The Edmund Lecture: Dame Barbara Woodward DCMG OBE

The British Permanent Representative (Ambassador) to the United Nations in New York, has been announced as this year’s speaker at…

About this event

Dame Barbara Woodward DCMG OBE, the British Permanent Representative (Ambassador) to the United Nations in New York, will give St Edmundsbury Cathedral’s Edmund Lecture on Friday 15 March.

The Ambassador will explore parallels between the Magna Carta, as the 'great charter' which laid the foundation for the modern British values of rule of law and equality before it, of liberty and rights, and the UN Charter, which established the international rules and values that have underpinned relative peace and stability since the second World War. It was at the Abbey of St Edmund that a group of Barons met in 1214 and swore an oath to compel King John to accept the Charter of Liberties, a proclamation of Henry I. This act led directly to the Magna Carta. In a world that feels increasingly uncertain and challenging, Dame Barbara will explore what we can learn from the prescience of these historical written documents, their legacy and relevance today.

Dame Barbara is a Suffolk native, born in Stowmarket and educated at South Lee School in Bury St Edmunds and then at Saint Felix School in Southwold, Suffolk. Her father, Arthur Woodward, MC FRICS, served in World War II in the Suffolk Regiment. Her mother, Gabrielle Woodward (née Fenton) taught at the Ipswich School.

Dame Barbara was British Ambassador to the People's Republic of China from February 2015 until August 2020. Since joining the Foreign and Commonwealth Office in 1990, Dame Barbara has worked on economic and security aspects of foreign policy in China, (where she was also Deputy Ambassador 2007-2009) and Russia (1994-1998) as well as in the EU and at the UN in New York and Geneva. From 2009-2011, Dame Barbara was International Director at the UK Border Agency. She joined the Board of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office as Director-General Economic and Consular in 2011.

Dame Barbara was awarded an OBE in 1999 for her part in securing the release of two British hostages from Chechnya. She graduated from St Andrews University, Scotland (1983) and from Yale University, USA (1990).

The Edmund Lecture was relaunched in 2022 as part of the Abbey 1000 celebrations. The Lecture is a way of honouring the role The Abbey of St Edmund once held as an important centre on the political, legal and intellectual landscape.

The Lecture will be followed by a special service of Vespers at 7.30 pm which all are welcome to stay for. Vespers is a liturgy of evening prayer that, for centuries, was part of the daily rhythm of prayer kept by the monks at the Abbey of St Edmund.

Tickets are free but must be pre-booked at the link above.

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