'Ambassador brawls with minister': emotions and internal and external crisis at the French embassy to the Holy See in 1940

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


The five months of Count Wladimir d'Ormesson's term as French ambassador to the Holy See between 28 May and 1 November 1940 witnessed multiple crises at multiple levels. On one level was the international crisis as Europe was once again torn apart by war; on another was the political crisis as the Third Republic collapsed under the Axis invasions; on another was the diplomatic crisis as the embassy became France's only representation inside Italy; and on another level was the personal crisis experienced by d'Ormesson. With no civilian population to represent, no strategic, military or economic interests to defend, and being assigned to a neutral state, the French Embassy to the Holy See may not have faced the humanitarian or political emergencies that were overwhelming diplomatic missions elsewhere. It was, however, compelled to deal with a set of extraordinary circumstances that saw its staff reduced to just two, having to share accommodation with hostile missions, cut off from communicating with the outside world and confined within the walls of Vatican City. Scarcely a few weeks in, conditions had so deteriorated that newspapers in France, Italy and Germany reported that d'Ormesson had abandoned diplomacy altogether, exchanging physical blows with his British counterpart on the steps of a Vatican hostel for pilgrims.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationEmbassies in Crisis
Subtitle of host publicationStudies of Diplomatic Missions in Testing Situations
EditorsRogelia Pastor-Castro, Martin Thomas
Place of PublicationAbingdon, Oxfordshire
Number of pages18
Publication statusPublished - 30 Oct 2020


  • Count Wladimir d’Ormesson
  • ambassador
  • minister
  • brawls
  • crisis
  • French embassy
  • Holy See


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