Obituary: Robert Cecil

Robert Cecil, diplomat and writer: born Southbourne, Dorset 25 March 1913; First Secretary, Washington 1945-48; assigned to Foreign Office 1948; Counsellor and Head of American Department 1951; Counsellor, Copenhagen 1953-55; Consul General, Hanover 1955-57; Counsellor 1957-59; CMG 1959; Director-General, British Information Services, New York 1959- 61; Head of Cultural Relations Department, Foreign Office 1962-67; Reader in Contemporary German History, Reading University 1968-78; Chairman, Institute for Cultural Research 1968-94; married 1938 Kathleen Marindin (one son, two daughters); died Hambledon, Hampshire 28 February 1994.

ROBERT CECIL was the archetypal diplomat: erect, urbane, a man of wide interests and sympathies, writes Andrew Lownie. As a writer he is most likely to be remembered for his perceptive biography of the Soviet agent Donald Maclean, A Divided Life, which drew admiring reviews and demolished many of the myths surrounding the Cambridge Spy Ring. To the book Cecil brought his experience as a Whitehall insider (apart from this service in the Foreign Office he had been an assistant to the head of SIS in 1943-45), a personal acquaintance with the personalities involved and a conversance with the diplomatic files.

Cecil had known the Maclean family as a child and followed Maclean first to Cambridge and then to the Foreign Office. The two were colleagues in the Washington Embassy immediately after the war, whence they would regularly journey to New York; Cecil to attend the lectures of the Russian mystic and philosopher PD Ouspensky, Maclean to meet his Soviet controller.

He could write about Cambridge in the Thirties because he had studied there then. He could explain Foreign Office reaction to the Disappearance beause he had been in the American Department when it happened. He could stand back and place the whole bizarre chapter in context because he was an historian. Colleagues of Maclean were prepared to speak openly to Cecil, whom they liked and trusted, when they would have refused other biographers. The result was a book that brings Maclean and the period vividly alive.

But some would say that Cecil's close, if innocent, association with Maclean cost him the promotion to the highest echelons of the diplomatic service which his talents merited.

(Photograph omitted)

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs People

Business Support - Banking - Halifax - £250 pd

£150 - £250 per day: Orgtel: HR Analyst - Banking - HR - Halifax - £150 - £250...

Geography Teacher

£24000 - £33600 per annum + pre 12 week AWR : Randstad Education Manchester Se...

Marketing Executive

£28000 - £32000 per annum: Charter Selection: A professional services company ...

Day In a Page

Noel Fielding's 'Luxury Comedy': A land of the outright bizarre

Noel Fielding's 'Luxury Comedy'

A land of the outright bizarre
What are the worst 'Word Crimes'?

What are the worst 'Word Crimes'?

‘Weird Al’ Yankovic's latest video is an ode to good grammar. But what do The Independent’s experts think he’s missed out?
Can Secret Cinema sell 80,000 'Back to the Future' tickets?

The worst kept secret in cinema

A cult movie event aims to immerse audiences of 80,000 in ‘Back to the Future’. But has it lost its magic?
Facebook: The new hatched, matched and dispatched

The new hatched, matched and dispatched

Family events used to be marked in the personal columns. But now Facebook has usurped the ‘Births, Deaths and Marriages’ announcements
Why do we have blood types?

Are you my type?

All of us have one but probably never wondered why. Yet even now, a century after blood types were discovered, it’s a matter of debate what they’re for
Honesty box hotels: You decide how much you pay

Honesty box hotels

Five hotels in Paris now allow guests to pay only what they think their stay was worth. It seems fraught with financial risk, but the honesty policy has its benefit
Commonwealth Games 2014: Why weight of pressure rests easy on Michael Jamieson’s shoulders

Michael Jamieson: Why weight of pressure rests easy on his shoulders

The Scottish swimmer is ready for ‘the biggest race of my life’ at the Commonwealth Games
Some are reformed drug addicts. Some are single mums. All are on benefits. But now these so-called 'scroungers’ are fighting back

The 'scroungers’ fight back

The welfare claimants battling to alter stereotypes
Amazing video shows Nasa 'flame extinguishment experiment' in action

Fireballs in space

Amazing video shows Nasa's 'flame extinguishment experiment' in action
A Bible for billionaires

A Bible for billionaires

Find out why America's richest men are reading John Brookes
Paranoid parenting is on the rise - and our children are suffering because of it

Paranoid parenting is on the rise

And our children are suffering because of it
For sale: Island where the Magna Carta was sealed

Magna Carta Island goes on sale

Yours for a cool £4m
Phone hacking scandal special report: The slide into crime at the 'News of the World'

The hacker's tale: the slide into crime at the 'News of the World'

Glenn Mulcaire was jailed for six months for intercepting phone messages. James Hanning tells his story in a new book. This is an extract
We flinch, but there are degrees of paedophilia

We flinch, but there are degrees of paedophilia

Child abusers are not all the same, yet the idea of treating them differently in relation to the severity of their crimes has somehow become controversial
The truth about conspiracy theories is that some require considering

The truth about conspiracy theories is that some require considering

For instance, did Isis kill the Israeli teenagers to trigger a war, asks Patrick Cockburn