Former British foreign secretary Lord Carrington, the last surviving member of Winston Churchill’s post-war government, has died at the age of 99, Downing Street said Tuesday.
One of Britain’s most illustrious 20th century diplomats, Prime Minister Theresa May said his death marked “the end of an era and the loss of a statesman who was respected globally for his remarkable lifetime of public service.”
Carrington, who served under Churchill in his 1951 to 1955 government, died on Monday.
Known for his charm, patience and tenacity, as foreign secretary he famously resigned from prime minister Margaret Thatcher’s government in 1982 over Argentina’s invasion of the Falkland Islands.
Born Peter Carington, he sat in parliament’s upper House of Lords as Baron Carrington of Upton, his hereditary title having a different spelling. Taking his seat in 1945, he was the oldest and longest-serving member of the Lords.
“There can be few people who have served our country for as long, and with such dedication, as Lord Carrington did,” said May, citing his wartime heroism to serving in government under two monarchs and six prime ministers.
“He was a much-loved and widely respected member of the House of Lords for nearly eight decades, and served with great honor and integrity in government,” she said.
War hero to statesman
Born in 1919, Carrington was a tank commander in World War II and won the Military Cross, given for acts of exemplary gallantry during active operations against the enemy on land.
He inherited his father’s title as Baron Carrington in 1938 but did not take his hereditary seat in the House of Lords until after the war.
He was the parliamentary secretary to the minister of agriculture and food and then to the defense minister in Churchill’s government.
In a wide-ranging political career, he became the high commissioner to Australia, then the first lord of the Admiralty, or political head of the Royal Navy, before becoming the leader of the House of Lords, defense secretary from 1970 to 1974 and Conservative Party chairman from 1972 to 1974.
Carrington became Thatcher’s first foreign secretary in 1979. He played a key role in ending the 14-year deadlock in Britain’s rogue colony of Rhodesia by persuading its warring factions to agree to a ceasefire and become independent as Zimbabwe.
But he quit in 1982 when Argentina captured the Falklands.
He took responsibility for the loss of the South Atlantic archipelago on his watch, though few thought him personally to blame. Thatcher tried to dissuade him from stepping down.
“This was a terrific humiliation for Britain,” he said. “There had to be a political sacrifice for that, so I think I was right in resigning.”
He also said: “I lost my job. Others lost their lives.”
‘Kindness and brilliance’
Carrington became the NATO secretary general in 1984, seeing it through a crunch period in the Cold War.
“My greatest regret is that I left NATO in 1988 before the Berlin Wall came down, and everything changed. I think we did a good job,” he said.
NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said he was sad to hear of Carrington’s death.
“He believed a strong and united NATO could achieve great things. Arms control agreements and improvements in East-West relations during his tenure testify to his wise leadership,” the former Norwegian prime minister said.
He then served as the European Union peace negotiator in the bloody civil war in the former Yugoslavia in 1991.
Both living former Conservative prime ministers, John Major and David Cameron, paid tribute to his service and character.
“He never fell beneath the dignity of his office, yet leavened public life with an irreverent wit that delighted all who worked with him,” said Major, Britain’s premier from 1990 to 1997.
“The country has lost one of its greatest post-war statesmen.”
Cameron, in office from 2010 to 2016, described Carrington as “a lovely man and a great public servant.”
“Kindness and brilliance in equal measure; he’ll be deeply missed,” he said.