Former British foreign secretary Lord Carrington, the last surviving member of Winston Churchill's post-war UK government, has died at the age of 99, Downing Street said Tuesday.
Known for his charm, patience and tenacity, as foreign secretary he famously resigned from prime minister Margaret Thatcher's government in 1982 over Argentina's invasion of the Malvinas (Falkland) Islands.
The House of Lords website said he died Monday.
Lord Carrington served as an agriculture minister in Churchill's post-World War II government. He went on to hold several of the top jobs in British politics, including defence secretary and foreign secretary. He also was NATO secretary-general in the mid-1980s when there was a clear thawing in relations between Washington and Moscow.
One of Britain's most illustrious 20th-century diplomats, Prime Minister Theresa May said his death marked "the end of an era and the loss of a statesman who was respected globally for his remarkable lifetime of public service".
"There can be few people who have served our country for as long, and with such dedication, as Lord Carrington did — from his gallantry as a tank commander in the Second World War, for which he was awarded the Military Cross, to his service in government under two monarchs and six prime ministers, dating back to Winston Churchill," she said.
Born Peter Carington, he sat in the House of Lords as Baron Carrington of Upton, his hereditary title having a different spelling. Taking his seat in 1945, he was the oldest and longest-serving member of the Lords.
"He was a much loved and widely respected member of the House of Lords for nearly eight decades, and served with great honour and integrity in government," May added.
War with Argentina
In 1982, Carington resigned as foreign secretary after Argentina invaded and occupied the Malvinas (Falkland) Islands.
Britain won the islands back after a brief war, but he blamed himself in part for failing to foresee the invasion and for not preventing it. Few thought him personally to blame. Thatcher tried to dissuade him from stepping down.
"This was a terrific humiliation for Britain," he said. "There had to be a political sacrifice for that, so I think I was right in resigning. You have to get things into perspective. I lost my job. Others lost their lives."
He garnered admiration for resigning on a point of principle and in 1984 he was appointed secretary-general of NATO. He served in that role for four years during which US president Ronald Reagan and Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev started bringing an end to the Cold War.
In the early 1990s, he also served as the European Union negotiator as diplomats tried to broker a deal to end the civil war in Yugoslavia.
In Britain, he is perhaps best remembered for his role in ending 14 years of deadlock in the former British colony of Rhodesia, steering it to independence as black-ruled Zimbabwe in 1980.
Chris Patten, the last British governor of Hong Kong, praised Carington as "a great leader."
"He gave the credit to others when things went well and he took the blame when things went badly, an old-fashioned set of virtues we should occasionally remember," Patten said.
'Kindness and brilliance'
Carrington became the NATO secretary general in 1984, seeing it through a crunch period in the Cold War.
"My greatest regret is that I left NATO in 1988 before the Berlin Wall came down, and everything changed. I think we did a good job," he said.
NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said he was sad to hear of Carrington's death.
"He believed a strong and united NATO could achieve great things. Arms control agreements and improvements in East-West relations during his tenure testify to his wise leadership," the former Norwegian prime minister said.
Both living former Conservative prime ministers, John Major and David Cameron, paid tribute to his service and character.
"He never fell beneath the dignity of his office, yet leavened public life with an irreverent wit that delighted all who worked with him," said Major, Britain's premier from 1990 to 1997.
"The country has lost one of its greatest post-war statesmen."
Cameron, in office from 2010 to 2016, described Carrington as "a lovely man and a great public servant".
"Kindness and brilliance in equal measure; he'll be deeply missed," he said.