Eric Phipps
Sir Eric Clare Edmund Phipps, GCB
Order of the Bath
The Most Honourable Order of the Bath is a British order of chivalry founded by George I on 18 May 1725. The name derives from the elaborate mediæval ceremony for creating a knight, which involved bathing as one of its elements. The knights so created were known as Knights of the Bath...

Royal Victorian Order
The Royal Victorian Order is a dynastic order of knighthood and a house order of chivalry recognising distinguished personal service to the order's Sovereign, the reigning monarch of the Commonwealth realms, any members of her family, or any of her viceroys...

, PC
Privy Council of the United Kingdom
Her Majesty's Most Honourable Privy Council, usually known simply as the Privy Council, is a formal body of advisers to the Sovereign in the United Kingdom...

 (October 27, 1875–August 13, 1945) was a British
United Kingdom
The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern IrelandIn the United Kingdom and Dependencies, other languages have been officially recognised as legitimate autochthonous languages under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages...


Family and early life

Phipps was the son of Sir Constantine Phipps, later British Ambassador to Belgium, and his wife Maria Jane (née Miller Mundy). Henry Phipps, 1st Earl of Mulgrave
Henry Phipps, 1st Earl of Mulgrave
Henry Phipps, 1st Earl of Mulgrave GCB, PC , styled The Honourable Henry Phipps until 1792 and known as The Lord Mulgrave from 1792 to 1812, was a British soldier and politician...

, was his great-grandfather, and he was also a great-grandson of Lieutenant-General Sir Colin Campbell
Colin Campbell (politician)
Lieutenant-General Sir Colin Campbell KCB was a British Army officer and colonial governor.-Military career:In February 1792, at the age of 16, Campbell ran away from Perth Academy to join a vessel bound for the West Indies...

, who was present at the Battle of Waterloo
Battle of Waterloo
The Battle of Waterloo was fought on Sunday 18 June 1815 near Waterloo in present-day Belgium, then part of the United Kingdom of the Netherlands...

, and of Rear-Admiral Sir John Hindmarsh
John Hindmarsh
Rear-Admiral Sir John Hindmarsh KH RN was a naval officer and the first Governor of South Australia, from 28 December 1836 to 16 July 1838.-Early life:...

, who was a Lieutenant on HMS Phoebe
HMS Phoebe (1795)
HMS Phoebe was a 36-gun fifth rate of the British Royal Navy. She had a career of almost twenty years and fought in the French Revolutionary Wars, the Napoleonic Wars and the War of 1812...

 at the Battle of Trafalgar
Battle of Trafalgar
The Battle of Trafalgar was a sea battle fought between the British Royal Navy and the combined fleets of the French Navy and Spanish Navy, during the War of the Third Coalition of the Napoleonic Wars ....

 - making him probably the first person to be descended from officers who fought at both battles. As a child, he accompanied his parents around Europe to his father's various postings, and was educated at King's College, Cambridge
King's College, Cambridge
King's College is a constituent college of the University of Cambridge, England. The college's full name is "The King's College of our Lady and Saint Nicholas in Cambridge", but it is usually referred to simply as "King's" within the University....

, and the University of Paris
University of Paris
The University of Paris was a university located in Paris, France and one of the earliest to be established in Europe. It was founded in the mid 12th century, and officially recognized as a university probably between 1160 and 1250...

, from which he graduated.

Early career

He passed the competitive examination
Competitive examination
A competitive examination is an examination angwhere candidates are ranked according to their grades. If the examination is open for n positions, then the first n candidates in ranks pass, the others are rejected...

 for entry to the Diplomatic Service
Diplomatic service
Diplomatic service is the body of diplomats and foreign policy officers maintained by the government of a country to communicate with the governments of other countries. Diplomatic personnel enjoy diplomatic immunity when they are accredited to other countries...

 in January 1899 and was posted as an attaché
Attaché is a French term in diplomacy referring to a person who is assigned to the diplomatic or administrative staff of a higher placed person or another service or agency...

 to Paris
Paris is the capital and largest city in France, situated on the river Seine, in northern France, at the heart of the Île-de-France region...

 in October 1899, being promoted Third Secretary in January 1901. In January 1905 he was posted to Constantinople
Constantinople was the capital of the Roman, Eastern Roman, Byzantine, Latin, and Ottoman Empires. Throughout most of the Middle Ages, Constantinople was Europe's largest and wealthiest city.-Names:...

, was promoted Second Secretary in April, and returned to London
London is the capital city of :England and the :United Kingdom, the largest metropolitan area in the United Kingdom, and the largest urban zone in the European Union by most measures. Located on the River Thames, London has been a major settlement for two millennia, its history going back to its...

 to work at the Foreign Office in September. In September 1906 he was posted to Rome
Rome is the capital of Italy and the country's largest and most populated city and comune, with over 2.7 million residents in . The city is located in the central-western portion of the Italian Peninsula, on the Tiber River within the Lazio region of Italy.Rome's history spans two and a half...

 and in February 1909 he returned to Paris as private secretary to Sir Francis Bertie, British Ambassador to France. In April 1912 he was promoted First Secretary and posted to St Petersburg, transferred to Madrid
Madrid is the capital and largest city of Spain. The population of the city is roughly 3.3 million and the entire population of the Madrid metropolitan area is calculated to be 6.271 million. It is the third largest city in the European Union, after London and Berlin, and its metropolitan...

 in October 1913, and returned to Paris in May 1916.

He was on the staff of the British delegation to the Versailles Conference
Paris Peace Conference, 1919
The Paris Peace Conference was the meeting of the Allied victors following the end of World War I to set the peace terms for the defeated Central Powers following the armistices of 1918. It took place in Paris in 1919 and involved diplomats from more than 32 countries and nationalities...

 until September 1919, when he was promoted Counsellor
Diplomatic rank
Diplomatic rank is the system of professional and social rank used in the world of diplomacy and international relations. Over time it has been formalized on an international basis.-Ranks:...

 and posted back to London. In November 1920 he was posted to Brussels
Brussels , officially the Brussels Region or Brussels-Capital Region , is the capital of Belgium and the de facto capital of the European Union...

 as Chargé d'affaires
Chargé d'affaires
In diplomacy, chargé d’affaires , often shortened to simply chargé, is the title of two classes of diplomatic agents who head a diplomatic mission, either on a temporary basis or when no more senior diplomat has been accredited.-Chargés d’affaires:Chargés d’affaires , who were...

 and in November 1922 he was promoted Minister Plenipotentiary and posted back to Paris, often serving as chargé d'affaires in the absence of the ambassador.

In June 1928, Phipps received his first independent posting as Envoy Extraordinary and Minister Plenipotentiary to Austria
Austria , officially the Republic of Austria , is a landlocked country of roughly 8.4 million people in Central Europe. It is bordered by the Czech Republic and Germany to the north, Slovakia and Hungary to the east, Slovenia and Italy to the south, and Switzerland and Liechtenstein to the...


Ambassador to Germany

In 1933 he was appointed British Ambassador to Germany.

In his despatches whilst ambassador in Berlin
Berlin is the capital city of Germany and is one of the 16 states of Germany. With a population of 3.45 million people, Berlin is Germany's largest city. It is the second most populous city proper and the seventh most populous urban area in the European Union...

, he warned the British Government about the character of Adolf Hitler
Adolf Hitler
Adolf Hitler was an Austrian-born German politician and the leader of the National Socialist German Workers Party , commonly referred to as the Nazi Party). He was Chancellor of Germany from 1933 to 1945, and head of state from 1934 to 1945...

's régime. On 31 January 1934, Phipps wrote to the Foreign Secretary, Sir John Simon
John Simon, 1st Viscount Simon
John Allsebrook Simon, 1st Viscount Simon GCSI GCVO OBE PC was a British politician who held senior Cabinet posts from the beginning of the First World War to the end of the Second. He is one of only three people to have served as Home Secretary, Foreign Secretary and Chancellor of the Exchequer,...


[Hitler's] policy is simple and straightforward. If his neighbours allow him, he will become strong by the simplest and most direct methods. There mere fact that he is making himself unpopular abroad will not deter him, for, as he said in a recent speech, it is better to be respected and feared than to be weak and liked. If he finds that he arouses no real opposition, the tempo of his advance will increase. On the other hand, if he is vigorously opposed, he is unlikely at this stage to risk a break.

Phipps gave a further warning to Simon on 1 April 1935:

Let us hope our pacifists at home may at length realise that the rapidly-growing monster of German militarism will not be placated by mere cooings, but will only be restrained from recourse to its ultima ratio by the knowledge that the Power
Power in international relations
Power in international relations is defined in several different ways. Political scientists, historians, and practitioners of international relations have used the following concepts of political power:...

s who desire peace are also strong enough to enforce it.

During his first year in Berlin, Phipps managed to see Hitler only four times. Phipps himself regarded Hitler as something of a cipher, who was variously described in his dispatches back to London as more moderate then his followers or as possibly mad. In May 1936, Phipps presented to Hitler the famous "questionnaire", largely written by his brother-in law, the Under-Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, Sir Robert Vansittart
Robert Vansittart, 1st Baron Vansittart
Robert Gilbert Vansittart, 1st Baron Vansittart GCB, GCMG, PC, MVO was a senior British diplomat in the period before and during the Second World War...

, that asked point-blank if Germany intended "to respect the existing territorial and political status of Europe", and was willing to sign "genuine treaties". Neither Hitler nor any other German leader ever responded to the "questionnaire".

Ambassador to France

In 1937, Phipps was transferred to Paris
Paris is the capital and largest city in France, situated on the river Seine, in northern France, at the heart of the Île-de-France region...

 as British Ambassador to France.

During his time in Paris, Phipps strongly identified himself with French Foreign Minister Georges Bonnet
Georges Bonnet
Not to be confused with the French Socialist Georges MonnetGeorges-Étienne Bonnet was a French politician and leading figure in the Radical-Socialist Party.- Early career :...

, and most of his dispatches to London reflected Bonnet's influence. On 24 September 1938, at the height of the great crisis over Czechoslovakia
Czechoslovakia or Czecho-Slovakia was a sovereign state in Central Europe which existed from October 1918, when it declared its independence from the Austro-Hungarian Empire, until 1992...

 that was to culminate in the Munich Agreement
Munich Agreement
The Munich Pact was an agreement permitting the Nazi German annexation of Czechoslovakia's Sudetenland. The Sudetenland were areas along Czech borders, mainly inhabited by ethnic Germans. The agreement was negotiated at a conference held in Munich, Germany, among the major powers of Europe without...

, Phipps reported back to London "all that is best in France is against war, almost at any price", being opposed only by a "small, but noisy and corrupt, war group". Phipps's extremely negative assessment of the willingness and/or ability of France to go to war with Germany in 1938 created major doubts in London about the value of France as an ally.

In October 1938, Bonnet carried a major purge of the Quai d'Orsay
Quai d'Orsay
The Quai d'Orsay is a quai in the VIIe arrondissement of Paris, part of the left bank of the Seine, and the name of the street along it. The Quai becomes the Quai Anatole France east of the Palais Bourbon, and the Quai de Branly west of the Pont de l'Alma.The French Ministry of Foreign Affairs is...

, sidelining a number of officials opposed to his policy. In the aftermath of the purge, Bonnet was congratulated by Phipps for removing the "warmongers" René Massigli
René Massigli
René Massigli was a French diplomat who played a leading as a senior official at the Quai d'Orsay, and was regarded as one of the leading French experts on Germany.-Early career:...

 and Pierre Comert from the Quai d'Orsay, but went on to complain that Bonnet should sacked the Secretary-General Alexis Saint-Legér Léger
Saint-John Perse
Saint-John Perse was a French poet, awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1960 "for the soaring flight and evocative imagery of his poetry." He was also a major French diplomat from 1914 to 1940, after which he lived primarily in the USA until 1967.-Biography:Alexis Leger was...

 as well. In response, Bonnet claimed that he and Saint-Legér Léger saw "eye to eye", leading to Phipps, who knew about the true state of relations between Bonnet and Saint-Legér Léger, to drily note "in that case the eyes must be astigmatic".

In November 1939, suffering from ill-health, Phipps retired to Wiltshire
Wiltshire is a ceremonial county in South West England. It is landlocked and borders the counties of Dorset, Somerset, Hampshire, Gloucestershire, Oxfordshire and Berkshire. It contains the unitary authority of Swindon and covers...

. He died of a pulmonary embolism
Pulmonary embolism
Pulmonary embolism is a blockage of the main artery of the lung or one of its branches by a substance that has travelled from elsewhere in the body through the bloodstream . Usually this is due to embolism of a thrombus from the deep veins in the legs, a process termed venous thromboembolism...

 following a prostectomy at the London Clinic in 1945.


Phipps was appointed Companion of the Order of St Michael and St George (CMG) in the 1920 New Year Honours, Commander of the Royal Victorian Order (CVO) in May 1922, Knight Commander of the Order of St Michael and St George (KCMG) in the 1927 Birthday Honours, Knight Grand Cross of the Order of St Michael and St George (GCMG) in 1934, Knight Grand Cross of the Royal Victorian Order (GCVO) in 1939, and Knight Grand Cross of the Order of the Bath (GCB) in 1941. He was appointed to the Privy Council
Privy Council of the United Kingdom
Her Majesty's Most Honourable Privy Council, usually known simply as the Privy Council, is a formal body of advisers to the Sovereign in the United Kingdom...

 in 1933, entitling him to the style "The Right Honourable". He also held the Grand Cross of the Legion d'Honneur
Légion d'honneur
The Legion of Honour, or in full the National Order of the Legion of Honour is a French order established by Napoleon Bonaparte, First Consul of the Consulat which succeeded to the First Republic, on 19 May 1802...

 and was a Commander of the Order of Leopold II
Order of Leopold II
The Order of Leopold II is an order of Belgium and is named in honor of King Léopold II. The decoration was established on 24 August 1900 by Leopold II as king of the Congo Free State and was in 1908, upon Congo being handed over to Belgium, incorporated into the Belgian awards system...

 of Belgium.

In 1943 he served as High Sheriff of Wiltshire
High Sheriff of Wiltshire
This is a list of High Sheriffs of Wiltshire.Until the 14th century the shrievalty was held ex officio by the castellans of Old Sarum.-To 1400:*1066: Edric*1067-1070: Philippe de Buckland*1085: Aiulphus the Sheriff*1070–1105: Edward of Salisbury...



Phipps married, firstly, Yvonne de Louvencourt, in 1907. After her death in 1909 he married, secondly, Frances Ward, daughter of Herbert Ward, in 1911. He had six children, all by his second wife:
  1. Lieutenant-Colonel Mervyn Phipps (1912–1983)
  2. Lieutenant Alan Phipps RN (1915–1942; killed in action on Leros
    Leros is a Greek island and municipality in the Dodecanese in the southern Aegean Sea. It lies 317 km from Athens's port of Piraeus, from which it can be reached by an 11-hour ferry ride . Leros is part of the Kalymnos peripheral unit...

    ), whose son is Brigadier Jeremy Phipps
    Jeremy Phipps
    Major-General Jeremy Joseph Julian Phipps CB is a former British army officer who became Senior British Loan Services Officer in Oman.-Military career:...

  3. Mary Phipps (born 1923), married to Bonar Sykes, son of Sir Frederick Sykes
    Frederick Sykes
    Air Vice-Marshal The Right Honourable Sir Frederick Hugh Sykes GCSI, GCIE, GBE, KCB, CMG was a military officer, British statesman and politician....

     and his wife, a daughter of a former British Prime Minister Andrew Bonar Law
  4. Margaret Phipps (born 1925), married to George Cary, son of the Irish novelist Joyce Cary
    Joyce Cary
    Joyce Cary was an Anglo-Irish novelist and artist.-Youth and education:...

  5. John-Francis Phipps (born 1933)
  6. William Phipps (born 1936), who married Henrietta Frances Lamb (born 1931), elder daughter of the painter Henry Lamb
    Henry Lamb
    Henry Taylor Lamb, MC, RA was an Australian-born British painter. A follower of Augustus John, he was a founder member of the Camden Town Group.Born in Adelaide, Australia, he was the son of Sir Horace Lamb FRS...

     and his wife Lady Pansy Lamb (née Pakenham), sister of the 6th and 7th Earls of Longford
    Earl of Longford
    Earl of Longford is a title that has been created twice in the Peerage of Ireland. It was first bestowed upon Francis Aungier, 3rd Baron Aungier of Longford, in 1677, with remainder to his younger brother Ambrose. He had previously represented Surrey in the House of Commons and had already been...

External links

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