Obituary: Lord Franks

IT WOULD be a mistake to underrate the effectiveness of the Washington Embassy's public relations during Lord Franks's tenure, writes Leonard Miall (further to the obituaries by Professor Keith Middlemas, 17 October, and GHL Le May, 19 October). Franks himself was no extrovert but he fully appreciated the importance of the media as an adjunct to diplomacy. He took trouble to cultivate the journalists and to master the art of broadcasting.

As soon as he was appointed ambassador he sought to persuade the brilliant wartime head of the British Information Services in New York, the late Aubrey Morgan, to become his personal assistant and counsellor on Anglo-American relations. This was not easy. Morgan was farming in the Pacific north-west of the United States and the last thing he wanted, after many years of government service, was to return to it. However he courteously agreed to fly over to Oxford and tell Franks face to face why he must decline the offer. As so often happened, Franks's charm, and the attraction of his remarkably lucid mind, won Morgan over.

With Morgan's advice he travelled to many American cities which no previous British ambassador had visited before. Perhaps their greatest triumph in the public-relations field was the stage management of the short visit of Princess Elizabeth and the Duke of Edinburgh to Washington in November 1951.

When King George VI and Queen Elizabeth went to see President Roosevelt in 1939 the then British Ambassador, Sir Ronald Lindsay, held a reception for them at the British Embassy to which he invited only those senators and congressmen who were personally known to him. The result was, of course, considerable umbrage taken by these not on the list.

Morgan had been living in America in 1939 and he cautioned Franks against a repetition of Lindsay's mistake. For the short visit of the Princess and her husband, in the middle of their tour of Canada, a more populist approach was organised. As they had no time to visit any other part of the US, Franks held a huge reception. He invited not only every senator and member of the House of Representatives but also someone from every national organisation, such as the Boy Scouts and the Congress of Industrial Organisations, which had its headquarters in Washington. Moreover Franks persuaded the Princess and the Duke to shake hands with each one of the thousand-odd guests, briefing them as to who each one was. They must have been very weary by the end. But the ambassador had ensured that they left a Washington that was delighted and not disgruntled at their visit.

(Photograph omitted)

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