Headington history: People

Go backwards
Go forwards

Salvador de Madariaga (1886–1978)

Salvador de Madariaga

Salvador de Madariaga was a Spanish diplomat, writer, historian, and (despite being the son of an army colonel) a pacifist.

He was born on 23 July 1886 at Corunna in Spain, and was educated in Paris, where he studied engineering. He worked as an engineer for a French-run company in Spain, but gave up engineering altogether when he was appointed head of the British propaganda campaign for Spanish-speaking countries in 1916.  He and his wife (Constance Helen Archibald, whom he had married in Glasgow in 1912) moved from Spain to London, where he worked for The Times, and also reported on the First World War for the Spanish press. Their two daughters, Nieves and Isabel, were born in 1917 and 1919 respectively.

He moved to Geneva in 1921 to become a member of the press section of the League of Nations secretariat, and was director of the disarmament section from 1922 to 1927.

In 1927 de Madariaga was appointed the University of Oxford’s first King Alfonso XIII Professor of Spanish Studies, and arrived in Oxford early in 1928. He was also a Fellow of Exeter College

3 St Andrew's Road


He was matriculated in Hilary Term 1928 and by the end of that year he was living with his family at Boxtrees, 3 St Andrew’s Road (right). That road was then called Church Street, but he gave his address simply as “Boxtrees, Old Headington” when he sailed on one of his visits to the USA on 18 December 1928.

In his reminiscences of Headington, James Hansford describes how his mother Mabel (known as Florrie) was the family’s children’s maid at this time, travelling with them on a journey to Geneva connected with the League of Nations.

The young Madariaga girls attended Miss Woods’s School (now Hunsdon House), and Isabel recollects how Miss Woods translated nursery rhymes into Latin to help them learn the language.

The family only lived in Headington for about three years at this point, however, as de Madariaga resigned his professorship when in 1931 the new Spanish republican government appointed him ambassador to Washington. The following year they made him ambassador to Paris, a position he held until 1934.

While de Madariaga was away he leased 3 St Andrew’s Road to Captain Vadim Narishkin, Lecturer in French at Brasenose College.

When the Spanish Civil War started in July 1936, de Madariaga came back to England and at first lived in London, devoting himself to historical research. When he sailed on another visit to New York on 5 January 1938 he gave his address as the Reform Club and described himself as a “publicist”.

At the time of the 1939 Register, de Madariaga was living with his wife Constance at 21 Hampstead Hill Gardens, London, but soon after the start of the Second World War they returned to live in their Headington home, remaining there this time for over thirty years.

In 1942 de Madariaga was appointed an Honorary Fellow of Exeter College. Dr Brian Stewart recalled how he would dine on High Table on Sunday nights in the late 1960s, where “he and Sir Alister Hardy would spend the whole evening conducting two parallel monologues, syntactically a conversation, but semantically completely independent”. On 30 July 1966, he was awarded an Honorary Doctorate. 

Constance died in May 1970, and six months later Salvador de Madariaga married his second wife, Mrs Emilia Rauman, who had been his collaborator since 1938. Soon after the marriage he left Headington to live in Locarno in Switzerland for reasons of health. Kelly’s Directory for 1973 lists just E. de Madariaga at 3 St Andrew’s Road, and by 1976 the house was vacant.

Plaque to de Madariaga


Salvador de Madariaga died in Locarno on 14 December 1978. After the death of his wife, their two daughters initially let out 3 St Andrew’s Road, and eventually sold it in 1984.


An Oxfordshire Blue Plaque (right) to Salvador de Madariaga was unveiled at 3 St Andrew’s Road on 15 October 2011 by his daughter Isabel

There is a much fuller entry on Salvador de Madariaga in the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography
The ODNB online is available free to many public library users, including those in Oxfordshire:
enter L followed immediately by your library ticket number in the “Library Card Login” box

Wikipedia: Salvador de Madariaga

© Stephanie Jenkins

Headington home Shark Oxford History home