FOREIGN AFFAIRS? YES PLEASE; as Two of Our Ambassadors Are Exposed for Adultery, Our Former Man in Washington Says FO Chappies Have Always Been Partial to Bedroom Diplomacy

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Byline: by Christopher Meyer

BACK in the Seventies, one of the great West End hits was a long-running farce inspired by the idea that the British were innocents abroad when it came to the skilled sexual habits of Europeans.

As Hungarian writer George Mikes said: 'Continental people have sex lives; the English have hot water bottles.'

The farce was called No Sex Please, We're British! How times have changed. If recent stories are anything to go by, my old profession, diplomacy, has thrown British prudishness to the winds and is even teaching those Hungarians a thing or two -- and it's not how to fill hot water bottles without scalding yourself.

It was reported this week that Steven Fisher, who is about to become Her Britannic Majesty's Ambassador to the Dominican Republic, had been caught three times in flagrante in three countries, most recently Hungary, and his wife had walked out on him. This has been no bar to his promotion as a head of mission.

This case follows on the heels of that of Tim Torlot, Her Britannic Majesty's Ambassador to the Yemen, who dumped his wife of 23 years for the 'flame-haired' Jennifer Steil, by whom he's had a child.

What can this outbreak of diplomatic priapism mean? Is Viagra part of David Miliband's modernisation programme for the Foreign Office, along with blogging and tweeting?

Is there something in the Budapest water supply? Is it the sultry hot weather in the Yemen, which discourages the wearing of too many clothes?

My parents were briefly posted there My parents were briefly posted when it was the British colony of Aden. I remember a steamy atmosphere that must have been a little like the scandal-ridden Happy Valley of Kenya, when sexual shenanigans were rife.

Up to now, our diplomats struggled to shake off the caricature of the pin-striped twit played by Terry-Thomas in the Fifties film, Carlton-Browne Of The F.O. Commentators seem incapable of writing about the Foreign Office without using the adjective 'stuffy'.

So the idea of hanky-panky stalking the elegant residences of British diplomacy comes as something of a shock.

But sex and diplomacy have long been bedfellows. It's a venerable tradition that has changed the course of history.

When I was researching my new book, Getting Our Way, which tells stories from British diplomacy over the past 500 years, I was stunned by what occurred at the Congress of Vienna in 1814.

This was the grand conference that redrew the map of Europe after the Napoleonic Wars. Diplomats from all over Europe descended on Vienna. So did kings, princes and dukes, accompanied by wives, mistresses and general hangers-on.

Prostitutes swarmed to the Austrian capital like bees around a honeypot. The city's population went up by a third.

As the diplomacy moved into top gear, so did the sex trade. A Russian officer remarked on the 'unbelievable depravity of the female sex' in Vienna.

THE GRAND Duke of Baden hosted orgies with the Prince of Hesse-Darmstadt, picking up girls in the street.

Tsar Alexander of Russia, one of the four Great Powers at the Congress, was a sexual predator. When his advances were rebuffed by Countess Szechenyi, she asked him: 'Who do you take me for -- a province to be invaded?'

The Tsar had arrived with a mistress in tow, the Princess Bagration. She was known in Vienna as the White Pussycat and the Naked Angel, because of her see-through dresses.

She ran off with Count Metternich, the host of the conference, and had a child by him. The Tsar took his revenge by sleeping with Metternich's mistress.

To enrich the erotic pot, the French foreign minister, Talleyrand, had taken up with the younger sister of Metterscarlet nich's mistress, who, would you believe, was married to Talleyrand's nephew. …