Obituary: Sir Anthony Lincoln
Saturday 20 November 1993
ANTHONY LINCOLN, ambassador to Venezuela in 1964-69, was a diplomat who combined a certain attachment to the protocolaire side of his work with a self-deprecatory sense of humour, a droll wit, and personal kindness.
Entering the Foreign Office at the end of the war, from the home Civil Service where he was originally in the Customs and Excise Department, he took readily to the life of a diplomat (or, as he might have said, diplomatist). His first postings were in Paris for the peace conference, and in Buenos Aires, where he married an Anglo-Argentine, Lisette Summers. Then, after a spell in London concerned with economic questions, he was appointed Deputy Secretary-General of the Council of Europe at Strasbourg, in the pioneering days of that body: a post he probably enjoyed as much as any that were to come, with the scope it offered for international company, and for exercising his affection for France and French culture. There followed Copenhagen, as No 2 initially to none too easy an ambassador. Lincoln in any case lacked any special bent for the Nordic world.
But the Foreign Office clearly had their own ideas as to his adaptability, sending him as Ambassador to Laos (1958-60) and Minister to Bulgaria (1960-63). Neither was a particularly rewarding post, but he did his best in the circumstances; not only was Bulgaria completely under the Soviet heel but there was still popular liking for the Russians as traditional liberators from Ottoman rule making it hard for any Western envoy to make much of a mark there. More congenial was his next post, as Ambassador in Caracas, where he served a full five-year term before retirement.
Lincoln was an engaging character, once one had seen through an apparent preoccupation with the outward trappings of diplomacy (even then, doubtless, sometimes tongue-in-cheek). If, for example, as head of mission his 'morning prayers' gave priority to form over substance, he was nevertheless a good judge of the local scene. Socially, he and his wife were affable hosts, as well as maintaining some style in a period of post-war austerity. His Bentley was said to be the only one in Denmark other than the King's; and it followed him, not without operational difficulty, all the way to Laos and back again. There, against a background of war and revolution, he had also to cope with such delicate problems as whether it was suitable for a Filipino night-club band to accompany the loyal toasts at the Queen's birthday party - a gramophone record of the Grenadier Guards being eventually sent out from London for that purpose.
In Venezuela, he was able to enter more fully into the life of the country, thanks to a real interest in its affairs, helped by his wife's fluency in Spanish. And his political instincts were always sound enough.
Educated at Mill Hill School, Lincoln went as an exhibitioner to Magdalene College, Cambridge, where he read history with distinction, later publishing a book, Some Political and Social Ideas of English Dissent (1937). The quality of his official despatches suggests indeed that he might have done rather more in the literary direction. He was also a music lover, and on retirement he and his wife enjoyed country pursuits near Cambridge and Bury St Edmunds.
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