Ignatius Valentine Chirol

Ignatius Valentine Chirol

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Sir Ignatius Valentine Chirol (28 May 1852 – 22 October 1929) was a journalist, prolific author, historian and British diplomat. He was a passionate imperialist and believed that Imperial Germany and Muslim unrest were the biggest threats to the British Empire
British Empire
The British Empire comprised the dominions, colonies, protectorates, mandates and other territories ruled or administered by the United Kingdom. It originated with the overseas colonies and trading posts established by England in the late 16th and early 17th centuries. At its height, it was the...


He was the son of the Rev. Alexander Chirol and Harriet Chirol (née Ashburnham). His education was mostly in France
The French Republic , The French Republic , The French Republic , (commonly known as France , is a unitary semi-presidential republic in Western Europe with several overseas territories and islands located on other continents and in the Indian, Pacific, and Atlantic oceans. Metropolitan France...

 and Germany
Germany , officially the Federal Republic of Germany , is a federal parliamentary republic in Europe. The country consists of 16 states while the capital and largest city is Berlin. Germany covers an area of 357,021 km2 and has a largely temperate seasonal climate...


Early life

Growing up in France with his parents, Chirol lived in Versailles
Versailles , a city renowned for its château, the Palace of Versailles, was the de facto capital of the kingdom of France for over a century, from 1682 to 1789. It is now a wealthy suburb of Paris and remains an important administrative and judicial centre...

 where he also graduated high school.

In 1869, the young Chirol, already bilingual, moved to Germany, residing in a small town near Frankfurt am Main. By 1870, the Franco-Prussian war
Franco-Prussian War
The Franco-Prussian War or Franco-German War, often referred to in France as the 1870 War was a conflict between the Second French Empire and the Kingdom of Prussia. Prussia was aided by the North German Confederation, of which it was a member, and the South German states of Baden, Württemberg and...

 had broken out which Chirol experienced from both sides. He returned to Paris in 1871 just in time to see the Germans enter Paris. Thanks to his good French and German, he was able to come and go easily passing for a citizen of either side and it was here that he began to acquire his taste for adventure and politics.

Given the chaos in France, the Chirols returned to their family home in Hove. In April 1872, Chirol joined the Foreign Office
Foreign and Commonwealth Office
The Foreign and Commonwealth Office, commonly called the Foreign Office or the FCO is a British government department responsible for promoting the interests of the United Kingdom overseas, created in 1968 by merging the Foreign Office and the Commonwealth Office.The head of the FCO is the...

 where he worked for until spring 1876. Unsatisfied with the slow pace of life in the Foreign Office, Chirol returned to travelling where things moved much quicker.

Having begun to learn Arabic before leaving England, he set off to Egypt arriving in Cairo where he took up residence. In 1879, he set off for Beirut not long after the British had taken control of Cyprus. From there, the travelled inland through Syria with Laurence Oliphant and from whom he'd later learn to draw. But it was here in the Middle East where he took up journalism for the first time writing for the Levant Herald, then the leading newspaper in the Near East.

From there, Chirol moved on travelling to Istanbul and later throughout the Balkans. From these travels came his first book, Twixt Greek and Turk.


Chirol began as correspondent and editor of The Times
The Times
The Times is a British daily national newspaper, first published in London in 1785 under the title The Daily Universal Register . The Times and its sister paper The Sunday Times are published by Times Newspapers Limited, a subsidiary since 1981 of News International...

travelling across the globe writing about international events. His first major post was to Berlin in 1892 where he formed many close relationships with the German Foreign Ministry including the Foreign Minister. He lived there until 1896, reporting on Anglo-German relations. Even after returning to London, Chirol travelled back to Berlin and often acted as a backchannel between the English and Germans. Later, he succeeded Donald Mackenzie Wallace
Donald Mackenzie Wallace
Sir Donald Mackenzie Wallace KCIE, KCVO was a British public servant, editor and foreign correspondent of The Times .-Early life:...

 as director of foreign department of The Times in 1899.

Despite being in charge of The Times foreign line, he still managed to travel a great deal. In 1902 he travelled overlandto India heading first to Moscow and on to Isfahan, Quetta, Delhi and finally Calcutta where he met with Lord George Nathaniel Curzon. Chirol and Curzon got on quite well, having first met in Cairo in 1895. Chirol was impressed with Curzon's fine governing calling him "a marvellous man for work." Chirol's first visit to India
India , officially the Republic of India , is a country in South Asia. It is the seventh-largest country by geographical area, the second-most populous country with over 1.2 billion people, and the most populous democracy in the world...

 inspired a long time love for the country which he would often return to throughout his life. Towards the end of his trip, he travelled north to Indore where he stayed with Sir Francis Younghusband.

After returning to London, Chirol continued working on his next book The Middle Eastern Question based on a series of 19 articles by Chirol that appeared in The Times in 1902 and 1903. His book helped to bring the term Middle East
Middle East
The Middle East is a region that encompasses Western Asia and Northern Africa. It is often used as a synonym for Near East, in opposition to Far East...

 into common usage. Chirol dedicated the book to his new friend Curzon whom he would soon see again. In November 1903 he sailed to Karachi where he boarded a yacht to tour the Persian Gulf with Lord and Lady Curzon. Other notable guests on the voyage included a young Winston Churchill
Winston Churchill
Sir Winston Leonard Spencer-Churchill, was a predominantly Conservative British politician and statesman known for his leadership of the United Kingdom during the Second World War. He is widely regarded as one of the greatest wartime leaders of the century and served as Prime Minister twice...

. Chirol returned to London
London is the capital city of :England and the :United Kingdom, the largest metropolitan area in the United Kingdom, and the largest urban zone in the European Union by most measures. Located on the River Thames, London has been a major settlement for two millennia, its history going back to its...

 by Christmas and just as the Russo-Japanese War
Russo-Japanese War
The Russo-Japanese War was "the first great war of the 20th century." It grew out of rival imperial ambitions of the Russian Empire and Japanese Empire over Manchuria and Korea...

 was breaking out. He later travelled to Washington D.C. where he met with Teddy Roosevelt and many U.S. Congress members.

After two decades as a journalist he retired from The Times on December 21 1911 and was knighted shortly thereafter on January 1 1912. for his distinguished service as a foreign affairs advisor. He rejoined the Foreign Office as a diplomat and was soon on his way to the Balkans as World War I broke out. Travelling through Greece, Macedonia, Bulgaria, Serbia and Romania, Chirol along with J.D. Gregory met with foreign officials and heads of state to help convince them to join the Allied side. In addition, he wrote a stern critique of the Foreign Office's failings in the region including the ongoing quagmire at Gallipoli
The Gallipoli peninsula is located in Turkish Thrace , the European part of Turkey, with the Aegean Sea to the west and the Dardanelles straits to the east. Gallipoli derives its name from the Greek "Καλλίπολις" , meaning "Beautiful City"...


Deprecatory comments in Chirol's book Indian Unrest resulted in a civil suit being brought against him in London by Bal Gangadhar Tilak
Bal Gangadhar Tilak
Lokmanya Tilak –, was an Indian nationalist, teacher, social reformer and independence fighter who was the first popular leader of the Indian Independence Movement. The British colonial authorities derogatorily called the great leader "Father of the Indian unrest"...

, who advocated Indian independence
Indian independence movement
The term Indian independence movement encompasses a wide area of political organisations, philosophies, and movements which had the common aim of ending first British East India Company rule, and then British imperial authority, in parts of South Asia...

. Although Tilak ultimately lost the suit, Chirol ended up spending almost two years in India on account of it, missing the bulk of World War I
World War I
World War I , which was predominantly called the World War or the Great War from its occurrence until 1939, and the First World War or World War I thereafter, was a major war centred in Europe that began on 28 July 1914 and lasted until 11 November 1918...

. He later travelled to Paris as part of a government delegation whose job it was to work on terms of peace. Though no longer formally with the newspaper, Chirol continued to write articles occasionally and maintained his wide range of journalistic and diplomatic conctacts. In 1924, he travelled to the United States on a lecture tour where he spoke about the growing problems between the Occident and the Orient as well as warned against American isolationism
Isolationism is the policy or doctrine of isolating one's country from the affairs of other nations by declining to enter into alliances, foreign economic commitments, international agreements, etc., seeking to devote the entire efforts of one's country to its own advancement and remain at peace by...

 which he greatly feared. He spent the remainder of his retired life travelling the world to places like Morocco, Egypt, South Africa and especially India. In addition, he published a number of other books.

Chirol died in London in 1929 and was missed my many. Major-General Sir Neill Malcolm
Neill Malcolm
Major-General Sir Neill Malcolm KCB DSO was a British Army officer who commanded the Troops in the Straits Settlements.-Military career:...

 called him "The friend of viceroys, the intimate of ambassadors, one might almost say the counsellor of ministers, he was [also] one of the noblest characters that ever adorned British journalism."

Books by Chirol

  • Twixt Greek and Turk (1881)
  • The Far Eastern Question (1896)
  • Indian Unrest (1910)
  • Serbia and the Serbs (1914)
  • Germany and the fear of Russia (1914)
  • Cecil Spring-Rice
    Cecil Spring-Rice
    Sir Cecil Arthur Spring-Rice GCMG GCVO , was a British diplomat who served as British Ambassador to the United States from 1912 to 1918.-Early life:...

    : In Memoriam
  • The End of the Ottoman Empire (1920)
  • The Egyptian Problem (1921)
  • India; Old and New (1921)
  • Occident and the Orient; lectures on the Harris Foundation (1924)
  • Fifty years in a changing World (1927)
  • With Pen and Brush in Eastern Lands (1929)

External links

by Linda Fritzinger