Papers of Sir Ralph Claremont Skrine Stevenson (1895-1977), Diplomat, with small quantity of additional papers of Henry Wickham Stevenson (father) and Mrs Avery Stevenson (daughter in law)

Archive Collection

Scope and Content

The contents consist of pre-arranged volumes spanning 1915-1980 of photographs, correspondence and newspaper reports relating to the career of Sir Ralph Stevenson in the diplomatic service for the Foreign Office and after his retirement in the Isle of Man. Diaries (1941-1944) of Stevenson written while on diplomatic service are present. Correspondence (1938-1974) relating to Stevenson’s career and his involvement with matters on the Isle of Man are included; information about the honours bestowed throughout his life are also present.

Other material present includes reports (1944-1959) sent to Stevenson from the Foreign Service Advisory Committee and St Anthony’s College, Centre for Middle Eastern Studies, Oxford. An itinerary programme for an official diplomatic visit (1941) to Ankara, Turkey is included. Also present are British and foreign newspaper reports (1942-1977), printed articles and papers relating to speeches, broadcasts and articles (1938-1959) made by Stevenson. Further material relates to the genealogy and history (c.1528-c.1992) of the Stevenson family and the family seat of Balladoole, Isle of Man, collected by Sir Ralph and his daughter-in-law Avery Stevenson (c.1924-2004).

Administrative / Biographical History

Ralph Claremont Skrine Stevenson, born in India on 16 May 1895, was the son of Henry Wickham Stevenson (c.1858-1944), a Surgeon-General in the Indian Army and Frances Clare née Skrine (c.1861-1943) [previous married name Knipe]. Ralph was from the well-known Stevenson family of Balladoole, Arbory in the Isle of Man.

Moving back to the British Isles as a child, Stevenson was educated at Wellington College, Berkshire. Obtaining a place at the University of Oxford, Stevenson read foreign languages. After the outbreak of the First World War, he joined the Rifle Brigade, serving as captain in the 12th Battalion. Stevenson was captured at the Battle of Passchendaele (1917). He received treatment for pneumonia and a knee complaint whilst in captivity. Upon leaving the army Stevenson successfully took the Foreign Office examinations for the diplomatic service and in 1919 he was posted to Copenhagen and then Berlin. In 1921 he married Helen Barbara Isabel Boreel (c.1894-1981), daughter of Robert John Ralph Boreel (1867-1904) and Edith Margaret Ives (c.1867-1933). They had one son, Mark Boreel Stevenson (1924-2005) and divorced in 1944. Stevenson next served in Sofia, The Hague and Cairo. From 1938 to 1939 he was Minister to Barcelona during the Spanish Civil War and from 1939 to 1941 he was the Private Secretary to Antony Eden (1897-1977), the then Foreign Secretary.

He was next appointed ambassador to the Yugoslav government (1943-1946) during Marshall Josip Broz Tito's (1892-1980) communist civil war. By 1945 Tito was established as Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs and Stevenson reopened the British Embassy in Belgrade. In 1946 Stevenson was knighted and in the same year he married Marjorie Josephine Wernham Bentley Gerrard (1897-1981) [previous married name Portman]. 1946 also saw Stevenson become the British Ambassador to China (1946-1950). China was taken over by communist Mao Tse Tung (1893-1976) in 1949, not long after Stevenson left his post. He was again appointed ambassador to Egypt (1950-1955), another country inflicted by civil unrest and turmoil. In 1955 he retired from the diplomatic service, a year before the Suez crisis. Leaving Egypt, Stevenson settled in the Isle of Man where he began to restore the family house at Balladoole. Stevenson served as a Member of the Legislative Council (MLC) from 1955 until 1970 and also played a leading part in the reorganization of the Manx Civil Service. He served as chairman of the Electricity Board, was captain at Castletown Golf Club and was Captain of Arbory Parish in the years 1963-1975. In 1973 Stevenson sold Balladoole and he and his wife moved to a newly built house situated on outskirts of the southern town of Castletown. Sir Ralph Stevenson died in June 1977 age 82 and his ashes rest in the family grave in Arbory Churchyard.

Conditions Governing Access

No regulations or restrictions are implemented on this material.

Advance notification of a research visit is advisable by emailing library@mnh.gov.im.

Other Finding Aids

Printed descriptive list available for consultation.

Archivist's Note

The biographical information was gathered from Dollin Kelly’s (ed.) New Manx Worthies (2006: 429-431).

Fonds-level description created by Eleanor Williams (MNH Project Archivist), March 2016.

Separated Material

Separated material held by Manx National Heritage include photographs documenting Sir Ralph Stevenson's diplomatic career. Reference number: PG/13732.

Related Material

Related material held by Manx National Heritage includes the 'Papers of the Stevensons of Balladoole, Arbory' (MS 06575), the 'Papers of the Stevenson family of Balladoole' (MS 11237) and 'The MacDubhghaills and the Stevensons of Balladoole, Scarlett and the Calf' (MS 08718).