Nigel Baker

Nigel Baker

Ambassador to the Holy See (2011-2016)

Part of UK in Holy See

8th June 2016

Celebrating The Queen at the Holy See

Ninety balloons for #Queenat90
© Press Association
Her Majesty The Queen. © Press Association

Like other embassies and high commissions around the world, the British Embassy to the Holy See took the opportunity this week to celebrate Her Majesty The Queen’s 90th birthday. In traditional British fashion, our garden party was accompanied by a downpour of rain, but it didn’t appear to dampen the spirits of the many guests from across the Holy See community who celebrated with us, or prevent us launching 90 red, white and blue balloons to commemorate each year of her life. Cardinals and senior Holy See officials, including the Secretary for Relations with States, Archbishop Paul Gallagher attended. They were joined by other officials from across the Roman Curia, British members of religious congregations, colleges and other Rome-based offices, members of Catholic charities, journalists and representatives of the different churches in Rome and of other embassies to recognise the achievements of a remarkable monarch.

Ninety balloons for #Queenat90

The point was that we were not just celebrating a birthday, but an exemplary model of service and duty. As we were celebrating, The Queen herself was hard at work in Wales, opening the Welsh Assembly and visiting a Brain Research Centre in Cardiff. It is normally considered rude to mention a woman’s age, but Her Majesty’s reign is now so replete with superlatives that I am sure she would not have minded the emphasis. And at our Holy See event, I took the opportunity to cite the extraordinary words she spoke at her very first Privy Council meeting, on 8 February 1952, that set the tone for what was to follow:

“By the sudden death of my dear father I am called upon to assume the duties and responsibilities of sovereignty .. my heart is too full for me to say more to you today than I shall always work, as my father did throughout his reign, to advance the happiness and prosperity of my peoples ..”

Pope Francis often emphasises service and duty. He does so especially in the context of the priestly vocation, but he also has a strong sense of our common responsibilities to our fellow men, our planet, and those less fortunate than ourselves. In a recent speech to Church deacons in the context of the Jubilee Year of Mercy, the Pope noted that the Catholic Church “lives and journeys in the midst of the people and in which the greatest is not the one who commands, but the one who serves”. We can all recognise this in The Queen. That is why her example continues to be such a powerful one, as much at the Holy See as in Britain or the other 15 countries of which she is Head of State.

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About Nigel Baker

Nigel was British Ambassador to the Holy See from 2011-2016. He presented his Credentials to Pope Benedict XVI on 9 September 2011, after serving 8 years in Latin America, as…

Nigel was British Ambassador to the Holy See from 2011-2016. He presented his Credentials to Pope Benedict XVI on 9 September 2011, after serving 8 years in Latin America, as Deputy Head of Mission in the British Embassy in Havana, Cuba (2003-6) and then as British Ambassador in La Paz, Bolivia (2007-11). In July 2016, Nigel finished his posting, and is currently back in London.

As the first British Ambassador to the Holy See ever to have a blog, Nigel provided a regular window on what the Embassy and the Ambassador does. The blogs covered a wide range of issues, from Royal and Ministerial visits to Diplomacy and Faith, freedom of religion, human trafficking and climate change.

More on Nigel’s career

Nigel was based in London between 1998 and 2003. He spent two years on European Union issues (for the UK 1998 EU Presidency and on European Security and Defence questions), before crossing St James’s Park to work for three years as The Assistant Private Secretary to His Royal Highness The Prince of Wales. At St James’s Palace, Nigel worked on international issues, including the management of The Prince of Wales’s overseas visits and tours, on the Commonwealth, interfaith issues, the arts and international development.

Nigel spent much of the early part of his FCO career in Central Europe, after an initial stint as Desk Officer for the Maghreb countries in the Near East and North Africa department (1990-91). Between 1992 and 1996, Nigel served in the British embassies in Prague and Bratislava, the latter being created in 1993 after the peaceful division of Czechoslovakia into the separate Czech and Slovak Republics.

Nigel joined the FCO (Foreign and Commonwealth Office) in September 1989. Between 1996 and 1998 he took a two year academic sabbatical to research and write about themes in 18th century European history, being based in Verona but also researching in Cambridge, Paris and Naples. The research followed from Nigel’s time as a student at Cambridge (1985-88) where he read history and was awarded a First Class Honours degree, followed by his MA in 1992.

Before joining the Foreign Office, Nigel worked briefly for the Conservative Research Department in London at the time of the 1989 European election campaign.

Nigel married Alexandra (Sasha) in 1997. They have one son, Benjamin, born in Bolivia in September 2008.

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