[ilds] Durrell's British citizenship

Michael Haag michaelhaag at btinternet.com
Fri Jun 1 10:13:23 PDT 2007

My guess is that it was a very minor problem.  For those who had been 
born in what had British India (Pakistan, India and Burma) and were 
resident in the United Kingdom there was nothing they needed to know or 

How many British patrials there were resident outside the UK I do not 
know, nor do I know what efforts were made to alert them to the new 
law.  I believe that citizens of any country who are living abroad are 
usually told to keep in touch with their embassy; that the 
responsibility for being informed lies with the individual.

I suppose the safest way of framing that law would have been to ensure 
that it should not apply to British patrials resident abroad within a 
certain period of time, that time being the valid life of their British 
passports -- so that as one's passport expired, one was obliged to 
renew it at an embassy or consulate where one would have been told, in 
good time, that one needed to register under the new act.  Had that 
been the case, and had Durrell or anyone in his position renewed his 
passport within that time, the problem would not have arisen.  For all 
I know the law was framed in that way, and that Durrell failed to renew 
his passport when he should have -- one would have to look at his 
passport, the provisions of the law, etc, to know for sure.

Had there been any significant number of people affected by this 
situation I would have thought that remedial action would have been 
taken by Parliament.  Nothing I have read in the Foreign Office and 
Home Office files indicates that there was a wider problem.  I would 
not be surprised if Durrell was the only one.


On Friday, June 1, 2007, at 05:21  pm, Bruce Redwine wrote:

> Thanks, Michael for the thorough explanation.  I'm still puzzled by 
> British law.  Having recognized there was a problem with the Act of 
> 1966, why didn't Parliament correct it?  Such as extend the time to 
> register as a British citizen?  Surely Lawrence Durrell wasn't the 
> only UK "citizen" suddenly finding himself a foreigner in his own 
> country, because of some arcane provision in the act.  I guess the 
> answer is obvious.  Parliament did not consider that a "problem."  
> This sounds a little like the current debate in the U.S. over 
> immigration policy.
> Bruce
> -----Original Message-----
>> From: Michael Haag <michaelhaag at btinternet.com>
>> Sent: Jun 1, 2007 8:56 AM
>> To: ilds at lists.uvic.ca
>> Subject: Re: [ilds] Durrell's British citizenship
>> Durrell was British and held a British passport; at no point in his
>> life was he stateless.
>> However, in the 1960s the British woke up to the fact that if everyone
>> who had been born in the British Empire chose to travel at once, and 
>> in
>> particular chose to come to Britain, something like a billion people
>> could show up on an afternoon.  And so a limitation was placed on
>> freedom of entry to Britain based on ancestry (father's birth in
>> Britain, I think -- sorry, I do not have the exact details to hand) or
>> established residence in Britain.  Durrell's family -- his mother,
>> sister and brothers -- were all resident in Britain and were therefore
>> British under those previous arrangements and needed to do nothing; in
>> fact they were probably entirely unaware of the change in law.  But
>> Durrell was living abroad, and he would have needed to register --
>> simply by going to his nearest British consulate.  But he was unaware
>> of the new conditions.  He only discovered the situation some years
>> later when he went to get his passport renewed at the consulate at 
>> Nice
>> (I think it was), and they explained that they could not give him a
>> British passport with free right of entry to Britain; instead he would
>> have to obtain a visa.  His situation was something like that which
>> Bruce describes below.
>> Durrell knew the British ambassador to Paris at the time and raised 
>> the
>> matter with him, who in turn raised it with the Foreign Office and the
>> Home Office.  I have looked at these papers.  Everyone bent over
>> backwards to remedy the situation, but the law had been passed, 
>> Durrell
>> had missed the boat, and it was decided at the highest level that an
>> exception could not be made for one man.  What the authorities did do,
>> however, was to offer to put Durrell on the British consular payroll
>> (again at Nice, I think) -- I am writing this off the top of my head
>> without looking at my notes so I am not giving you the precise
>> legalities and justifications for all this -- which some how would 
>> have
>> got round the problem; I think it was because it could then be argued
>> that this was an extension of Durrell's foreign service employment
>> which would have entitled him to automatic continuation as a British
>> citizen with a British passport with full privileges.  All Durrell had
>> to do was to show up at the consulate very occasionally, once or twice
>> a month or whatever, probably have a drink, and then go home again.
>> But he chose not to accept that; quite simply he was too busy.  He was
>> content enough to enter Britain as a British citizen with a British
>> passport but also with the need to carry a visa.  Durrell was always
>> British; at no time was he stateless.
>> In short, changing times and changing laws.  Until the 1960s Durrell
>> was British and enjoyed the full benefits of British citizenship.
>> Afterwards Durrell was still British and still a British passport
>> holder but with the qualification that he would need a visa to enter
>> Britain.  The British government did everything in its reasonable
>> powers to make good the situation.  Durrell himself felt unable to
>> avail himself of their solution.  There were no bad feelings.
>> Incidentally, had Durrell been Irish this problem would not have
>> arisen.  The definition of Irish nationality is that one parent or
>> grandparent was born in Ireland.  Anyone satisfying that condition is
>> Irish at birth (whether they know it or not) and is entitled to an
>> Irish passport.  Moreover under British law anyone of Irish 
>> nationality
>> is entitled to live, work and vote in Britain.  No visa is required.  
>> I
>> believe that the same applies in reverse.
>> :Michael
>> On Friday, June 1, 2007, at 03:00  pm, <richardpin at eircom.net> wrote:
>>> I think Michael H can illuminate this - the 'revelation' in 2002 was,
>>> I think, in the Guardian newspaper (UK) and explained why LD did not,
>>> in fact, hold a full British passport.
>>> RP
>>> Bruce Redwine <bredwine1968 at earthlink.net>, ilds at lists.uvic.ca wrote:
>>> <
>>> <  Yes, can someone clear up this matter about LD's passport?  I 
>>> think
>>> it's false.  Born of British parents in a British colony and not
>>> British?  Sounds absurd.  Moreover, as Lea asks, how could he have
>>> worked all those years in the British Foreign Office and not have 
>>> been
>>> a UK citizen?  I know that in Hong Kong, before 1997, people born in
>>> the Crown Colony were issued a special British passport, which looked
>>> like a regular passport but was actually a "travel document."  It
>>> enabled the holder to travel as a UK citizen, but it did not give the
>>> bearer all the rights of one.  I.e., the bearer could not claim
>>> residence in the UK.  Is something like this the basis of the rumor?
>>> <
>>> <  Bruce
>>> <
>>> <  -----Original Message-----
>>> <  >From: Lea Stogdale <leadale at mts.net>
>>> <  >Sent: May 31, 2007 9:00 PM
>>> <  >To: "'ilds at lists.uvic.ca'" <ilds at lists.uvic.ca>
>>> <  >Subject: [ilds] Stateless
>>> <  >
>>> <  >Durrell's nationless status was revealed in 2002-born in India 
>>> yet
>>> not
>>> <  >Indian and never holding British citizenship despite working as a
>>> British
>>> <  >civil servant.
>>> <  >
>>> <  >What passport did he hold?
>>> <  >Lea
>>> <  >
>>> <
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