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Ignatius Valentine Chirol


Ignatius Valentine Chirol

Sir Ignatius Valentine Chirol (28 May 1852 – 22 October 1929) was a British journalist, prolific author, historian and diplomat. He was a passionate imperialist and believed that Imperial Germany and Muslim unrest were the biggest threats to the British Empire.


  • Early life 1
  • Career 2
  • Books by Chirol 3
  • See also 4
  • References 5
  • External links 6

Early life

He was the son of the Rev. Alexander Chirol and Harriet Chirol (née Ashburnham). His education was mostly in France and Germany. Growing up in France with his parents, Chirol lived in Versailles 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 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 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 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 as director of foreign department of The Times in 1899.[1]

Despite being in charge of The Times foreign line, he still managed to travel a great deal. In 1902 he travelled overland to India heading first to Moscow and on to Isfahan, Quetta, Delhi and finally Calcutta where he met with India inspired a longtime 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 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. Chirol returned to London by Christmas and just as the Russo-Japanese War was breaking out. He later travelled to Washington D.C. where he met with Teddy Roosevelt and many US Congress members, facilitated by his close friend, Sir Cecil Spring Rice.[2]

After two decades as a journalist he retired from The Times on 21 December 1911 and was knighted shortly thereafter, on 1 January 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.

Deprecatory comments in Chirol's book, Indian Unrest, resulted in a civil suit being brought against him in London by Bal Gangadhar Tilak, who advocated Indian independence. 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. 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 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 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: In Memoriam (1919)
  • 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)

See also

  • Sir Ernest Satow who mentions Chirol several times in his diaries, 1895–1906.


  1. ^ "CHIROL, Valentine". Who's Who, 57: pages 296–297. 1905. 
  2. ^ The Spectator: 'Sir Cecil Spring Rice'

Who's Who (UK)

External links

  • National Portrait Gallery: Portrait of Chirol by John Collier
  • Works by Valentine Chirol at Project Gutenberg
  • Linda Fritzinger (27 June 2006). Diplomat without Portfolio: Valentine Chirol, His Life and 'The Times'. I. B. Tauris. by Linda Fritzinger  
  • Archival material relating to Ignatius Valentine Chirol listed at the UK National Archives
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