Born in 1919, Lord Carrington was educated in the United Kingdom at Eton and the Royal Military College of Sandhurst. In 1946 he began to take an active part in the work of Parliament, and in 1951 became a Parliamentary Secretary at the Ministry of Agriculture. In 1954 he became Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Defence.
In 1956 Lord Carrington was appointed United Kingdom High Commissioner in Australia. In 1959 he returned to the United Kingdom, where he was appointed First Lord of the Admiralty and a Privy Counsellor, and in 1962 became Assistant Deputy Leader of the House of Lords. In the 1970 Conservative Government he was appointed Secretary of State for Defence, and subsequently Secretary of State for Energy. Between 1972 and 1974 he was Chairman of the Conservative Party.
In May 1979 Lord Carrington was appointed Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs and was Chairman of the Lancaster House Conference, which led to the solution of the Rhodesian problem and the creation of the independent Republic of Zimbabwe in 1981. He resigned in 1982 at the time of the Falklands crisis. In 1983 he became Chairman of the General Electric Company, a post which he held until his appointment to NATO in June 1984. In July 1988 Lord Carrington was succeeded as Secretary General of NATO by Manfred Wörner.