After 18 years’ service as the President of the Royal Over-Seas League, Lord Luce announced his retirement from May 2020, not only from his role at the club, but also drawing to a close his professional career which has taken in service for Queen and country across the world
It has been an immense privilege to serve as President of the Royal Over-Seas League for 18 years. I remember so clearly when Stanley Martin (later Chairman) came to my office at Buckingham Palace in 2002 when I was Lord Chamberlain. He invited me, on behalf of the Central Council and subject to The Queen’s approval, to succeed the admirable Sir David Scott as President. I had no difficulty in accepting with pleasure!
The role of the League reflects my varied experience of life. It started in 1910 with Sir Evelyn Wrench’s vision of an organisation that could reflect an Empire transforming one day into a Commonwealth of nations: supported by members from many parts of the world, though not quite fulfilling Sir Evelyn’s ambition of one million. We have gradually developed such a wide variety of activities for members ranging from the Commonwealth to all aspects of culture including the great Annual Music Competition and the arts.
In the same way, my life began whilst the Empire was still at its height. As a child, I watched my father help to steer the Sudan to independence, serve as Governor of Aden and then as Political Resident in the then Persian Gulf. Later, as Special Representative to the Gulf for the Foreign Secretary, he negotiated our final withdrawal from the Gulf and Middle East.
My own experiences were reflected in my memoirs Ringing the Changes, where I described what it was like to be the last District Officer in the Kenyan Administration, later on as an MP and as a Minister in the Thatcher Government for ten years. All this gave me responsibilities for the changing role of Britain overseas in Africa, the Middle and Far East and of our wonderful range of arts, as Arts Minister. The League’s activities reflect so many of my own experiences.
My first memory of ROSL goes back to the time when my uncle, Admiral Sir David Luce, was the Chairman (1968-71). He had been First Sea Lord but resigned in 1966 as he disagreed with the government’s plans for phasing out aircraft carriers in the Far East.
Clearly, he enjoyed his time at the League but sadly he died suddenly after three years in the job. I am proud to have that family link. Over the years, I remember attending some events at Over-Seas House and above all I recall the formidable figure of the President, later Grand President, Lord Grey of Naunton who has been a distinguished Governor in Nigeria, amongst other tasks.
Much has happened to ROSL in my time as President. A landmark year was our Centenary attended by The Queen and Princess Alexandra at St James’s Palace. We do have a very special link with the Monarchy. The Duke of York (later King George VI) served as President for 14 years before the War and was succeeded by the then Duke of Kent.
My wife Rose and I have attended all the Annual Music Competitions, mainly held at the Southbank Centre or in Cadogan Hall and so regularly attended by our Vice Patron, Princess Alexandra. I recall very many other arts occasions.
With every long-serving institution, we have had our difficulties. Since our Centenary, we have had to adjust to a fast-changing world and Director-Generals ranging from Robert Newall, to Roddy Porter and Diana Owen have done their bit to lead the way. In 2015, we suffered great blows in the saddest loss of our Director of Arts, Roderick Lakin and, soon after, our new Chairman Simon Ward. This was followed by the decision to close our clubhouse in Edinburgh, which was sadly damaging our overall finances. It took time for the organisation to recover and to adjust to a new world.
WELCOME TO LORD GEIDT
Central Council has appointed Lord Geidt as ROSL’s next President with the endorsement of ROSL’s Patron, HM The Queen. Lord Geidt has had a distinguished career in public service, latterly as The Queen’s Private Secretary (2007-2017). Lord Geidt is a member of the House of Lords and Chairman of King’s College London. He will be the ninth President in ROSL’s 110-year history. The Chairman of the Royal Over-Seas League, Alexander Downer AC commented that:
“Lord Luce’s contribution has been outstanding and he will be missed by our staff and members. I am delighted that Lord Geidt has agreed to take up this role.”