Obituaries : Sir Evelyn Shuckburgh
Monday 19 December 1994
Evelyn Shuckburgh was a talented, versatile and much-liked diplomat, whose final posting was as Ambassador to Italy from 1966 to 1969. In the 1950s he was at the heart of affairs in London, as Principal Private Secretary to the Foreign Secretary, Anthon y Eden, and from 1954 to 1956 as Assistant Under-Secretary at the Foreign Office in charge of Middle East affairs; he published his record of this important period in British foreign policy in his diaries Descent to Suez (1986).
Shuckburgh was born in 1909, the son of Sir John Shuckburgh, an under-secretary at the Colonial Office, and educated at Winchester and King's College, Cambridge. He entered the Diplomatic Service in 1933, and his early years were spent on four different Continents - in Egypt, Canada, Argentina and Czechoslovakia. In Cairo, in the years immediately before the outbreak of the Second World War, he was for a time Private Secretary to Sir Miles Lampson, the first British ambassador (as opposed to High Commissioner) to Egypt, which gave Shuckburgh a foretaste of the Suez Crisis. While in Buenos Aires - as charge d'affaires in 1944 - he saw the beginnings of the Falkland problem.
He returned to the Foreign Office in 1947 and, after heading up three successive regional departments, was recommended in 1951 for the post of Private Secretary to the Secretary of State: Ernest Bevin had retired through ill-health in March of the year, to be succeeded by Herbert Morrison for a seven-month period. The Conservatives took power in the autumn and Anthony Eden became Foreign Secretary. In the succeeding three years Eden and Shuckburgh were involved in the post-war reorganisation of Western Europe, backed by a British military guarantee, which led up to the creation of the Common Market; in negotiations in Korea and Indochina; and in making an agreement with Egypt over the withdrawal of British forces from the Suez Canal Zone. Like other ofEden's private secretaries, Shuckburgh found him a difficult and frustrating man to work for and he was irritated by Eden's impatience.
After a period at the Imperial Defence College, Shuckburgh went as an international civil servant to the headquarters of Nato in Paris, in 1958, as Assistant Secretary-General and was British Permanent Representative to the North Atlantic Council from 1962 to 1966, both of them posts to which he was well suited. He was a highly cultivated man, spoke Italian fluently, and enjoyed travelling the country and the cultural aspects of his time as Ambassador in Rome to the full.
After retiring from Rome in 1969 Shuckburgh came to Britain and went to live in the Chilterns. He enjoyed riding and gardening, and was extraordinarily gifted with his hands. He built on his own harpsichords and some high-class pieces of furniture. His wife Nancy, a daughter of the third Lord Esher, helped him throughout his diplomatic career as a hostess and sharer in his work. He had two sons and a daughter, who contributed much to his enjoyment of his life in retirement. During the 1970s Evelyn Shuck burgh chaired his local committee for the National Trust, and also worked for the British Red Cross; he was Chairman of both its Executive Committee and its Council.
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