Tom Fletcher, a former UK ambassador to Lebanon and author of ‘The Naked Diplomat’, recently told some interesting stories about the games diplomats play to show the power and prominence of their country.
In the 17th century, the Spanish and French ambassadors in London were constantly engaged in one-upmanship. On one occasion, the Spanish ambassador was asked where he would like to sit and he replied: Find the French ambassador, pluck him from his seat and I will sit there.
Then there was Churchill’s attempt to befuddle Stalin by setting extra knives and forks for dinner.
And finally, Mr Fletcher recalled being instructed to adopt a hostile demeanour when the Iranian ambassador entered a reception. He used to practice it at home to get it just right.
Tomorrow: Abbasid Baghdad’s shock-and-awe diplomacy