Rennell Rodd, 1st Baron Rennell

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
The Lord Rennell
British Ambassador to Italy
In office
MonarchsEdward VII
George V
Preceded byEdwin Henry Egerton
Succeeded byGeorge Buchanan
Member of Parliament for St Marylebone
In office
Preceded byDouglas McGarel Hogg
Succeeded byAlec Cunningham-Reid
Personal details
James Rennell Rodd

9 November 1858 (1858-11-09)
London, England
Died26 July 1941 (1941-07-27) (aged 82)
Lilias Georgina Guthrie
(m. 1894)
RelationsJohn Tremayne Rodd (grandfather)
Anthony Todd Thomson (grandfather)
Parent(s)James Rennell Rodd
Elizabeth Anne Thomson
EducationHaileybury College
Alma materBalliol College, Oxford

James Rennell Rodd, 1st Baron Rennell, GCB, GCMG, GCVO, PC (9 November 1858 – 26 July 1941), known as Sir Rennell Rodd before 1933, was a British diplomat, poet and politician. He served as British Ambassador to Italy during the First World War.

Early life[edit]

Rodd was born in London on 9 November 1858. He was the only son of Cornishman Major James Rennell Rodd (1812–1892) of the Duke of Cornwall's Light Infantry, and his wife Elizabeth Anne Thomson, the third daughter of Dr. Anthony Todd Thomson. His paternal grandparents were Admiral Sir John Tremayne Rodd and the former Jane Rennell, a daughter of the geographer James Rennell.[1]

Rodd was educated at Haileybury and Balliol College, Oxford, where he was associated with the circle of Oscar Wilde. In 1880, he won the Newdigate prize for Raleigh.[2] Wilde later assisted Rodd in securing publication for his first book of verse, Rose Leaf and Apple Leaf, for which Wilde provided an introduction.[3] As Wilde began to court scandal in his public career, their friendship cooled.[4] Following Wilde's trial, Rodd strongly dissociated himself from him,[5] particularly as his own work had contained a number of gently homoerotic verses, such as: "his eyes would gaze from his soul at mine/My eyes that would answer without one sign/And that were enough for love."[6]


Rodd entered the British Diplomatic Service in 1883, and served in minor positions at embassies in Berlin, Rome, Athens and Paris. From 1894 to 1902, Rodd worked under the Consul-General of Egypt, Lord Cromer. He played an important part in negotiating the Anglo-Ethiopian Treaty of 1897 with Emperor Menelik II of Ethiopia. In late 1901, he was appointed first secretary at the embassy in Rome, where he arrived in 1902, and remained for the next two years.[7]

In 1904, Rodd was made minister plenipotentiary to Sweden—and until November 1905, Norway—but did not arrive until 17 January 1905. He played an active and neutral part in the Dissolution of the union between Norway and Sweden, for which he was rewarded the Grand Cross of the Order of the Polar Star by King Oscar II. After the secession, he continued as a minister in Sweden until 1908.

In 1908 he was appointed ambassador to Italy. He remained in this post until 1919, and played a key role in securing Italy's adhesion to the Triple Entente. Rodd left the Diplomatic Service in 1919, but nonetheless served on the mission to Egypt in 1920, with The Viscount Milner. Rodd was the British delegate to the League of Nations from 1921 to 1923. He also sat as Unionist Member of Parliament for the constituency of St Marylebone between 1928 and 1932.[8]

Writing career and scholar[edit]

Apart from his diplomatic services Rodd was also a published poet and scholar of ancient Greece and Rome.[9] In 1920 he delivered the British Academy's Italian Lecture,[10][11] and in 1928 he visited America where he delivered a lecture on modern Greek folklore to an enraptured H.P. Lovecraft.[12] Earlier in 1927 he met travel writer Richard Halliburton at a party and the two "clicked at once" as Halliburton recounted his time in Greece, including his following in the footsteps of Odysseus and Alexander the Great, deeds which appeared in his recent The Glorious Adventure. [13] He published his memoirs, entitled Social and Diplomatic Memories, in three volumes between 1922 and 1925. His diaries were published in 1981 by Torsten Burgman, and edited by Victor Lal in 2005.[14]


Rodd was appointed Companion of the Order of the Bath (CB) in 1897, Knight Commander of the Order of St Michael and St George (KCMG) in 1899, Knight Grand Cross of the Royal Victorian Order (GCVO) in 1905, Knight Grand Cross of the Order of St Michael and St George (GCMG) in 1915, and Knight Grand Cross of the Order of the Bath (GCB) in the 1920 New Year Honours.[15] He was appointed to the Privy Council in 1908 and in 1933 he was raised to the peerage as Baron Rennell, of Rodd in the County of Hereford.[16]

Personal life[edit]

On 27 October 1894, Rennell Rodd was married to Lilias Georgina Guthrie (1864–1951) at St George's Hanover Square Church. She was the fourth daughter of James Alexander Guthrie, 4th Baron of Craigie and the former Elinor Stirling (a daughter of Adm. Sir James Stirling, Governor of Western Australia from 1834 to 1838). Lilias' sister, Rose Ellinor Guthrie, was the wife of Maj.-Gen. The Hon. Sir Cecil Edward Bingham (a younger son of Charles Bingham, 4th Earl of Lucan). They had four sons and two daughters, including:

Lord Rennell died in July 1941, aged 82.[17] He was succeeded in the barony by his second, but eldest surviving, son Francis, who later served as president of the Royal Geographical Society.[18] His widow died on 20 September 1951.


Though his daughter Gloria, he was a grandfather of four boys, including the portrait painter Dominick Elwes, who had three sons with Tessa Kennedy, including actor Cary Elwes.[19]


Coat of arms of Rennell Rodd, 1st Baron Rennell
A representation of the Colossus of Rhodes over the shoulder a bow in the dexter hand an arrow and in the sinister a cup all Proper.
Argent two trefoils slipped Sable on a chief of the second three crescents of the first.
On either side a Cornish chough wings elevated and addorsed Proper each charged on the breast with a trefoil slipped Argent.
Recte Omnia Duce Deo[20]


  1. ^ "Rodd, James Rennell, first Baron Rennell (1858–1941), diplomatist and classical scholar". Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (online ed.). Oxford University Press. 2004. doi:10.1093/ref:odnb/35809. ISBN 978-0-19-861412-8. Retrieved 4 June 2020. (Subscription or UK public library membership required.)
  2. ^ Bose, T.; Colbeck, R. N. (1 November 2011). A Bookman's Catalogue Vol. 2 M-End: The Norman Colbeck Collection of Nineteenth-Century and Edwardian Poetry and Belles Lettres. UBC Press. ISBN 978-0-7748-4481-9.
  3. ^ Oscar Wilde: Poems in Prose and Private Letters ; Including an Intimate Preface by His Biographer, Frank Harris. Pearson's (25c) Library. 1919. p. 10. Retrieved 4 June 2020.
  4. ^ Grech, Leanne (2019). Oscar Wilde's Aesthetic Education: The Oxford Classical Curriculum. Springer. p. 26. ISBN 978-3-030-14374-9. Retrieved 4 June 2020.
  5. ^ Rodd, James Rennell, Social and Diplomatic Memories, 1884–1893, Edward Arnold, London 1922, pp. 22–5.
  6. ^ Rodd, Rennell Rose Leaf And Apple Leaf, J.M. Stoddart 1882, p59
  7. ^ "No. 27367". The London Gazette. 22 October 1901. p. 6846.
  8. ^ "Rodd, James Rennell (1858-1941) 1st Baron Rennell, diplomat". The National Archives. Retrieved 4 June 2020.
  9. ^ "James Rennell Rodd, 1st Baron Rennell (1858-1941) - Rome of the Renaissance and to-day / by Sir Rennell Rodd ; with illustrations by Henry Rushbury". Retrieved 4 June 2020.
  10. ^ Rodd, Sir Rennell (1920). "The Italian People". Proceedings of the British Academy. 9: 389–407.
  11. ^ "Italian Lectures". British Academy.
  12. ^ H.P. Lovecraft, Selected Letters II, page 331.
  13. ^ Richard Halliburton; His Story of His Life's Adventures, Bobbs-Merrill Company, 1940, p. 278.
  14. ^ Legg, L. G. Wickham, Williams, E. T (editors). The Dictionary of National Biography, 1941-1950. Oxford University Press, 1959.
  15. ^ "No. 31712". The London Gazette (Supplement). 30 December 1919. p. 3.
  16. ^ "No. 33917". The London Gazette. 3 March 1933. p. 1424.
  17. ^ "Rennell, Baron (UK, 1933)". Heraldic Media Limited. Retrieved 4 June 2020.
  18. ^ "Obituary: Lord Rennell of Rodd, KBE, CB, JP". The Geographical Journal. 144 (2): 392–393. 1978. ISSN 0016-7398. JSTOR 634229.
  19. ^ Burke's Peerage, Baronetage and Knightage, 107th edition, vol. 3, ed. Charles Mosley, Burke's Peerage Ltd, 2003, p. 3319
  20. ^ Burke's Peerage. 1956.

External links[edit]

Diplomatic posts
Preceded by Envoy Extraordinary and Minister Plenipotentiary
to the King of Norway

Succeeded by
Envoy Extraordinary and Minister Plenipotentiary
to the King of Sweden

Succeeded by
Preceded by British Ambassador to Italy
Succeeded by
Parliament of the United Kingdom
Preceded by Member of Parliament for St Marylebone
Succeeded by
Peerage of the United Kingdom
New creation Baron Rennell
1933 – 1941
Succeeded by