The Diplomat’s Life

Few foreign secretaries have faced more difficulties than those which faced Sir Edward Grey from 1906 to 1914 and few grappled with them more steadfastly.  The first of the various charges from which Grey should be exonerated is that of insufficient concentration, a charge based on the somewhat irritating frequency with which he expressed his preference for bird-watching at Fallodon compared with his duties at the Foreign Office.  The evidence is rather that this was no more than an oblique and wholly creditable method of expressing his sense of the magnitude of his task and of the distatesfulness of the men and the tendencies he had to deal with as Foreign Secretary.  To express, however frequently, a preference for studying the habits of wild birds and ornamental ducks in the midst of a working life devoted to coping with the consequences of policies controlled (if that is the right word) by men as unreliable as William II, Bülow, Kiderlen-Wächter, Aehrenthal, Conrad von Hoetzendorf, Izvolsky and the rest is evidence not of idleness but of an acute and understandable sense of strain.

L.C.B. Seaman, From Vienna to Versailles, London, 1955, p 157.

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