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Ian Roberts – ‘Vorontsov – Father and Son: An Anglo-Russian Duo’

Semyon Romanovich Vorontsov.jpg

Since the appointment of Count Semion Romanovich Vorontsov as Russian Ambassador to Great Britain in 1795, the Vorontsov family came to represent the flesh and blood of Anglo-Russian relations – with its members playing pivotal roles in events that were to shape the history of both countries. Ian Roberts gives a fascinating insight into these landmark junctures in history, told through the individual perspectives of the noble Russian / English family.


S.R. Vorontsov (1744-1832) was first a Russian army officer during the reign of the Emperor Paul and the Empress Catherine the Great.  From 1795-1806, he was Russian Ambassador to Great Britain.  After the death of Catherine and the assassination of Paul, he served as ambassador for Alexander I.  Discovering Alexander’s alliance with Napoleon at Tilsit in 1806, he resigned and remained in Britain, where he lived out the rest of his life.  A street has been named after him in London NW8, the name being spelled as Woronzow.  He had two children, a son and a daughter.  His daughter married the 11th Earl of Pembroke and one of their children was Sidney Herbert, Secretary-at-War during the Crimean War.

S.R. Vorontsov’s son was brought up and educated privately in Britain.  In 1801, he left Britain and went to join the Russian army as an officer in the Preobrazhensky guards regiment.  He fought in the Napoleonic wars, entering Paris in 1814.  From 1815-1819, he was C.O. of the Russian Corps in the Allied Occupation Army under the command of Wellington.  After marriage, he was appointed Governor of Bessarabia by Alexander.  In 1854, he retired shortly before the outbreak of the Crimean War.  In 1856, he was made a Field Marshal by Alexander II and he died in 1856.

Ian Roberts studied German and Russian at Cambridge University in 1945, graduating with First Class honours, having also acquired a basic knowledge of Czech and Serbo-Croat.  After two years National Service as a Pilot Officer in the RAF, he joined the FCO in October 1951.  His postings abroad included Austria, Germany, Hungary, Rwanda and Burundi, Argentina and Norway.  After retirement in 1984, he was awarded a Leverhulme Trust Research Grant in order to write a book on the Russian intervention in Hungary in 1849 (McMillan, 1990).  This was followed by A History of SSEES, 1915-1990, published in 1991 to mark the School’s 75th anniversary.  A second, up-dated edition which included details of SSEES’s merger with UCL was published in 2009.  Preparations are also in progress for a celebration of SSEES’s centenary in 2015.