Sir Ivor Roberts, Britain’s former Ambassador to Rome, Dublin and Belgrade, and most recently President of Trinity College Oxford, has been appointed as the new Chair of the Keats-Shelley Memorial Association. The Association cares for the house beside the Spanish Steps in Rome where John Keats died, and which is now a museum devoted to the English Romantic poets. The KSMA also runs the annual Keats-Shelley Prize and Young Romantics Prize for poetry and essay-writing, designed to foster interest in the Romantics. Sir Ivor takes over from Harriet Cullen, who has held the post for the last 22 years.
Sir Ivor says of his appointment: “I was honoured and delighted to be invited to assume the chairmanship of the KSMA, and particularly honoured to be following in the footsteps of Harriet Cullen (who has a personal link with Keats as a descendant of the painter Joseph Severn, who nursed Keats in his dying days). Harriet’s contribution over so many years to the committee of the KSMA as its chair are and will remain unparalleled. I served on the Rome committee of the KSMA as a co-chair during my ambassadorial time in Rome, one of the few committees I’ve served on in recent years which I genuinely enjoyed. I look forward to enjoying my new responsibility and continuing to build on Harriet’s remarkable achievements.”
Sir Ivor also has a personal link to the House, since his mother spent the war years in Rome living immediately opposite it at the corner of the Via dei Condotti and Piazza di Spagna. “Although, as an Italian, her first love was Dante, she imbued in me a love of poetry in both languages,” he says. “And among the English language poets, the Romantics have for me always held prime position.”
About Sir Ivor Roberts, KCMG, FCIL
Sir Ivor Roberts is a former British diplomat. He was President of Trinity College Oxford from 2006-2017.
After reading Modern Languages at Oxford, where he was a Gomm scholar, he joined the British Diplomatic Service and was posted to Lebanon, France, Luxembourg, Australia and Vanuatu. He was thereafter successively Deputy Head of the Foreign Office Press department and Head of the Counterterrorism Department. He then served as Minister in the British embassy in Madrid before being posted to Belgrade, where he was Ambassador during the wars of Yugoslav succession in the 1990s. He returned from Belgrade to take a sabbatical year at St. Antony’s college, Oxford. Thereafter he became British Ambassador in Dublin in the immediate wake of the Good Friday agreement before his last posting as British Ambassador to Italy. After retirement from the Diplomatic Service, he was elected President of Trinity College Oxford. From 2007-2012, Sir Ivor was Chairman of the Council of the British School of Archaeology and Fine Arts at Rome. He is a Patron of the Venice in Peril Fund. He is a Fellow of the Chartered Institute of Linguists.
His book on his Balkan experiences, Conversations with Milošević, was published in 2016. He is also editor of and a major contributor to both the 6th (2009) and 7th (2016) editions of the classic work Satow’s Diplomatic Practice, the Bible for diplomats worldwide.
His interests include Italian opera, theatre, photography and sport (skiing and golf). For many years a rugby referee, he is currently President of Oxford University Rugby Football Club.