The following was published yesterday in the Guardian obituaries section,
written by Sir Rodric Braithwaite. We extend our warmest condolences to
"My wife, Jill Braithwaite, who has died aged 71, had four careers: she
was a promising diplomat, a wife and mother, a meticulous scholar, and a
supporter of social reform in Russia.
Born Gillian Mary Robinson in London, daughter of Patrick and Ida
Robinson, she came from a conventional Surrey background of ponies and
tennis parties. Jill was educated (reluctantly) at Roedean school in East
Sussex, and then at Westfield College (now part of Queen Mary and
Westfield), London University, where she studied French, Italian and
She joined the Foreign Office in November 1959. They gave her some
exiguous language training, and then sent her the following February to do
a political job in Warsaw. They had recommended her to the ambassador as
"a pretty girl with a bright, jolly manner and lots of personality":
political correctness had not yet been invented. They were wrong, of
course. Jill was not pretty: her 1963 Soviet ID card shows a woman whose
unusual beauty matured and shone even after she had been suffering from
cancer for a long time.
Another Miranda, she threw herself with innocent enthusiasm and growing
professional success into the brave new Polish world of "socialism with a
human face", when the humanisation of Communism seemed a real possibility.
But in April 1961 we were married, and as she and I were colleagues Jill
had to resign, as the grotesque rules still demanded. Her linguistic,
personal and political skills remained devoted to the public service in
Rome, Brussels, Washington and Moscow. The public service gave them no
For Jill, marriage and motherhood were in any case the supreme career. She
joyously bore and nurtured five children, and then began new work as an
archaeologist (having gained a first in archaeology from the Institute of
Archaeology in the 1980s). Her monograph Faces of the Past (2007) is a
major contribution to the study of Roman pottery.
Jill loved Russia and its people. The same courage which helped her bear
the death of a small son in 1971 drove her on to the barricades defending
Boris Yeltsin during the Moscow coup of 1991: imprudent for an
ambassadress, inevitable for her. Jill helped to set up the BEARR Trust
for supporting welfare NGOs in the former Soviet Union. But the most
rewarding of her many later Russian commitments was the Russian European
Trust for Welfare Reform, led by the dynamic Antonina Dashkova, which she
helped to found in 1993.
Jill was a fountain of love and generosity, of willpower and energy, of
tremendous intellectual curiosity and enthusiasm, of modesty and
integrity. She was bossy and tempestuous. She had a quiet sense of humour
and an infectious laugh. She was the most loyal of friends. She was
without malice or cynicism.
She is survived by me, by our children Richard, Katharine, Julian (whose
twin, Mark, predeceased her) and David, and by six grandchildren and