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Rory Stewart
Official portrait of Rory Stewart crop 2.jpg
Born Roderick James Nugent Stewart
3 January 1973(1973-01-03) (age 46)
British Hong Kong
Education Eton College
Alma mater Balliol College, Oxford
Political party Conservative
Spouse(s) Shoshana Clark
Military career
Allegiance Flag of the United Kingdom.svg United Kingdom
Service/branch Flag of the British Army.svg British Army
Years of service 1991-1992
Rank Second lieutenant
Service number 539088
Unit Black Watch

Roderick James Nugent "Rory" Stewart, OBE FRSL (born 3 January 1973) is a British diplomat, politician, and writer. A member of the Conservative Party, he is currently serving as a Minister of State at the Department for International Development and as Minister of State for Africa at the Foreign & Commonwealth Office.[1] He is a former Chair of the House of Commons Defence Select Committee. Since May 2010, he has been the Member of Parliament for Penrith and The Border,[2][3] in the county of Cumbria, North West England.

Stewart was a senior coalition official in Iraq in 2003–04. He is known for his book about this experience, The Prince of the Marshes (also published under the title Occupational Hazards), and for his 2002 walk across Afghanistan (one part of a larger walk across Asia), which served as the basis for another book, The Places in Between, as well as his later cultural development work in Afghanistan as the Founder and Executive Chairman of the Turquoise Mountain Foundation, a British charity.[4]

Early lifeEdit

Stewart, whose family seat is Broich House near Crieff in Perthshire, Scotland, was born in Hong Kong, the child of Sally Elizabeth Acland Nugent and diplomat Brian Stewart. He was brought up in Malaysia and Scotland and educated at the Dragon School in Oxford and Eton College. During his gap year in 1991, he was commissioned ("short service limited commission") in the Black Watch for five months as second lieutenant (on probation).[5][6] He then attended Balliol College, Oxford University, where he read modern history and philosophy, politics and economics (PPE).

While a student at Oxford, Stewart was a private tutor to Prince William and Prince Harry during the summer. He holds honorary doctorates from the University of Stirling[7] and the American University of Paris.[8] As a teenager, he was a member of the Labour Party.[9]

Diplomatic serviceEdit

After graduating, Stewart joined the diplomatic service.[10] He served in the British Embassy in Indonesia from 1997 to 1999, working on issues related to East Timor independence, and as the British Representative to Montenegro in the wake of the Kosovo campaign.

After the coalition invasion of Iraq, he was appointed the Coalition Provisional Authority Deputy Governorate Co-Ordinator in Maysan and Deputy Governorate Co-ordinator/Senior Advisor in Dhi Qar, two provinces in southern Iraq. His responsibilities included holding elections, resolving tribal disputes, and implementing development projects. He faced growing unrest and an incipient civil war from his base in a Civil-Military Co-operation (CIMIC) compound in Al Amarah, and in May 2004 was in command of his compound in Nasiriyah when it was besieged by Sadrist militia.

While Stewart initially supported the Iraq War, the International Coalition's inability to achieve a more humane, prosperous state led him in retrospect to believe the invasion had been a mistake.[11]

Walking and travelEdit

From 2000 to 2002 he travelled on foot through rural districts of Pakistan, Iran, Afghanistan, India and Nepal, a journey totalling around 6000 miles, during which time he stayed in five hundred different village houses.[12][13][14] He also walked across West Papua in 1998,[15] in addition to making a number of long walks through Cumbria and Britain.[16][17]

He later travelled into Libya a day after the fall of Colonel Gaddafi.[18] He has also written about theory and practice of travel writings in prefaces to Thesiger's Arabian Sands, Doughty's Arabia Deserta and Byron's The Road to Oxiana. Until 2008, when he took up his professorship at Harvard, Stewart resided in Kabul as Executive Chairman of the Turquoise Mountain Foundation.


In late 2004, Stewart became a Fellow at the Carr Center for Human Rights Policy at Harvard University.

In July 2008, he was appointed Ryan Family Professor of Human Rights at Harvard University and Director of the John F. Kennedy School of Government Carr Center for Human Rights Policy. He has frequently been called on to provide advice on Afghanistan and Iraq to policy-makers, particularly in the US, UK and Canada. Having acceded to the position on 1 January 2009, he combined the role with his charitable work in Afghanistan and with service on a number of boards, including the International Development Research Centre of Canada.

Stewart was awarded the Royal Scottish Geographical Society's Livingstone medal in 2009 "in recognition of his work in Afghanistan and his travel writing, and for his distinguished contribution to geography".[19] Stewart left his position at Harvard in March 2010 (maintaining, however, an advisory position there), and stepped down as Executive Chairman of the Turquoise Mountain Trust in May 2010.[20]

Charity workEdit

In 2006, at the request of the Prince of Wales and Hamid Karzai, President of Afghanistan,[21] he established, as Executive chairman, the Turquoise Mountain Foundation, a human development NGO, in Afghanistan, and relocated to Kabul. The Foundation aims to revive and preserve traditional crafts through a series of urban regeneration projects and the establishment of an accredited vocational institute, in the historic neighbourhood of Murad Khane.[22]



Stewart speaking at Google in March 2008

His first book, The Places in Between,[23] was an account of his 32-day solo walk across Afghanistan in early 2002. It was a $3 best-seller, was named one of the New York Times 10 notable books in 2006 and was hailed by the newspaper as being a "flat-out masterpiece".[24] It won the Royal Society of Literature Ondaatje Prize, a Scottish Arts Council prize, the Spirit of Scotland award and the Premio de Literatura de Viaje Caminos del Cid. It was short-listed for the Guardian First Book Award and the John Llewellyn Rhys Prize. The book was adapted into a radio play by Benjamin Yeoh and was broadcast in 2007 on BBC Radio 4.

Stewart's second book, The Prince of the Marshes,[25] describes his experiences as a Deputy Governorate Co-ordinator in Iraq.[26][27] The New York Times critic William Grimes commented that Stewart "seems to be living one of the more extraordinary lives on record", but for him the "real value of the new book is Mr. Stewart’s sobering picture of the difficulties involved in creating a coherent Iraqi state based on the rule of law".[28] Stewart's books have been translated into multiple languages. The 2017 play Occupational Hazards by Stephen Brown, based on the book, was produced at the Hampstead Theatre in May 2017.[29]

His 2008 cover article in Time magazine, where he debated against Presidential candidates Obama and McCain, arguing against a troop surge in Afghanistan has been shortlisted for an American Journalism Association Award.

Stewart's reflections on the circumstances under which outside military and political intervention in countries' internal affairs may or may not hope to achieve positive results are further distilled in a 2011 book, Can Intervention Work?, co-authored with Gerald Knaus and part of the Amnesty International Global Ethics Series.[30]

He was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature in 2009.[31] He is a columnist for the Cumberland and Westmorland Herald, contributing a fortnightly column.[32]

In 2016, he published The Marches: A Borderland Journey between England and Scotland, a travelogue about a 1,000-mile walk in the borderlands separating England and Scotland, known as the Scottish Marches.

Parliamentary careerEdit

Stewart attempted to be selected as the Conservative Party candidate for the Bracknell constituency in the 2010 General Election,[33] but was unsuccessful.[34] He was also shortlisted as one of three male and three female candidates for the Penrith and the Border constituency open caucus on 25 October 2009.[35]

He won the open primary (a process in which any registered voter from the constituency could attend and vote) to become the Conservative's parliamentary candidate for Penrith and the Border at the 2010 election.[2][36] He was returned as the MP for the constituency on 6 May 2010.[37][38]

On 25 July 2010, Stewart apologised to his constituents after blogging about the relative poverty of rural areas and need for more public services.[39] He was quoted in the Scottish Sun as saying that "Some areas around here are pretty primitive, people holding up their trousers with bits of twine."[39] A light-hearted Guardian article, "In praise of … binder twine", whilst acknowledging the "serious effort" Stewart had made "walking hundreds of miles" to get to know his constituency believed he had simply underestimated the importance of the "ubiquitous and indispensable" twine to the rural community.[40]

Stewart attended the Bilderberg Conference in June 2011,[41] along with leading world politicians and bankers including UK Conservative Chancellor George Osborne.[42] Columnist Charlie Skelton commented in The Guardian that this made it likely that Stewart would receive a "forthcoming promotion", based on the history of other politicians invited to the exclusive Bilderberg group.[42] Stewart won the election for Chairman of the House of Commons Defence Select Committee on 14 May 2014 following a vote of all MPs.[43] Within his constituency, Stewart's policy focus has been on broadband, mobile coverage, rural services and agriculture.

Stewart was a member of the Foreign Affairs Select Committee between 2010 and 2014, making a notable contribution to the committee's report on Afghanistan.[44] He is chairman of the APPG for Mountain Rescue[45][46] and the APPG for Local Democracy.[47][48] He was also an officer of the APPG for Rural Services.

At the UK General Election in 2015, Stewart almost doubled his majority in Penrith and The Border from 11,241 to 19,894, the highest majority since the seat was first created.

Stewart opposed Brexit prior to the 2016 referendum on the UK's continued membership of the European Union.[49]

Broadband and Rural Mobile CampaignEdit

Stewart led the first backbench motion for expanding broadband and mobile coverage, securing what was then the largest number of cross-party endorsements for a backbench motion. In a report published in 2011, Stewart won support from the House of Commons Culture, Media and Sport Committee in calling for mobile phone companies to be forced to provide coverage to 98% of the population,[50] and in 2012 his campaign achieved its goal when regulator OFCOM announced its plans for the auction of fourth generation (4G) bandwidth for mobile phone services.[51]

Stewart was successful in securing the Cumbrian broadband pilot in 2011,[52] and in November 2013, broadband provider EE cited the support of Government and regulatory policy in announcing that over 2,000 residents and businesses in rural Cumbria were to have access to superfast home and office broadband for the first time.[53] In February 2015 Stewart secured more funding in order to continue the broadband roll out in Cumbria.[54]

Hands Across The BorderEdit

In July 2014, Stewart launched a project in support of the union between Scotland and the rest of the United Kingdom. The campaign, named Hands Across The Border, aimed to construct a cairn built by members of the British public precisely on the Scotland-England border in Gretna in the run up to the Scottish independence referendum. Stewart said of the project: "We wanted to come up with a lasting marker of our union, something that future generations will look back at and remember, with deep gratitude, the moment we chose to stay together."[55]

The campaign received support from several notable public figures in the UK, including actress Joanna Lumley, explorer Sir Ranulph Fiennes, mountaineers Alan Hinkes and Doug Scott and historians Simon Schama and David Starkey.[56]

Veterans in the justice systemEdit

In January 2014, Stewart was asked by Chris Grayling, Secretary of State for Justice, to lead a Government review into the reasons why a number of British veterans become criminal offenders after returning to civilian life. The review looked at ways in which support and prevention for veterans in the justice system can be improved.[57]

Following his election to Chairman of the Defence Select Committee, Stewart handed over the lead for the review to Stephen Phillips QC MP. [58]

Defence Select CommitteeEdit

In May 2014, Stewart was elected by MPs from all parties as Chairman of the Defence Select Committee. He was the youngest ever Chair of a select committee, as well as the first MP of the 2010 intake to be elected to chair a committee. [59] [60] Stewart chaired committee reports arguing strongly for a more vigorous response to Russian aggression in Ukraine. The committee also argued that Britain's commitments to Iraq and Syria were "strikingly modest" and that more should be done.[61] Under Stewart's chairmanship, the committee produced a report in favour of the proposals for a Services Complaint Ombudsman and also secured an amendment extending the powers of the Ombudsman.[62]


Συνάντηση ΑΝΥΠΕΞ, Ν. Ξυδάκη, με τον Βρετανό Υπουργό Επικρατείας για τη Διεθνή Αναπτυξιακή Συνεργασία, Rory Stewart (ΥΠΕΞ, 22.9.2016) (29568248890)

Stewart pictured with Nikos Xydakis in September 2016

Following the Conservative's gain of an outright majority at the 2015 UK General Election, Stewart was appointed Parliamentary Under Secretary of State at the Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs (DEFRA), with responsibilities including the natural environment, national parks, floods and water, resource and environmental management, rural affairs, lead responsibility for the Environment Agency, Natural England and the Forestry Commission, and acting as the Secretary of State's deputy on the Environment Council.[63]

In July 2015, in his capacity as Resource Minister, he announced a review into the regulatory and enforcement barriers to growth and innovation in the waste sector.[64] Stewart as 'Floods Minister' joined the National Flood Resilience Review, formed in 2016 and chaired by the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, Oliver Letwin.[65] Stewart initiated the Cumbria Floods Partnership in response to Storm Desmond, with a focus on long-term flood defence.[66] UK House of Commons cross-party Environment Audit Committee criticised Floods Minister Stewart "that the extra £700m [newly allocated flood defence monies] was the result of a “political calculation” and that it might not be spent according to the strict value-for-money criteria currently used." [67]

After Theresa May replaced David Cameron as Prime Minister, Stewart was promoted to Minister of State for International Development on 17 July 2016.[1][68]

Personal lifeEdit

Stewart lives at Dufton in Cumbria,[69] and is a member of The Athenaeum Club. In 2012, he married an American NGO executive, Shoshana Clark,[70] with whom he had his first child in November 2014.


In the 2004 Queen's Birthday Honours, Stewart was appointed an Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE).[71]


  • On 16 and 23 January 2010, Stewart presented a two-part documentary on The Legacy of Lawrence of Arabia on BBC2 in the UK.[72]
  • In May 2012, Stewart wrote and presented Afghanistan: The Great Game – A Personal View by Rory Stewart, a documentary in two parts that tells the story of foreign intervention by Britain, Russia and the United States in Afghanistan from the 19th century to the present day,[73] which aired on BBC2.
  • On 30 March and 6 April 2014, Stewart presented a two-part BBC television documentary, Border Country: The Story of Britain's Lost Middleland, which investigates the rift created by Hadrian's Wall, and the issues of identity and culture in a region divided by the fabricated border.[74]


  • On 20 January 2008 Stewart was the guest on BBC Radio 4's Desert Island Discs[75]
  • In August 2008, the UK media widely reported that Studio Canal and Brad Pitt's production company Plan B had bought the rights to a biopic of Stewart's life. The actor Orlando Bloom was apparently scheduled to play Stewart.[76] That Brad Pitt had bought the rights was confirmed on Lateline, on Australia's Australian Broadcasting on 29 July.
  • Stewart speaks some French, Persian (Dari), and Indonesian. He has also studied at school, in the Foreign Office, and on his Asian travels Latin, Greek, Russian, Chinese, Serbo-Croat, Urdu, and Nepali languages. He acknowledges that the latter three languages are "very rusty".[77]


  1. 1.0 1.1 "Rory Stewart MP OBE". British Government. Retrieved 5 December 2016. 
  2. 2.0 2.1 Stratton, Allegra (26 October 2009). "Former royal tutor Rory Stewart selected for safe Tory seat". The Guardian. London. Retrieved 22 May 2010. 
  3. Penrith and the Border Conservatives Rory Stewart becomes MP for Penrith and the Border
  4. About Us Turquoise Mountain
  5. You must specify issue=, startpage=, and date= when using {{London Gazette}}. Available parameters:

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  7. Graduating Stirling students reap their rewards University of Stirling, 23 November 2009
  8. AUP official website
  9. Glover, Julian (14 January 2010). "Rory Stewart's awfully big adventure". The Guardian. London. Retrieved 22 May 2010. 
  10. Biography Rory Stewart
  11. "Interview: Rory Stewart". Harcourt Trade Publishers. Retrieved 2 January 2010. 
  12. Rory Stewart biography Penrith and the Border Conservatives
  13. Can Rory Stewart Fix Afghanistan? National Geographic Adventure Magazine
  14. Paths of Glory New Yorker
  15. Rory Stewart (20 July 2000). Diary. London Review of Books. Retrieved 29 August 2014.
  16. Rory Stewart (13 November 2010). "Discovering Eden". Financial Times. Retrieved 29 August 2014.
  17. "Rory Stewart: A new kind of Tory". The Daily Telegraph. London. 1 November 2009. 
  18. Rory Stewart (20 September 2011). "Because we weren't There?". London Review of Books. Retrieved 29 August 2014.
  19. "Medals and Awards". Royal Scottish Geographical Society. Retrieved 27 June 2013. 
  20. Declarations of Interests Rory Stewart
  21. "The Turquoise Mountain Foundation becomes The Prince's 18th charity". Prince of Wales. 25 March 2007. Retrieved 28 September 2008. 
  23. Rory Stewart. The Places in Between. Pan Macmillan, 2005. ISBN 978-0-330-48634-7. Retrieved 30 August 2014. 
  24. Tom Bissell "A Walk Across Afghanistan", New York Times, 11 June 2006
  25. Rory Stewart. The Prince of the Marshes. Harcourt, Incorporated, 2006. ISBN 0-15-101235-0. Retrieved 30 August 2014. 
  26. Letters Prospect Magazine, 22 January 2006
  27. Rory Stewart Rory Stewart Books
  28. Grimes, William (28 July 2006). "An Outsider Confronts the Tide in the Marshes of Iraq". The New York Times. Retrieved 1 November 2017. 
  29. Billington, Michael (9 May 2017). "Occupational Hazards review – headlong rush through Rory Stewart's Iraq memoir". The Guardian. Retrieved 12 May 2017. 
  30. Rory Stewart, Gerald Knaus. Can Intervention Work?. W.W. Norton & Co.. ISBN 978-0-393-08120-6. Retrieved 30 August 2014. 
  31. "Royal Society of Literature All Fellows". Royal Society of Literature. Retrieved 10 August 2010. 
  32. "Latest Headlines". 
  33. Residents choose Tory candidate BBC News, 17 October 2009
  34. Rory Stewart for PM? Paul Waugh's Blog, London Evening Standard, 25 October 2009
  35. Ex-diplomat heads list to succeed Penrith MP David Maclean Cumberland News, 7 October 2009
  36. Tories confident Rory Stewart will take over from David Maclean News & Star, 8 April 2010
  37. Election 2010 – Penrith & the Border BBC News
  38. Tory Rory Stewart wins in Penrith Cumberland News, 8 May 2010
  39. 39.0 39.1 "Tory MP 'sorry' for twine remark". BBC News. 25 July 2010. Retrieved 26 July 2010. 
  40. "In praise of … binder twine". London: Guardian Newspapers. 27 July 2010. Retrieved 27 July 2010. 
  41. "Bilderberg: lista dei partecipanti". 
  42. 42.0 42.1 "Bilderberg 2011: George Osborne attending as chancellor". 
  43. Bagehot (14 May 2014). Rory Stewart’s new triumph. The Economist. Retrieved 29 August 2014.
  44. The UK's foreign policy approach to Afghanistan and Pakistan (front sheet). House of Commons Foreign Affairs Committee (02 March 2011). The Stationary Office (HC514). Retrieved 29 August 2014.
  45. Mountain Rescue, AGM 24 January 2012. Retrieved 29 August 2014.
  46. "Rory delivers keynote speech at UK's bi-ennial Mountain Rescue conference - Rory Stewart". Rory Stewart. 
  47. "House of Commons - Register Of All-Party Groups as at 30 March 2015: Local Democracy". 
  50. "98% coverage for mobile broadband". Rory Stewart. 
  51. "Rory's Campaign for Rural Mobile Coverage In 4G Triumph". Rory Stewart. 
  52. "Rural broadband pilot areas named". 
  53. "EE Switches On Superfast 4G Broadband In Rural Cumbria". 
  54. "Secretary of State Pays Testament to Broadband Activist Rory Stewart MP". Rory Stewart. 
  55. "Scottish independence: 'cairn to celebrate union love'". 9 July 2014. Retrieved 2 August 2014. 
  56. "Joanna Lumley shows support for union with Scotland". 31 August 2014. Retrieved 2 August 2014. 
  57. "Citizen Space - Review of Veterans within the Criminal Justice System Call for Evidence". 
  58. "New chair announced for Veterans Review". 
  59. "Rory roars in". BBC News. 
  60. "Rory Stewart elected Chairman of the Defence Select Committee". Spectator Blogs. 
  61. Ewen MacAskill. "Britain must play a greater role in fighting Islamic State in Iraq, say MPs". the Guardian. 
  62. "Forces Ombudsman should have further powers, says Defence Committee". UK Parliament. 
  63. "Rory Stewart MP - GOV.UK". 
  64. "Review into regulation and enforcement in waste sector launches". GOV.UK. 
  68. "New ministerial role for MP Rory Stewart". ITV. Retrieved 5 December 2016. 
  69. Home & Background, Rory Stewart, UK.
  70. "Conservative MP Rory Stewart to marry American volunteer at his Afghan charity". 
  71. You must specify issue=, startpage=, and date= when using {{London Gazette}}. Available parameters:

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  72. The Legacy of Lawrence of Arabia BBC Two
  73. "BBC Two - Afghanistan: The Great Game - A Personal View by Rory Stewart". BBC. 
  74. "BBC Two - Border Country: The Story of Britain's Lost Middleland, Episode 1". BBC. 
  75. Desert Island Discs – Rory Stewart, BBC Radio 4, 20 January 2008.
  76. Orlando Bloom to make a star of Rory The First Post, 19 August 2008


External linksEdit

Parliament of the United Kingdom
Preceded by
David Maclean
Member of Parliament for Penrith and The Border

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