Philip Ziegler was born in December 1929, and was eductated at Eton and New College, Oxford, where he won the Chancellor's Essay Prize and gained a first class honours degree in law. He then entered the Foreign Service and served in Laos, with the Delegation to NATO in Paris, in Pretoria and in Bogota. In 1967 he retired from the Foreign Service to join the publishing company of William Collins. He was an editorial director for ten years and became editor-in-chief before leaving to concentrate on his writing, which has included biographies of Lord Mountbatten and William IV. He also wrote the highly acclaimed The Black Death.