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Royall Tyler (1884–1953)

Royall Tyler (1884–1953)

Royall ("Peter") Tyler was an historian, diplomat, economist, and art connoisseur. He was born in Quincy, Massachusetts, on May 2, 1884, the son of Ellen Frances Krebs Tyler and William Royall Tyler (1852–1897). Although raised in Quincy, he spent most of his life in Europe. He moved to London in 1898, and was educated at Harrow School (1898–1902) as well as New College, Oxford (1902–1903), the Universidad de Salamanca (1903–1904), and the École des Sciences Politiques in Paris (1906–1908), taking a degree only at Harrow School. In Salamanca, he became the friend and correspondent of Miguel de Unamuno. In 1908, he met and fell in love with Elisina Palamidessi de Castelvecchio. Their son, William Royall Tyler, was born in Paris on October 17, 1910. Royall Tyler and Elisina Palamidessi de Castelvecchio were married on November 26, 1914, after her divorce from Grant Richards on April 24, 1914. Royall Tyler was fluent in French, Spanish, and German and proficient in Italian, Hungarian, and Greek. He authored Spain: A Study of Her Life and Arts (1909). In 1911, the Public Record Office of the British Home Office appointed him editor of the Spanish Calendar of State Papers, which were translations of the correspondence to English monarchs from their diplomats in Spain. Tyler completed five volumes between 1913 and 1953. With Hayford Peirce, he also authored Byzantine Art (1926) and L’art byzantin, vol. 1 (1932) and vol. 2 (1934). When the United States entered the First World War, Tyler enlisted in the army; he subsequently became an interrogator of German prisoners of war (1918–1919) and a member of the U.S. delegation to the Paris Peace Conference (1919). His service as a delegate on the U.S. Reparations Commission (1920–1924) led to his becoming a deputy commissioner general of the Economic and Financial Section of the League of Nations in Geneva (1924–1928), where he was tasked with helping to oversee the economic reconstruction of Hungary. Consequently, he spent a considerable amount of time in Budapest. He also served on the Refugee Settlement Commission in Athens (1927). In 1928, he declined a five-year appointment as advisor to the new national bank of Bulgaria to become a European representative of the Hambros Bank of London (1928–1931). Tyler was instrumental in organizing the first international exhibition of Byzantine art in Paris in 1931. In the same year, he became the League of Nations Financial Committee’s financial advisor to the Hungarian government in Budapest (1931–1938). In 1938, Tyler was appointed as expert in the Economic and Financial Section of the League of Nations in Geneva (1938–1943). He spent much of the Second World War in Switzerland, taking unpaid leave from the League of Nations and working for the U.S. intelligence network run by Allen Dulles. Between 1943 and 1949, Tyler served as the Swiss representative of the United Nations Relief and Rehabilitation Administration (UNRRA) and, in 1944, as the special attaché to the U.S. Legation in Bern. After the war, he also worked in Paris, first as head of the Paris field office of the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development (1946–1949) and then as the European representative of the National Committee for a Free Europe, an American anti-Communist organization founded in 1949 by Allen Dulles, with whom he helped found the Free Europe College in Strasbourg, France. His last book, The Emperor Charles the Fifth, perhaps left incomplete by his death in 1953, was published posthumously in 1956. In 1923, Royall Tyler and Elisina Tyler acquired (and later restored) the historic garrison-castle, Antigny-le-Château, in Burgundy. Royall Tyler was a life-long friend of Mildred Barnes Bliss and, after her marriage, of Robert Woods Bliss. He was instrumental in advising them as collectors and often served as their agent in acquisitions. Known as "Peter" to many of his friends, Royall Tyler was widely recognized as an art, wine, and food connoisseur. He died at the age of fifty-eight on February 3, 1953, in Paris, apparently by suicide.


Arthur Carl von Breycha-Vauthier de Bailamont, "Royall Tyler (1884–1953)," U.N. Special (April 1953).

Carl J. Burckhardt, foreword to Kaiser Karl V, by Royall Tyler (Stuttgart: Dt. Verl.-Anst., 1959), 17–19.

Carl J. Burckhardt, Carl J. Burckhardt—Max Rychner: Briefe 1926–1965 (Frankfurt: A. M. Fischer, 1970), 154–58.

James N. Carder, ed., A Home of the Humanities: The Collecting and Patronage of Mildred and Robert Woods Bliss (Washington, D.C.: Dumbarton Oaks Research Library and Collection, 2010), especially Robert S. Nelson, "Royall Tyler and the Bliss Collection of Byzantine Art," 27–50.

Dictionary of Art Historians, s.v., "Tyler, Royall."

M. M., "Royall Tyler," The Burlington Magazine 95, no. 608 (November 1953): 368. 

Violet Markham, obituary of Royall Tyler, The Times, March 9, 1953.

Robert S. Nelson, "Private Passions Made Public: The Beginnings of the Bliss Collection," in Sacred Art, Secular Context: Objects of Art from the Byzantine Collection of Dumbarton Oaks, Washington, D.C., Accompanied by American Paintings from the Collection of Mildred and Robert Woods Bliss, ed. Asen Kirin (Athens: Georgia Museum of Art , 2005), 39–51.

Robert S. Nelson, Hagia Sophia, 1850–1950: Holy Wisdom Modern Monument (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2004), 161–64.

Arthur Salter, Slave of the Lamp: A Public Servant’s Notebook (London: Weidenfeld and Nicolson, 1967), 91–93.

Walter Muir Whitehill, Dictionary of American Biography, s.v. "Royall Tyler," supplement 5: 1951–1955 (New York: Scribner, 1977): 699–701.