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A golden age of diplomacy

India Office

Yesterday Laura and I were speaking at a seminar for members of the Foreign & Commonwealth Office Association. I’m used to lecturing in the FCO at the Old Admiralty Building which is fairly functional but yesterday’s venue was the India  Office Council Chamber – an altogether a much grander affair  created in the 1860s when Britain still, definitely, ruled the world

Apparently when it was completed, a magnificent reception was held in the beautiful Italianate courtyard it overlooks (now known as Durbar Court) for the Sultan of Turkey, who was in Britain for a State Visit. The Council Chamber, decorated with silken draperies and regimental standards, was transformed into a Dining Room for the Sultan, the Prince of Wales and the most important guests, and it was reported that every item on the tables was made of gold.

Well, we didn’t have cups of gold but sipping tea on the balcony in the sunshine overlooking Durbar Court I definitely decided I had been born in the wrong age!