Diplomat, Author, Academic
January 1, 2016
January 1, 2016
As a successful diplomat Sir Leslie Fielding travelled the globe, yet it was QE that made him "blissfully happy".
Sir Leslie Fielding, KCMG, MA, Hon LLD, FRSA, FRGS (OE 1943-1951) graduated from Emmanuel College, Cambridge, with a First in History; he studied Persian at the School of Oriental and African Studies in London and was a Visiting Fellow at St Antony’s College, Oxford.
Following his graduation in 1956, Sir Leslie was placed second in the open competition for the Foreign (now Diplomatic) Service. For his reference, he turned to his old QE headmaster, E H Jenkins, who wrote: “His character is sound, he has personality and polish, and he has an active mind in which seriousness and humour are combined. In short, he is, in my opinion, a really good candidate.” He also described his former pupil as “an able and public-spirited all rounder”.
When in his late fifties, he was offered the post of Master at Emmanuel and Warden at St Antony’s. Although he had been fairly content at both, he declined the offers "without much more than a second thought". He said: "It was QE, where I was blissfully happy, that made me, and opened up my careers."
Sir Leslie’s career as a diplomat has taken him to Tehran, Singapore, Cambodia, Paris, Brussels and Japan.
He joined the External Relations Directorate-General of the European Commission in Brussels in 1973 as the Director with special responsibility for Europe's relations with the US and the Commonwealth. He subsequently became EC Ambassador in Tokyo for five years, returning to Brussels as Director-General of External Relations from 1982 to 1987. He was knighted in 1988.
After retiring from the diplomatic service he returned to England, where he was Vice-Chancellor of the University of Sussex from 1987 to 92. He was for some years a non-executive director of IBM (Europe) and a Special Adviser to Panasonic (Europe). He chaired the Geography Working Group for the National Curriculum in Schools and served for ten years as Honorary President of the University Association for Contemporary European Studies. He received his knighthood in 1988 and was elected an Honorary Fellow of Emmanuel College, Cambridge in 1990.
He has been a Lay Reader in the Church of England for 30 years: in Exeter, Tokyo, Gibraltar, Chichester and Hereford dioceses, serving also on the General Synod. He was made a Reader Emeritus by the Lord Bishop of Hereford in 2007. After some initial scepticism he now very much approves of women priests.
In recent years he has been busy writing and publishing – mostly on international relations, but has also produced a novel and a screenplay. His work includes Mentioned in Despatches … is Diplomacy dead? which was launched in paperback at the Oxford Literary Festival in 2012.
More recently, he was invited to contribute to a volume of reminiscences by British civil servants and diplomats who were in the first wave to be sent to Brussels 40 years ago, in 1973, on UK accession to the then-European Community. In his article, he refers to the exhaustion of speaking French all day - “different facial exertions”- and attributes linguistic abilities to his education at QE.
Sir Leslie is married to the eminent mediaevalist Sally Harvey and they have two children, Emma and Leo.