David Ormsby-Gore, 5th Baron Harlech

The Right Honourable
The Lord Harlech
Member of Parliament
for Oswestry
In office
Preceded by Oliver Poole
Succeeded by John Biffen
36th British Ambassador to the United States
In office
Preceded by Sir Harold Caccia
Succeeded by Sir Patrick Dean
Personal details
Born 20 May 1918
Died 26 January 1985(1985-01-26) (aged 66)
Shrewsbury, Shropshire
Nationality British
Political party Conservative
Spouse(s) Sylvia Thomas (1940-1967)
Pamela Colin (1969-1985)
Children Julian Ormsby-Gore (1940-1974)
Jane Ormsby-Gore (b. 1942)
Victoria Ormsby-Gore (b. 1946)
Alice Ormsby-Gore (1952-1995)
Francis Ormsby-Gore, 6th Baron Harlech (1954-2016)
Pandora Ormsby-Gore (b. 1972)
Parents William Ormsby-Gore, 4th Baron Harlech
Lady Beatrice Edith Mildred Cecil
Residence Woodhill Estate, Oswestry, Shropshire
Alma mater Oxford University
Occupation Airborne reconnaissance, farmer, politician, diplomat, television executive

William David Ormsby-Gore, 5th Baron Harlech, KCMG PC (20 May 1918 – 26 January 1985), known as David Ormsby-Gore until 1964, was a British diplomat and Conservative Party politician.

Early life

Ormsby-Gore was born in London, the second son of William Ormsby-Gore, 4th Baron Harlech, a Conservative politician, and Lady Beatrice Edith Mildred Gascoyne-Cecil. British Prime Minister Robert Gascoyne-Cecil, 3rd Marquess of Salisbury, was his maternal great-grandfather. He was educated at St Cyprian's School, Eton College and New College, Oxford.

In 1939 he was commissioned into the Royal Artillery (Berkshire Yeomanry Field Regiment), served in the 'Phantom' reconnaissance unit, and worked with airborne and other special units. By the end of the War he held the rank of major on the general staff.

After the war his father handed over to him all his land, and Ormsby-Gore farmed the 400 acres (1.6 km²) of the Woodhill Estate, Oswestry, Shropshire. In 1948 he was commissioned a Major in the Shropshire Yeomanry, but left in 1950.

Member of Parliament

At the 1950 general election he was elected Member of Parliament for Oswestry, which he remained until 1961. Under Prime Minister Anthony Eden he served briefly, from November 1956 to January 1957, as Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs; and under Prime Minister Harold Macmillan he was from 1957 to 1961 Minister of State for Foreign Affairs. After the election of U.S. President John F. Kennedy he was appointed British Ambassador to the United States.

Ambassador to the United States

Ormsby-Gore knew Kennedy well from his time in London, where his father Joseph P. Kennedy had served as American Ambassador. Like Macmillan, Ormsby-Gore was distantly related to Kennedy, but had a closer relationship than did Macmillan with the President-elect and his brother Robert. Six months after Kennedy took office Ormsby-Gore was in Washington, D.C. Referred to under the Kennedy administration as "our kind of Ambassador", he supplied Kennedy with a stream of advice and Cuban cigars via his diplomatic bag. He was almost a resident at the White House, being more a friend of the family than a mere ambassador. After President Kennedy's assassination there were rumours of a romance between Ormsby-Gore and Jacqueline Kennedy. These were not likely to have been believed by the family. Ormsby-Gore was one of the pallbearers at Robert Kennedy's funeral along with Robert McNamara, John Glenn, W. Averell Harriman, C. Douglas Dillon, Kirk Lemoyne Billings (schoolmate of John F. Kennedy), Stephen Smith (husband to Jean Ann Kennedy), David Hackett, Jim Whittaker and John Seigenthaler Sr.. Under the Lyndon B. Johnson administration relations were more formal but remained excellent; and Ormsby-Gore maintained his position after the Labour government took power in Britain in 1964.

A fierce opponent of oil-barrel politics, Ormsby-Gore's terse dismissal of the phenomenon ran: "It would indeed be a tragedy if the history of the human race proved to be nothing more than the story of an ape playing with a box of matches on a petrol dump." The extent of his influence over the Kennedy administration is disputed. Unable to persuade the American government to agree with the British line over Yemen and the Congo, or to proceed with either a negotiated settlement with Soviet premier Nikita Khrushchev over Berlin or the Skybolt ballistic missile programme, he nevertheless played a significant role in the Cuban Missile Crisis and ensured that Britain's views were taken into account by the American government.

However the friendship of Ormsby-Gore and Macmillan with John Kennedy helped secure the first Test-Ban Treaty in 1963. Macmillan and Ormsby-Gore had been attempting to achieve a test-ban treaty with the Russians for the past ten years, and won Kennedy over through letters from Macmillan and frank discussions between Ormsby-Gore and Kennedy. They convinced him to act like a statesman and conclude Test-ban treaties with Russia and not fear being branded as an appeaser by political opponents in the United States.

Ormsby-Gore was a participant in what is referred to as a "twenty-five year conversation to do with the role of a leader in a democratic society". He encouraged Kennedy to remain focused on issues relevant to the world and the future, rather than attempting to protect himself politically.

According to the Duchess of Devonshire, who travelled with the British delegation to Kennedy's funeral in November 1963, Macmillan's successor as Prime Minister Alec Douglas-Home had wanted to appoint Ormsby-Gore as Foreign Secretary, but R. A. Butler had insisted on having this post as a condition of serving under Home.[1]

Later life

Ormsby-Gore retired as Ambassador in 1965, a year after his father died, and took his seat in the House of Lords as Lord Harlech, briefly also holding the position of deputy chairman of the Conservative Party. He also had a successful career as a television executive, founding HTV, and served as president of the British Board of Film Classification. He had an active interest in the avant-garde, and for nearly ten years, beginning in 1969, was patron of the Institute for Research in Art and Technology.

Marriages & Children

Lord Harlech married Sylvia Thomas, daughter of Hugh Lloyd Thomas and Hon Guendaline Ada Bellew, on 9 February 1940. They had five children:

Lady Harlech died in a car accident on 30 May 1967.[6] On 11 December 1969 Lord Harlech married Pamela Colin. They had one daughter:


Lord Harlech was seriously injured in a car crash at Montford Bridge near Shrewsbury on the evening of 25 January 1985 and died at the Royal Shrewsbury Hospital the following morning, aged 66.[8] Senator Edward Kennedy, Jacqueline Onassis and other Kennedy family members attended his funeral in Llanfihangel-y-traethau.[9] He was succeeded in the barony by his second and only surviving son, Francis.


Ormsby-Gore was portrayed by Peter Donat in the 1974 television play The Missiles of October, which was about the October 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis.

Coat of arms


  1. Deborah, Duchess of Devonshire, Diary, 27 November 1963, quoted in Deborah Devonshire (2010) Wait For Me!
  2. Time magazine, 18 November 1974
  3. Davis, Stephen: Old Gods Almost Dead
  4. Time magazine, 16 March 1970
  5. FindArticles.com "Drug Overdose", The Independent, 21 April 1995
  6. The Peerage, entry for Sylvia Thomas
  7. The Peerage, entry for 5th Lord Harlech
  8. "Lord Harlech killed in crash". Shropshire Star. 26 January 1985. p. 1.
  9. Hughes, Robert (30 October 2007), The Parish Church Llanfihangel-y-Traethau Ynys (PDF), retrieved 2016-03-24


Parliament of the United Kingdom
Preceded by
Oliver Poole
Member of Parliament for Oswestry
Succeeded by
John Biffen
Political offices
Preceded by
Douglas Dodds-Parker
Lord John Hope
Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs
with Douglas Dodds-Parker

Succeeded by
The Earl of Gosford
Ian Douglas Harvey
Preceded by
Allan Noble
Minister of State for Foreign Affairs
with Allan Noble 1957–1959
John Profumo 1959–1960

Succeeded by
Joseph Godber
Diplomatic posts
Preceded by
Sir Harold Caccia
British Ambassador to the United States
Succeeded by
Sir Patrick Dean
Media offices
Preceded by
Herbert Morrison
President of the British Board of Film Classification
Succeeded by
George Lascelles
Peerage of the United Kingdom
Preceded by
William Ormsby-Gore
Baron Harlech
Succeeded by
Francis Ormsby-Gore

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