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Christopher Ewart-Biggs

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Christopher Ewart-Biggs
British Ambassador to Ireland
In office
9 July 1976 – 21 July 1976
MonarchElizabeth II
Prime MinisterJames Callaghan
Preceded bySir Arthur Galsworthy
Succeeded byRobin Haydon
Personal details
Born(1921-08-05)5 August 1921
Thanet, Kent, England
Died21 July 1976(1976-07-21) (aged 54)
Sandyford, Dublin, Ireland
Mary Raines Gavrelle Thomas
(m. 1952; died 1959)
(m. 1960)
Children3, including Kate Ewart-Biggs
EducationWellington College
Alma materUniversity College, Oxford
Military service
AllegianceUnited Kingdom
Branch/serviceBritish Army
UnitRoyal West Kent Regiment
Battles/warsSecond World War

Christopher Thomas Ewart Ewart-Biggs, CMG, OBE (5 August 1921 – 21 July 1976) was the British Ambassador to Ireland, an author and senior Foreign Office liaison officer with MI6. He was killed in 1976 by the Provisional Irish Republican Army (IRA) in Sandyford, Dublin.

His widow, Jane Ewart-Biggs, became a Life Peer in the House of Lords, campaigned to improve Anglo-Irish relations and established the Christopher Ewart-Biggs Memorial Prize for literature.

Early life and career[edit]

Christopher Thomas Ewart-Biggs was born in the Thanet district of Kent, England, to Captain Henry Ewart-Biggs of the Royal Engineers and his wife Mollie Brice. He was educated at Wellington College and University College, Oxford, and served in the Royal West Kent Regiment of the British Army during the Second World War. At the Second Battle of El Alamein in 1942 he lost his right eye and as a result he wore a smoked-glass monocle over an artificial eye. He spent the rest of the war and after (1943–7) as political officer in Jefren, Tripolitania where he learned fluent Italian and some Arabic.[1]

Ewart-Biggs joined the Foreign Service in 1949, serving in the Lebanon, Qatar and Algiers, as well as Manila, Brussels and Paris.[2]

Following study at the Middle East Centre for Arabic Studies near Beirut, he was posted as political officer to Qatar (1951). In 1952 he married Gabrielle Verschoyle, and gained four stepchildren. The couple wrote a number of thrillers together using the pen name ‘Charles Elliott’ including 'Trial by fire' (1956). In 1959 she died in childbirth. He remarried (Felicity) Jane Randall on 5 May 1960.[1] They had three children, Henrietta, Robin and Kate Ewart-Biggs.[3]


Ewart-Biggs was killed on 21 July 1976, at age 54, when his armoured Jaguar car, part of a four-vehicle convoy on its way to the British Embassy in Dublin, was thrown into the air by a land mine planted by the IRA.[4][5] He had been taking precautions to avoid such an incident since coming to Dublin only two weeks before. Among the measures he employed was to vary his route many times a week but, at a vulnerable spot on the road connecting his residence to the main road, there was only a choice between left or right. He chose right, and, 317 yards down the road, the IRA remotely detonated 200 pounds of explosives hidden under a culvert.[6][5] Ewart-Biggs and fellow passenger and civil servant Judith Cooke (aged 26) were killed. Driver Brian O'Driscoll and third passenger Brian Cubbon (the highest-ranking civil servant in Northern Ireland at the time) were injured.[7] Republicans suggested Ewart-Biggs was targeted because of his intelligence connections[4] though possibly Cubbon was the intended target.[1] Two months after his murder, the IRA claimed responsibility and said that Ewart-Biggs had been sent to Dublin "to co-ordinate British intelligence activities and he was assassinated because of that." The British Foreign Office dismissed the claim as nonsense.[8]

It later emerged that the UK's Northern Ireland secretary Merlyn Rees had at the last minute been forced to cancel plans which would have placed him in the convoy. He was to travel to the Republic to consult with the ambassador and Irish ministers, but postponed his trip after Margaret Thatcher refused to allow Northern Ireland ministers to pair their votes in House of Commons divisions. Rees wrote in his memoirs, 'Northern Ireland, a Personal Perspective', that it seemed likely the IRA had known of his impending visit but were unaware of its cancellation.[5]


The Irish government launched a manhunt involving 4,000 Gardaí and 2,000 soldiers.[9] Taoiseach Liam Cosgrave declared that "this atrocity fills all decent Irish people with a sense of shame."[10] In London, the UK Prime Minister James Callaghan condemned the assassins as a "common enemy whom we must destroy or be destroyed by".[9] Thirteen suspected members of the IRA were arrested during raids as the British and Irish governments attempted to apprehend the assassins, but no one was ever convicted of the killings. In 2006, released Foreign and Commonwealth Office files revealed that the Gardaí had matched a partial fingerprint at the scene to Martin Taylor, an IRA member suspected of gun running from the United States.[4] Taylor denied involvement.[11]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c "Biggs, Christopher Thomas Ewart". Dictionary of Irish Biography.
  2. ^ "Devoted diplomat who abhorred violence". The Irish Times. 25 July 2001.
  3. ^ "Kate Ewart-Biggs: 'We were greeted by a line of staff crying... I knew in that moment my father had died'". belfasttelegraph. ISSN 0307-1235. Retrieved 18 July 2022.
  4. ^ a b c "Ireland and the death of the ambassador". The Daily Telegraph. 29 December 2006.
  5. ^ a b c "MEMORIAL SERVICE FOR CHRISTOPHER EWART-BIGGS, BRITISH AMBASSADOR TO THE REPUBLIC OF IRELAND, 1976". London: Foreign and Commonwealth Office. 19 July 2001.
  6. ^ "Sir Brian Cubbon, civil servant - obituary". The Telegraph. London. 26 May 2015. Retrieved 26 May 2015.
  7. ^ Collins, Liam (21 July 2016). "UK diplomat's murder on lonely Dublin road triggered State crisis". Irish Independent.
  8. ^ "Tragic irony of brutal murder". Belfasttelegraph.
  9. ^ a b "Trial by Fire in Dublin". Time. 2 August 1976. Archived from the original on 20 February 2011.
  10. ^ Weinraub, Bernard (22 July 1976). "Britain's Envoy in Dublin Killed by Mine". The New York Times.
  11. ^ Payne, Stewart (30 December 2006). "Prime suspect denies ambassador's murder". The Daily Telegraph.

External links[edit]

Diplomatic posts
Preceded by British Ambassador to Ireland
Succeeded by