Michael Palairet

Sir Michael Palairet KCMG (29 September 1882 5 August 1956) was a British diplomat who was minister to Romania, Sweden and Austria, and minister and ambassador to Greece.

Early life

Palairet was the son of Charles Harvey Palairet, by his marriage to Emily Henry. After his mother's early death, in 1888 his father married secondly Nora Hamilton Martin.[citation needed] Palairet was educated at Eton College and spent time in France and Germany to improve his languages before joining the Diplomatic Service in 1905.


Palairet was posted to Rome in 1906, Vienna in 1908, Paris in 1913, and Athens in 1917. In 1918 he was posted back to Paris for the Peace Conference. After a brief time in the Foreign Office in London, he returned to Paris in 1920 with the rank of First Secretary. In 1922 he was posted as Counsellor to Tokyo where he and his family survived the Great Kanto earthquake on 1 September 1923, which devastated Tokyo and destroyed the British embassy. He moved on to Peking in 1925, returned to London in 1926, and returned to Rome again in 1928.

As an experienced middle-rank diplomatist, Palairet then became minister to Romania in December 1929.[1] Here their charm and hospitality and keen interest in Romanian culture won the Palairets a wide circle of friends. Prince Carol, who returned from exile and became king in 1930, showed no grudge at having been requested to leave England in 1928 because of his alleged involvement in a plot to place him on the Romanian throne. Good Anglo-Romanian relations, both political and commercial, were established, but German economic and political penetration had become menacing before Palairet left for Stockholm in 1935. — Peter Neville in Oxford Dictionary of National Biography

Palairet was minister to Sweden 1935–37 before being posted to Vienna as minister to Austria in December 1937. This was a critical time for Austria. Palairet reported to the Foreign Office that Hitler had 'raved like a madman' at Austrian Chancellor Kurt Schuschnigg during their meeting at Berchtesgaden on 12 February 1938.[2] There was nothing that Britain could do: the Anschluss followed on 11–12 March and Palairet was recalled to London. He was sent as the second UK delegate (with Lord Winterton) to the Évian Conference on Jewish refugees on 6–13 July. In September–December 1938 he was sent to take charge of the legation in Bucharest because of the illness of his successor as minister there, Sir Reginald Hoare. In June 1939 he was posted to Athens again as minister to Greece.[3] When the German army approached Athens in April 1941 the British Embassy was evacuated, but Palairet remained accredited to the Greek government in exile and accompanied them to Crete and then, after the fall of Crete in May 1941, to Cairo. His post was upgraded to Ambassador in 1942 before he retired in April 1943. However, he returned to the Foreign Office as a temporary Assistant Under-Secretary, dealing with matters concerning prisoners of war, until July 1948.

Michael Palairet was appointed CMG in December 1923, after the Tokyo earthquake, along with the British consuls at Kobe and Yokohama.[4] He was knighted KCMG in the King's Birthday Honours of 1938, following his return from Vienna.[5]

Private life

Palairet married Mary de Vere Studd (1895–1977), a society beauty who was painted by Augustus John. The couple both converted to Roman Catholicism. Their daughter Anne Mary Celestine Palairet was born in 1916 and married Julian Asquith, 2nd Earl of Oxford and Asquith at the Brompton Oratory in 1947.[citation needed]


Charles Palairet was descended from a Huguenot family called Palayret who had fled initially to the Netherlands, later to England, when Louis XIV revoked the Edict of Nantes in 1689.[6] He was a cousin of the cricketers Lionel Palairet and Richard Palairet. In 1915 he married Mary, daughter of Herbert Studd. Their daughter Anne married Julian Asquith, 2nd Earl of Oxford and Asquith.[7]


  • PALAIRET, Sir Michael, Who Was Who, A & C Black, 1920–2008; online edn, Oxford University Press, Dec 2007, retrieved 10 June 2012
  1. "No. 33580". The London Gazette. 18 February 1930. p. 1047.
  2. Documents on British Foreign Policy 1919-39, 2/19, no. 50
  3. "No. 34642". The London Gazette. 4 July 1939. p. 4563.
  4. "No. 32891". The London Gazette. 25 December 1923. p. 9027.
  5. "No. 34518". The London Gazette (Supplement). 9 June 1938. p. 3690.
  6. Neville, P. (23 September 2004). Palairet, Sir (Charles) Michael (1882–1956), diplomatist. Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. Retrieved 8 Dec. 2017, link
  7. "Obituary: The Countess of Oxford and Asquith". The Independent. 7 September 1998. Retrieved 8 December 2017.
Diplomatic posts
Preceded by
Robert Greg
British Envoy to Romania
Succeeded by
Sir Reginald Hoare
Preceded by
Sir Archibald Clark Kerr
British Envoy to Sweden
Succeeded by
Sir Edmund Monson, 3rd Baronet
Preceded by
Sir Walford Selby
British Envoy to Austria
No representation
Preceded by
Sir Sydney Waterlow
British Envoy to Greece
Succeeded by
Sir Reginald Leeper