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A Real Companion and Friend:
The diary of William Lyon Mackenzie King

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Behind the Diary

A King's Who's Who Biographies

Norman Alexander Robertson (1904-1968)

Norman Alexander Robertson

Source

Norman Alexander Robertson

Norman Robertson, a Rhodes scholar working for External Affairs, was seconded to the Prime Minister's staff in the late 1930s, but only for a short time. In 1941, he became Under Secretary of State for External Affairs. He played a very important role in the wartime administration and was one of King's most trusted advisers. After King's death, Robertson served as one of his literary executors. This photograph of Norman Robertson (left) and Mackenzie King attending a Commonwealth Prime Ministers' Meeting on May 1944 is from King's personal collection.

Norman Robertson was born in Vancouver. He was educated at the University of British Columbia and then, as a Rhodes Scholar at Oxford. He joined the Department of External Affairs in 1929. In the late 1930s, he was seconded to the Prime Minister's staff, but O.D. Skelton, Under Secretary of State for External Affairs, agreed to this reluctantly and wanted him back.

After Skelton's death in 1941, Robertson became Under Secretary of State for External Affairs. Although his time as part of King's staff had been brief, the Prime Minister had great confidence in him, and Robertson played a very important role in the wartime administration. He was one of King's most trusted advisers through the war years and afterwards.

Robertson went with King to the major international conferences during and after the Second World War, including the United Nations conference in San Francisco in 1945 and the Commonwealth Prime Ministers meeting in London, England, in 1946. When King learned in San Francisco that the Soviet Union might soon enter the war against Japan  -  information that was highly secret at the time  -  it was with Robertson that he discussed the implications. (Diary, June 26, 1945)

Robertson later served two terms as Canadian High Commissioner in London (1946-1949 and 1952-1957) and one year as Canadian Ambassador in Washington (1957-1958). In 1949 he was appointed Clerk of the Privy Council and Secretary to the Cabinet. He was also one of King's literary executors.

Library and Archives Canada holds the Norman Robertson Papers (MG30-E163).

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