Robert Armstrong, Baron Armstrong of Ilminster

Robert Temple Armstrong, Baron Armstrong of Ilminster, GCB, CVO (born 30 March 1927) is a British Lord Temporal and former civil servant.

The Lord Armstrong of Ilminster

Official portrait of Lord Armstrong of Ilminster crop 2
Robert Armstrong in 2018
Member of the House of Lords
Lord Temporal
Assumed office
26 February 1988
Life peerage
Principal Private Secretary to the Prime Minister
In office
Prime Minister
Preceded byAlexander Isserlis
Succeeded byKenneth Stowe
Permanent Secretary of the
Home Office
In office
Prime MinisterJames Callaghan
Preceded bySir Arthur Peterson
Succeeded byBrian Cubbon
Cabinet Secretary
In office
Prime MinisterMargaret Thatcher
Preceded bySir John Hunt
Succeeded bySir Robin Butler
Head of the Home Civil Service
In office
Prime MinisterMargaret Thatcher
Preceded bySir Douglas Allen
Succeeded bySir Robin Butler
Personal details
Robert Temple Armstrong

30 March 1927 (age 92)
Headington, Oxford, England
Political partyCrossbench
Serena Mary Benedicta
(m. 1953, divorced)
Mary Patricia Carlow
(m. 1985)
RelationsSir Thomas H. W. Armstrong (father)
EducationDragon School
Alma mater
OccupationCivil servant


Armstrong was born in Headington on 30 March 1927, the only son of the musician Sir Thomas H. W. Armstrong and his wife Hester M. Draper, who were married in the City of London in Q2, 1926. His sister Helen was born in Exeter, Q3, 1930.[1]

Armstrong was educated at the Dragon School and then at Eton College, where he was a King's Scholar, following which he went up to Christ Church, Oxford, where he read Greats.

In Wantage, on 25 July, 1953, Armstrong married Serena Mary Benedicta Chance, daughter of Sir Roger James Ferguson Chance, 3rd Bt. and Mary Georgina Rowney. Armstrong and his wife have two daughters, both born in Marylebone, Jane Orlanda Armstrong, born 1954, and Teresa Brigid Armstrong, born 1957.[1] This marriage ended in divorce, and in 1985 he married Mary Patricia Carlow, daughter of Charles Cyril Carlow.


In a long civil service career, Armstrong worked in several departments, including HM Treasury and the Home Office. From 1970 to 1975 he served as the Principal Private Secretary to the Prime Minister. He was knighted in 1978. From 1979 to 1987, he served as Cabinet Secretary under Margaret Thatcher.[2]

Armstrong was appointed a Companion of the Order of the Bath (CB) in 1974,[3] a Commander of the Royal Victorian Order (CVO) in the 1975 Birthday Honours.[4] In the 1978 Birthday Honours he was promoted to Knight Commander of the Order of the Bath (KCB)[5] and to Knight Grand Cross (GCB) in the 1983 New Year Honours.[6]

He was created a life peer as Baron Armstrong of Ilminster, of Ashill in the County of Somerset on 26 February 1988,[7] and sits as a crossbencher.[8][9]

He is credited with bringing the phrase "economical with the truth" into popular usage, after he used it during the Spycatcher trial in 1986 – his use of the phrase was subsequently included in the Oxford Dictionary of Quotations.

From 1994 to 2006, Lord Armstrong was Chancellor of the University of Hull. He was chairman of the Sir Edward Heath Charitable Foundation until 2013.

Spycatcher trial

In 1986, Armstrong was the key witness for the British Government as it sought to suppress the publication of Spycatcher, in which it alleged its author, Peter Wright had attempted to disclose confidential information. At the time Wright was a retired high-ranking member of MI5 and was about to publish his book in Australia. The evidence given by Armstrong was widely ridiculed by the British press for its absurd ambiguity and seemingly deceptive nature. Wright's lawyer, Malcolm Turnbull, who later became the Prime Minister of Australia, was ultimately successful in lifting the publication ban. Turnbull described Armstrong as being like "Sir Humphrey Appleby" from Yes, Minister and said "If he is an honest man, then he appears rather like a well-educated mushroom".[10]

Allegations of child abuse cover-up

Armstrong was aware of Sir Peter Hayman's paedophilia, and since leaving office, has commented "Clearly, I was aware of it at the time but I was not concerned with the personal aspect of it.".[11]

Armstrong gave Margaret Thatcher what he calls a "veiled" warning not to sanction Jimmy Savile's knighthood for charitable work, due to allegations around his sexual abuse of children. [12]

Armstrong was warned by the security services in 1986 that an MP had 'a penchant for small boys'. But no action was taken and Armstrong, who refused to name the MP involved, insisted the allegations were just 'shadows of a rumour'. He said he believed the decision not to investigate the paedophile claims was 'correct at the time'. [13]

In popular culture

Armstrong has been portrayed by the following actors in film and television productions:


  • (1997). The Future of the National Art Library: A Pamphlet Concerning the Victoria and Albert Museum's Responsibility Towards the Documentation of the History of Art and Design

Styles of address and arms

Styles of address

  • 1927–1974: Mr Robert Armstrong
  • 1974–1975: Mr Robert Armstrong CB
  • 1975–1978: Mr Robert Armstrong CB CVO
  • 1978–1983: Sir Robert Armstrong KCB CVO
  • 1983–1988: Sir Robert Armstrong GCB CVO
  • 1988–present: The Rt Hon The Lord Armstrong of Ilminster GCB CVO


See also


  1. ^ a b "FreeBMD Home Page".
  2. ^ "Lord Armstrong of Ilminster : Political Biography – DodOnline". Archived from the original on 7 March 2012. Retrieved 21 April 2017.CS1 maint: BOT: original-url status unknown (link)
  3. ^ "No. 46254". The London Gazette (Supplement). 5 April 1974. p. 4396.
  4. ^ "No. 46593". The London Gazette (Supplement). 14 June 1975. p. 7372.
  5. ^ "No. 47549". The London Gazette (Supplement). 3 June 1978. p. 6231.
  6. ^ "No. 49212". The London Gazette (Supplement). 31 December 1982. p. 3.
  7. ^ "No. 51259". The London Gazette. 3 March 1988. p. 2581.
  8. ^ Lundy, Darryl. "p4448.htm". The Peerage. Archived from the original on 14 February 2010.
  9. ^ Patrick Cracroft-Brennan. "The Roll of the Peerage – Life Peers – Barons". Archived from the original on 20 May 2005. Retrieved 21 April 2017.CS1 maint: BOT: original-url status unknown (link)
  10. ^ see M. Turnbull, "The Spycatcher Trial" (1988).
  11. ^ Hanning, James (1 February 2015). "Call for inquiry into links between senior civil servant Sir Peter Hayman and paedophile network in the 1980's". The Independent. London. Archived from the original on 25 September 2015.
  12. ^ Michael White (17 March 2015). "The Westminster child abuse 'coverup': how much did MPs know? | Politics". The Guardian. Archived from the original on 19 March 2017. Retrieved 18 March 2017.
  13. ^ Allen, Vanessa; Ellicott, Claire (23 July 2015). "Mrs T's Cabinet chief defends failure to act over senior Tory". Daily Mail. London. Archived from the original on 21 August 2015.

External links

Government offices
Preceded by
Alexander Isserlis
Principal Private Secretary
to the Prime Minister

Succeeded by
Sir Kenneth Stowe
Preceded by
Sir Arthur Peterson
Permanent Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department
Succeeded by
Sir Brian Cubbon
Preceded by
Sir John Hunt
Cabinet Secretary
Succeeded by
Sir Robin Butler
Preceded by
Sir Douglas Allen
Head of the Home Civil Service
Succeeded by
Sir Robin Butler
Orders of precedence in the United Kingdom
Preceded by
The Lord Plumb
Baron Armstrong of Ilminster
Followed by
The Lord Sainsbury of Preston Candover
1927 in the United Kingdom

Events from the year 1927 in the United Kingdom.

This year saw the renaming of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland into the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, recognising in name the Irish Free State's independence, it having come into existence with the Anglo-Irish Treaty in 1922.

King's Scholar

A King's Scholar is a foundation scholar (elected on the basis of good academic performance and usually qualifying for reduced fees) of one of certain public schools. These include Eton College, The King's School, Canterbury, The King's School, Worcester, Durham School and Westminster School, although at Westminster their name changes depending on whether the current monarch is male or female (under Elizabeth II, they are Queen's Scholars).

List of Old Etonians born in the 20th century

The following notable pupils of Eton College were born in the 20th century.

List of University of Oxford people in British public life

This is a list of University of Oxford people in British public life. Many were students at one (or more) of the colleges of the University, and others held fellowships at a college.

This list forms part of a series of lists of people associated with the University of Oxford – for other lists, please see the main article List of University of Oxford people.

List of alumni of Christ Church, Oxford

A list of alumni of Christ Church, Oxford, one of the constituent colleges of the University of Oxford in England. Its alumni include politicians, lawyers, bishops, poets, and academics.

At least thirteen British prime ministers have been educated at Christ Church including Sir Robert Peel (Prime Minister 1834–1835 & 1841–1846), Anthony Eden (1955—1957) and William Ewart Gladstone (1892–94, 1886, 1880–85, & 1868–74). At least ten Chancellors of the Exchequer have also been educated at Christ Church including Nigel Lawson (1983–1989) and William Murray (Lord Chief Justice 1756—1788 and Chancellor of the Exchequer 1757) as well as other prominent UK politicians such as Quintin McGarel Hogg (Lord Chancellor 1979–1987). Christ Church has also educated many people who have gone on to take prominent political roles abroad, such as Zulfikar Ali Bhutto (former Prime minister of Pakistan), Bilawal Bhutto Zardari (Chairman of the Pakistan Peoples Party), S.W.R.D. Bandaranaike (Prime Minister of Ceylon (later Sri Lanka)) and Charles Cotesworth Pinckney.

A number of royal members were educated at Christ Church including King Edward VII (1841–1910), King of the United Kingdom and Emperor of India and his brother Prince Leopold, Duke of Albany as well as King William II of the Netherlands, Prince Abbas Hilmi from the Egyptian royal family, and Prince Hassan bin Talal from the Jordanian royal family.

There are numerous former students in the fields of academia and theology including seventeen Archbishops, most recently Rowan Williams (Archbishop of Canterbury 2002–2012). Other students in these areas include George Kitchin (the first Chancellor of the University of Durham and Dean of Durham Cathedral), John Charles Ryle (first Bishop of Liverpool), John Wesley (leader of the Methodist movement), Richard William Jelf (Principal of King's College London), Ronald Montagu Burrows (Principal of King's College London) and Bishop William Stubbs (Bishop of Oxford and historian). Prominent philosophers including John Locke, John Rawls, Sir A. J. Ayer and Daniel Dennett also studied at Christ Church.

Albert Einstein was elected to undertake a 5-year Research Studentship in 1931, philosopher and polymath Robert Hooke and developmental biologist Sir John B. Gurdon (co-winner of the 2012 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine), physician Sir Archibald Edward Garrod, the Father of Modern Medicine Sir William Osler, biochemist Kenneth Callow, radio astronomer Sir Martin Ryle and epidemiologist Sir Richard Doll are all associated with the college.

A number of successful businessmen have also been educated at Christ Church including Alex Beard (Glencore), Sir Michael Moritz (Sequoia Capital), Crispin Odey (hedge fund manager), Jacob Rothschild (N M Rothschild & Sons), Nicky Oppenheimer (De Beers), Peter Moores (Littlewoods), James A. Reed (Reed group), and Cameron and Tyler Winklevoss (twins associated with the founding of Facebook).

The college has educated six Olympic gold medalists including Jonny Searle in rowing. Other notable alumni include entrepreneur and founder of Pennsylvania William Penn, broadcaster David Dimbleby, composer Sir William Walton and the writers Lewis Carroll and W. H. Auden.

The college accepted men only for over four centuries, until 1980, which explains the dearth of women on this list of notable alumni.

The following list is not comprehensive and a fuller list can be found in the Category: Alumni of Christ Church, Oxford.

List of barons in the peerages of Britain and Ireland

This is a list of the 1187 present and extant Barons (Lords of Parliament, in Scottish terms) in the Peerages of England, Scotland, Great Britain, Ireland, and the United Kingdom. Note that it does not include those extant baronies which have become merged (either through marriage or elevation) with higher peerage dignities and are today only seen as subsidiary titles. For a more complete list, which adds these "hidden" baronies as well as extinct, dormant, abeyant, and forfeit ones, see List of Baronies.

This page includes all life barons, including the Law Lords created under the Appellate Jurisdiction Act 1876. However hereditary peers with the rank of viscount or higher holding also a life peerage are not included.

Lord Armstrong

Lord Armstrong may refer to:

Iain Armstrong, Lord Armstrong, Senator of the College of Justice in Scotland

Robert Armstrong, Baron Armstrong of Ilminster (born 1927), British former civil servant

William Armstrong, Baron Armstrong of Sanderstead (1915–1980), British civil servant and banker

One of the hereditary Barons Armstrong:

William Armstrong, 1st Baron Armstrong (1810–1900)

William Watson-Armstrong, 1st Baron Armstrong (1863–1941)

William Watson-Armstrong, 2nd Baron Armstrong (1892–1972)

Robert Armstrong

Robert Armstrong may refer to:

Robert Archibald Armstrong (1788–1867), Gaelic lexicographer

Robert Armstrong (baseball) (1850–1917), American professional baseball player

Robert Armstrong (actor) (1890–1973), film actor

Robert Armstrong, Baron Armstrong of Ilminster (born 1927), British member of the House of Lords and former civil servant

Robert E. Armstrong (1925–2008), mayor of Fort Wayne, Indiana

Robert John Armstrong (1884–1957), fourth Bishop of Sacramento

Robert Armstrong (Irish artist), winner of the 1984 Guinness Peat Aviation Award

Robert Armstrong (comics) (born 1950), American underground comics artist and musician, coined the term "couch potato"

Robert Armstrong (cricketer) (1836–1863), English cricketer

Robert Armstrong (Northern Ireland politician) (1888/9–1961), member of the Senate of Northern Ireland

Robert Armstrong (Australian politician) (born 1952), member of the Tasmanian Legislative Council

Robert Armstrong (1792–1854), officer in the United States Army

Robert Young Armstrong (1839–1894), British naval electrical engineer

Robert Baynes Armstrong (1785–1869), British Member of Parliament for Lancaster

Robert Patrick Armstrong (born 1938), Canadian lawyer and judge

Coat of arms of Robert Armstrong, Baron Armstrong of Ilminster
A Coronet of a Baron
A Chough wings elevated and addorsed proper grasping in the dexter foot a Penner attached thereto two Cords reflexed over the back and terminating in an Inkhorn Or
Paly of four Gules and Sable three lilies slipped in pale Argent between four Arms embowed in Armour issuing from the flanks Or
On either side a Black and White Cat reguardant proper gorged with a Plain Collar Or
SUAVITER IN MODO, FORTITER IN RE (Gentle in manner, vigorous in action)


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