The Lord Carrington
Carrington in 1984
6th Secretary General of NATO
In office
25 June 1984 – 1 July 1988
Preceded byJoseph Luns
Succeeded byManfred Wörner
Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs
In office
4 May 1979 – 5 April 1982
Prime MinisterMargaret Thatcher
Preceded byDavid Owen
Succeeded byFrancis Pym
Other ministerial offices
In office
4 March 1974 – 4 May 1979
Preceded byThe Lord Shackleton
Succeeded byThe Lord Peart
In office
16 October 1964 – 20 June 1970
Preceded byThe Earl Alexander of Hillsborough
Succeeded byThe Lord Shackleton
Secretary of State for Energy
In office
8 January 1974 – 4 March 1974
Prime MinisterEdward Heath
Preceded byOffice established
Succeeded byEric Varley
Chairman of the Conservative Party
In office
7 April 1972 – 4 March 1974
LeaderEdward Heath
Preceded byPeter Thomas
Succeeded byWilliam Whitelaw
Secretary of State for Defence
In office
20 June 1970 – 8 January 1974
Prime MinisterEdward Heath
Preceded byDenis Healey
Succeeded byIan Gilmour
In office
20 October 1963 – 16 October 1964
Prime MinisterSir Alec Douglas-Home
Preceded by
Succeeded by
First Lord of the Admiralty
In office
14 October 1959 – 20 October 1963
Prime MinisterHarold Macmillan
Preceded byThe Earl of Selkirk
Succeeded byThe Earl Jellicoe
High Commissioner to Australia
In office
26 May 1956 – 14 October 1959
Prime Minister
Preceded byStephen Holmes
Succeeded bySir William Oliver
Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Defence
In office
18 October 1954 – 26 May 1956
Prime Minister
Preceded byNigel Birch
Succeeded byThe Earl of Gosford
Parliamentary Secretary to
the Ministry of Agriculture and Food
In office
5 November 1951 – 18 October 1954
Serving with Richard Nugent
Prime MinisterSir Winston Churchill
Preceded by
Succeeded by
Member of the House of Lords
Lord Temporal
as a hereditary peer
6 June 1940 – 11 November 1999
Preceded byThe 5th Baron Carrington
Succeeded bySeat abolished[a]
as a life peer
17 November 1999 – 9 July 2018
Personal details
Peter Alexander Rupert Carington

(1919-06-06)6 June 1919
London, England
Died9 July 2018(2018-07-09) (aged 99)
Bledlow, England
Political partyConservative
Iona McClean
(m. 1942; died 2009)
Children3, including Rupert
Alma materRoyal Military College, Sandhurst
Military service
AllegianceUnited Kingdom
Branch/service British Army
Years of service1939–1949 (inactive from 1945)
UnitGrenadier Guards
Battles/warsSecond World War
AwardsMilitary Cross
Service No.85592

Peter Alexander Rupert Carington, 6th Baron Carrington, Baron Carington of Upton, KG, GCMG, CH, MC, PC, DL (6 June 1919 – 9 July 2018), was a British Conservative Party politician and hereditary peer who served as Defence Secretary from 1970 to 1974, Foreign Secretary from 1979 to 1982, Chairman of the General Electric Company from 1983 to 1984, and Secretary General of NATO from 1984 to 1988. In Margaret Thatcher's first government, he played a major role in negotiating the Lancaster House Agreement that ended the conflict in Rhodesia and enabled the creation of Zimbabwe.

Carington was Foreign Secretary in 1982 when Argentina invaded the Falkland Islands. He took full responsibility for the failure to foresee this and resigned. As NATO secretary general, he helped prevent a war between Greece and Turkey during the 1987 Aegean crisis.[1]

Following the House of Lords Act 1999, which removed the automatic right of hereditary peers to sit in the House of Lords, Carington was created a life peer as Baron Carington of Upton.

Background and early life

The surname "Carrington" (with two Rs) was adopted by royal licence dated 1839 by his direct male ancestor Robert Carrington, 2nd Baron Carrington, in lieu of Smith.[2] The latter's father, Robert Smith, MP for Nottingham, was created Baron Carrington in 1796 (Peerage of Ireland) and 1797 (Peerage of Great Britain).[3] The spelling of the surname was changed by royal licence to "Carington" (with one r) in 1880 by the 2nd Baron's sons, but the spelling of the title did not change.

Born in Chelsea on 6 June 1919,[4][5] Peter Alexander Rupert Carington[6] was the only son of the 5th Baron Carrington by his wife, the Hon. Sybil Marion Colville, a daughter of Charles Colville, 2nd Viscount Colville of Culross.[7] His great-uncles were the Liberal statesman Charles Wynn-Carington, 1st Marquess of Lincolnshire, and politician and courtier the Hon. Sir William Carington.[citation needed] Carington grew up in Millaton House, in Bridestowe, Devon.[8] He went to Sandroyd School from 1928 to 1932,[9] based at that time in Cobham, Surrey, and Eton College. On leaving Eton, his housemaster, Cyril Butterwick, said of Carington, "For a really stupid boy, there are three possible professions: farming, soldiering and stockbroking".[6]

Military service

After training at the Royal Military College, Sandhurst, Carington was commissioned into the Grenadier Guards as a second lieutenant on 26 January 1939.[10] He served with the regiment during the Second World War, was promoted to lieutenant on 1 January 1941,[11] and later temporary captain[12] and acting major. Carington was a tank commander during Operation Market Garden in the Netherlands in 1944. He led the first group of four Sherman tanks to cross the Nijmegen road bridge across the Waal River and was awarded the Military Cross (MC) on 1 March 1945 "in recognition of gallant and distinguished services in North West Europe".[13][12] After the war, Carington remained in the army until 1949.[14]

Political career 1946–1982

In 1938, Carington succeeded his father as 6th Baron Carrington. Although he became eligible to take his seat in the House of Lords on his 21st birthday in 1940, since he was on active service, he did not do so until 9 October 1945.[15] After leaving the Army, Carington became involved in politics, and served in the Conservative governments of Winston Churchill and Anthony Eden as Parliamentary secretary to the Minister of Agriculture and Food from November 1951 to October 1954. He was also appointed Deputy lieutenant of Buckinghamshire on 2 July 1951.[16] During the Crichel Down affair, which led to the resignation of minister Thomas Dugdale, Carington tendered his resignation, which was refused by the Prime Minister. Carington was Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Defence from October 1954 to October 1956, and was then appointed High Commissioner to Australia, a post he held until October 1959. He became a Privy Counsellor in 1959.[17]

Stone set by Lord Carrington, while High Commissioner to Australia, at All Saints Church, Canberra

Following his return to Britain he served under Harold Macmillan as First Lord of the Admiralty until October 1963.[18] In this role, Carington worked with Lord Mountbatten, who was Chief of the Defence Staff, during a time of major restructuring and reform of the Admiralty.[19] After Alec Douglas-Home became prime minister in October 1963, Carington held the posts of minister without portfolio and Leader of the House of Lords until October 1964, when the general election led to a change of government. From 1964 to 1970 he was Leader of the Opposition in the House of Lords.

When the Conservatives returned to power in 1970 under Edward Heath, Carington became Defence Secretary, where he remained until the February 1974 general election. In a 1977 letter discussing the policy of torture of Irish republican internees during Operation Demetrius in August 1971, the then Home Secretary Merlyn Rees attributed the origins of the policy to Carington: '"It is my view (confirmed by Brian Faulkner before his death [NI's prime minister at the time]) that the decision to use methods of torture in Northern Ireland in 1971/72 was taken by ministers – in particular Lord Carrington, then secretary of state for defence."[20][21]

Carington became shadow defence secretary in 1968 after Enoch Powell was dismissed, following his controversial Rivers of Blood speech on immigration.[22] He also served as Chairman of the Conservative Party from 1972 to 1974, and was briefly Secretary of State for Energy from January to March 1974.

Carington (then Foreign Secretary) and US Secretary of State Alexander Haig meet during a 1981 state visit by Margaret Thatcher to the US.

Carington was again leader of the opposition in the House of Lords from 1974 to 1979. In 1979 he was made Foreign Secretary and Minister for Overseas Development in the first cabinet of Margaret Thatcher. Thatcher spoke highly of Carington, stating that "Peter had great panache and the ability to identify immediately the main points in any argument; and he could express himself in pungent terms. We had disagreements, but there were never any hard feelings."[23]

Carington chaired the Lancaster House conference in 1979, attended by Ian Smith, Abel Muzorewa, Robert Mugabe, Joshua Nkomo and Josiah Tongogara, which brought to an end Rhodesia's Bush War. He later expressed his support for Mugabe over Smith.[24]

Carington was primarily responsible for ensuring the 1982 Canada act passed the House of Lords. Under the provisions of the act, which received Royal Assent on 29 March 1982, the British Parliament renounced any future role in amending the Canadian constitution, a process known in the former dominion as patriation.

Carington was foreign secretary when Argentina invaded the Falkland Islands on 2 April 1982. He resigned his position on 5 April, taking full responsibility for the complacency of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office in its failure to foresee this development[25] and for the misleading signals sent by the Foreign Office on British intentions for retaining control over the Falklands.[26] In her autobiography, Margaret Thatcher later expressed her sorrow at his departure.[27] She had asked him to stay but he left because he and the Foreign Office were distrusted and even hated by many back-bench Conservatives.[28]

Lord Carrington was the last hereditary peer to hold one of the four Great Offices of State. After his resignation, no other member of the House of Lords held one of these offices until the appointment of former Prime Minister David Cameron as foreign secretary in 2023.[29][b]

Later life and death

Carrington (then NATO Secretary General) with West German Foreign Minister Genscher in Bonn, 1984

Carington served as Secretary General of NATO from 1984 to 1988. He was chairman of the Victoria and Albert Museum from 1983 to 1988.[31] He was appointed Chancellor of the Order of St Michael and St George on 1 August 1984,[32] serving until June 1994.[33]

In 1991, he presided over diplomatic talks about the breakup of Yugoslavia and attempted to pass a plan to end the wars and result in each republic becoming an independent nation.[34]

Aside from his political posts, Carington was chancellor of the University of Reading and served as chairman of several companies, including Christie's, and as a director of many others, including Barclays Bank, Cadbury Schweppes and The Daily Telegraph. He also chaired the Bilderberg conferences from 1990 to 1998, being succeeded in 1999 by Étienne Davignon.[35] From 1983 to 2002, he was president of the Pilgrims Society,[36][37] and from 1971 to 2018 president of the Britain–Australia Society.[38] He was appointed Chancellor of the Order of the Garter on 8 November 1994,[39] a role from which he retired in October 2012.[40]

After the House of Lords Act 1999 removed the automatic right of hereditary peers to sit in the House of Lords, Carington, along with all former leaders of the House of Lords, was given a life peerage on 17 November 1999. He took this as Baron Carington of Upton, of Upton in the County of Nottinghamshire.[41] He was the longest-serving member of the House of Lords, and following the retirement of Lord Barber of Tewkesbury in 2016, had been the oldest. He was the second longest-serving member of the Privy Council after the Duke of Edinburgh.

He died on 9 July 2018, aged 99, of natural causes[42][43][4] at his home, the Manor House,[44] in Bledlow, Buckinghamshire.[45] His son Rupert succeeded him as 7th Baron Carrington.[6]

A memorial service was held at Westminster Abbey on 31 January 2019.[46]


Carington married Iona McClean (19 March 1920 – 7 June 2009), daughter of Lt Col. Sir Francis McClean AFC and Aileen Wale, on 25 April 1942. They had three children: Alexandra de Bunsen DL (born 1943), Virginia Carington CVO (born 1946; formerly married to Lord Ashcombe),[47] and Rupert Carington, 7th Baron Carrington DL (born 1948). Carington's wife, Lady Carrington, died on 7 June 2009, aged 89.[48][49]

In popular culture

Carington was a guest on BBC Radio 4's long-running programme Desert Island Discs in 1975[50] and on the same station's A Good Read in 2004.[51]

In the 1977 war film A Bridge Too Far, John Stride played a Grenadier Guards captain at Nijmegen Bridge based on Carington. This portrayal depicted the historical argument between Carington and Major Julian Cook on whether to move forward along the "Hell's Highway" route.[52]

In February 1982 Carington was portrayed by Rowan Atkinson in a Not the Nine O'Clock News parody of Question Time, pedantically discussing an imminent nuclear holocaust.[53][54]

Carington was portrayed by James Fox in the 2002 BBC production of Ian Curteis's The Falklands Play.[55] He was also briefly portrayed by James Smith in the 2011 film The Iron Lady,[56] and by Jeff Rawle in the 2014 play Handbagged.[57]


Lord Carrington, as Chancellor of the Order of the Garter, in procession to St George's Chapel in 2006

Honorary degrees


Coat of arms of Peter Carington, 6th Baron Carrington
6th Baron Carrington since 1938
A coronet of a Baron
An elephant's head erased or eared gules charged on the neck with three fleurs-de-lis, two and one azure.
Mantling: Or and sable.
Or, a chevron cotised between three demi-griffins couped those in chief respectant sable.[73][74]
Two griffins wings elevated sable, the dexter charged on the body with three fleurs-de-lis palewise or and the sinister with three trefoils slipped palewise of the last.[75]
Latin: Tenacious and faithful
The Order of the Garter circlet.[76]
The banner of the Baron Carrington's arms as Knight Companion of the Garter



  1. ^ Seat abolished by the House of Lords Act 1999.
  2. ^ David Cameron was made a life peer, becoming Lord Cameron of Chipping Norton, at the time he was appointed Foreign Secretary.[30]


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  2. ^ Cokayne, and others, The Complete Peerage, volume II, p. 197.
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Further reading

Political offices Preceded byThe Earl of ListowelArthur Champion Parliamentary Secretary to the Board of Agriculture and Fisheries 1951–1954 Served alongside: Richard Nugent Succeeded byRichard NugentThe Earl St Aldwyn Preceded byNigel Birch Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Defence 1954–1956 Succeeded byThe Earl of Gosford Preceded byThe Earl of Selkirk First Lord of the Admiralty 1959–1963 Succeeded byThe Earl Jellicoe Preceded byBill Deedes Minister without Portfolio 1963–1964 Succeeded byGeorge Thomson Preceded byThe Viscount Hailsham Leader of the House of Lords 1963–1964 Succeeded byThe Earl of Longford Preceded byDenis Healey Secretary of State for Defence 1970–1974 Succeeded byIan Gilmour New office Secretary of State for Energy 1974 Succeeded byEric Varley Preceded byDavid Owen Foreign Secretary 1979–1982 Succeeded byFrancis Pym Diplomatic posts Preceded bySir Stephen Holmes High Commissioner to Australia 1956–1959 Succeeded bySir William Oliver Preceded byJoseph Luns Secretary General of NATO 1984–1988 Succeeded byManfred Wörner Party political offices Preceded byThe Viscount Hailsham Leader of the Conservative Party in the House of Lords 1963–1970 Succeeded byThe Earl Jellicoe Preceded byPeter Thomas Chairman of the Conservative Party 1972–1974 Succeeded byWilliam Whitelaw Preceded byThe Lord Windlesham Leader of the Conservative Party in the House of Lords 1974–1979 Succeeded byThe Lord Soames Business positions Preceded bySir Geoffrey Gibbs Chairman of the Australia and New Zealand Bank Ltd 1967–1969 Merged into ANZ Banking Group New title Chairman of ANZ Banking Group 1969–1970 Succeeded bySir Alexander Ross Academic offices Preceded byThe Lord Sherfield Chancellor of the University of Reading 1992–2007 Succeeded byJohn Madejski Honorary titles Preceded byThe Marquess of Abergavenny Chancellor of the Order of the Garter 1994–2012 Succeeded byThe Duke of Abercorn Preceded byThe Earl Jellicoe Longest-serving member in the House of Lords 2007–2018 Succeeded byThe Lord Denham Peerage of Ireland Preceded byRupert Carington Baron Carrington 2nd creation1938–2018 Succeeded byRupert Carington Peerage of Great Britain Preceded byRupert Carington Baron Carrington 3rd creation1938–2018 Member of the House of Lords(1940–1999) Succeeded byRupert Carington