugh's father Samuel Steuart Gladstone of Capenoch the second cousin of W.E.'s sons, including his two youngest sons Baron Gladstone of Hawarden and Viscount Gladstone. Sir Hugh himself was the third cousin of W.E.'s grandson Sir Albert Charles Gladstone of Fasque and Balfour, 5th Bt (1886-1967), while Lady Barclay was the fourth cousin of W.E.'s great-grandson Sir Erskine William Gladstone, 5th Bt (b. 1925), the present baronet. Since W.E. Gladstone wasn't granted any peerage, and his two youngest sons's peerages died out with him, the heir male of one of the UK's great Prime Ministers is a mere baronet.
  8. ^ "Cairns, Earl (UK, 1878)". 
  9. ^ The London Gazette: no. 38311. p. 3369. 10 June 1948.
  10. ^ The London Gazette: (Supplement) no. 39863. p. 2946. 1 June 1953.
  11. ^ The London Gazette: (Supplement) no. 40497. p. 3261. 9 June 1955.
  12. ^ The London Gazette: no. 41085. p. 3241. 31 May 1957.
  13. ^ The London Gazette: no. 43994/pages/612. p. . 24 May 1966.