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Charles Powell, Baron Powell of Bayswater


Charles Powell, Baron Powell of Bayswater

Powell in 2011

Charles David Powell, Baron Powell of Bayswater, KCMG, OBE (born 6 July 1941), is a diplomat, politician and businessman.[1] He served as a key foreign policy advisor to British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher during the 1980s. His brother, Jonathan Powell, was chief of staff to Tony Blair throughout his period as Prime Minister from 1997 to 2007, and his father was Air Vice-Marshal John Frederick Powell.


  • Biography 1
    • Diplomatic career 1.1
    • Business career 1.2
    • Brunei controversy 1.3
    • House of Lords 1.4
    • Personal life 1.5
  • Honours 2
  • In the media 3
  • In popular culture 4
  • References 5
  • External links 6


Powell was educated at The Cathedral Choir School, Canterbury, The King's School, Canterbury and New College, Oxford, from where he graduated in 1963 with a BA in Modern History.

Diplomatic career

Charles Powell joined the Her Majesty's Diplomatic Service in 1963. His first posting was as Third Secretary to Helsinki in 1965, where he was promoted to Second Secretary. In 1968, he returned to London, spending three years at the FCO. He was posted as First Secretary to Washington, D.C. in 1971, and became the Ambassador's Private Secretary. Subsequent postings were to Bonn in 1974 and, as Counsellor, to UKREP Brussels in 1980.[2] He was seconded to 10 Downing Street and served as Private Secretary to Margaret Thatcher (1983 to 1990) and then as Private Secretary to John Major (1990 to 1991). During his time working for Mrs Thatcher, he became one of her most trusted foreign policy aides, and helped broker the controversial al-Yamamah arms deal with Saudi Arabia.[3]

Business career

Since 1992 he has been an international businessman. Using the experience gained during his years in government, he has picked up several directorships and consultancies.[3] He is chairman of Sagitta Asset Management Limited and the luxury goods company Louis Vuitton U.K. Ltd. Prior to these positions, he was chairman of Phillips Fine Art Auctioneers and senior director of Jardine Matheson Holdings Ltd. He has also held directorships of Caterpillar Inc., LVMH Moet-Hennessy Louis Vuitton, Mandarin Oriental International Ltd, Schindler Holding Ltd, Tiphook plc, Textron Corporation and Yell Group plc. He is also a signatory of the Henry Jackson Society.

Brunei controversy

In 2005, it was revealed that Powell had been acting as Tony Blair's special envoy to Brunei, an unpaid role, for several years. This was controversial because Powell was on the payroll of BAE Systems, and the company was at the time in dispute with Brunei over the purchase of three warships. Lord Powell denied a conflict of interest over both his links to BAE and the fact his brother Jonathan Powell was serving as Tony Blair's chief of staff.[4]

House of Lords

He currently sits as a life peer in the House of Lords. Although associated with the Conservative Party, Lord Powell sits as a crossbench peer.

Personal life

He married Carla Bonardi in 1964. They have two sons (1967 and 1968).

He has three brothers, Chris (co-founder of DDB Advertising Agency, and currently chair of NESTA), Roderick (Rod), and Jonathan, the Chief of Staff to Prime Minister Tony Blair, a member of the Labour Party. He pronounces his surname 'pole',[5] although his brother Jonathan pronounces his to rhyme with 'towel'.


In the media

Powell was interviewed about the rise of Thatcherism for the 2006 BBC TV documentary series Tory! Tory! Tory!.

In popular culture

Powell was portrayed by Terence Harvey in the 2004 BBC production of The Alan Clark Diaries and by James Fox in 2009's Margaret. His brother Jonathan Powell was played by Adam Godley in the 2010 TV film The Special Relationship.


  1. ^ Preferred pronunciation rhymes with "bowl", not "bowel" (as in Colin Powell) -- see Alexander Chancellor, "You Say Tomato," New Yorker. August 9, 1993, p. 27.
  2. ^ The Diplomatic Service List 1989 (page 278), HMSO, ISBN 0-11-591707-1.
  3. ^ a b Leigh, David (2007-06-07). "BAE Files: Charles Powell". London: BBC. Retrieved 2008-03-18. 
  4. ^ MacAskill, Ewen (2005-10-08). "Blair's special envoy to Brunei on BAE payroll". London: Guardian. Retrieved 2008-03-18. 
  5. ^ "What Happened to Team Blair?". BBC. 2007-12-27. Retrieved 2007-12-07. 
  6. ^ The London Gazette: (Supplement) no. 52371. p. 19582. 21 December 1990.
  7. ^ The London Gazette: no. 55769. p. 1913. 21 February 2000.

External links

  • Atlantic Partnership Staff Biography
  • Dod's personal biography
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