List of ambassadors of the United Kingdom to the Holy See

Ambassador of the United Kingdom to the Holy See
Ambasciatore del Regno Unito alla Santa Sede

Arms of the United Kingdom
Sally Axworthy

since 2016
Style His Excellency
Appointer Queen Elizabeth II
Inaugural holder Thomas Aubin
First Attaché resident at Rome
Sir Henry Elliot
First Envoy extraordinary to the Holy See
Sir Mark Evelyn Heath
First Ambassador to the Holy See
Formation 1832
First Attaché resident at Rome
First Envoy extraordinary
First Ambassador
Website UK and Holy See

The Ambassador of the United Kingdom to the Holy See has held that title since 1982. Before that the British heads of mission to the Holy See were styled Attaché resident at Rome and Envoy Extraordinary and Minister Plenipotentiary.

History of representation

Diplomatic relations were broken off between the Pope and the Kingdom of England in 1534, after the Act of Supremacy of that year declared that King Henry VIII was "the only Supreme Head in Earth of the Church of England". This break continued throughout the remaining existence of the Kingdom of England and its successor the Kingdom of Great Britain (1707–1800). However, after the formation of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland an "unofficial official" was kept in Rome from the mid-nineteenth century, holding the title of representative to the Papal States.[1] With the rise of Italian nationalism, the Papal States were conquered by the House of Savoy and a unified Kingdom of Italy was declared in 1861. In 1874, due to the Roman Question, the Conservative government withdrew this representative, reasoning that it was not cost-effective to maintain a representative to a "non-existent state".[1] Missions between 1874 and 1914 were designated "special and temporary".[1]

In 1914 the United Kingdom formally re-established diplomatic relations with the Holy See. A minister was sent to the papal court during the First World War to court the favour of the Pope towards the Triple Entente.[1] This mission was maintained after the war for the perceived value of its prestige (a "quiet place for a not very distinguished diplomat") and the conflicts in Ireland, Malta, Quebec, and Australia, which had Roman Catholic dimensions.[1] After the rupture in 1930–33 due to difficulties in Malta, the post was filled with more experienced and respected diplomats.[1]

From 1914 to 1982 the diplomatic representative of the United Kingdom to the Holy See had the rank of Envoy Extraordinary and Minister Plenipotentiary, as did the UK's representatives to many other countries until the 1960s, but partly because there was already a British ambassador in Rome, to Italy. The British envoy to the Holy See was upgraded to Ambassador in 1982.[2] It has been claimed that the Minister was always a Protestant,[3] and that Francis Campbell, appointed ambassador in 2005, was "the first Catholic to hold the position of emissary of the Court of St James to the Holy See since the Reformation";[4] in fact, however, the first two 20th-century envoys, Sir Henry Howard and Count de Salis, were Catholics.

List of heads of mission

Attachés resident at Rome

The United Kingdom was represented by an Attaché to the legation at Florence resident at Rome.[5]

Envoys Extraordinary and Ministers Plenipotentiary

Relations downgraded due to the Church's interference in Maltese politics

Chargés d'affaires

Envoys Extraordinary and Ministers Plenipotentiary



  1. 1 2 3 4 5 6 Chadwick, 1988, p. 2.
  2. Chadwick, 1988, p. 3.
  3. Chadwick, 1988, p. 14.
  4. "First Catholic to represent UK at Holy See defies all stereotypes: Interview in Irish Times". 2 February 2009. Retrieved 2010-02-08.
  5. 1 2 3 S.T. Bindoff, E.F. Malcolm Smith and C.K. Webster, British Diplomatic Representatives 1789-1852, Royal Historical Society, 1934
  6. The London Gazette, 22 February 1856
  7. The London Gazette, 18 November 1862
  8. Brown, Sue, Joseph Severn, A Life: The Rewards of Friendship, Oxford University Press, 2009, pp.303-9
  9. The Vatican - Diplomatic Intercourse, Hansard, 10 February 1882
  10. "New British Ambassador to the Holy See accredited". British Embassy Holy See. 19 September 2016.

See also


External links

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