Manlio Brosio was a tall, distinguished gentlemen with the manners of a refined diplomat. Although he always looked serious, he was a kind and relatively shy character, as well as a true altruist. He invariably asked his chauffeur to slow down at the entrance of the motorway for any hitch hiker who needed a lift when he and his wife headed off for the Belgian coast – their favourite destination. One person in particular, a baker, got a ride for well over a year!
Upon his appointment in August 1964 some felt that as an Italian career diplomat, he lacked the political stature of his predecessors. However, it soon became apparent that he would serve the organisation well as it navigated internal and external strife. Brosio believed he needed to place the office of the Secretary General, and indeed the Alliance itself, beyond partisan politics. Therefore, even during France’s withdrawal from the integrated military structure in 1966, tensions between Greece and Turkey over Cyprus, or détente with the Soviet Union, Brosio skilfully managed the Council in his discreet yet deliberate diplomatic manner to preserve cooperation and unity among the Allies.
In addition to being a born diplomat, he was also meticulous and thorough. He read every single document that passed his way and insisted on personally reviewing every article that was published in the Organization’s flag-ship magazine – NATO Review. He was assisted in his daily tasks by Countess Mathilda de Marcello, a Venetian who had previously worked at the Venice Festival. Brosio, at the relatively advanced age of 70, was still very active and in addition to enjoying the sea air, as previously mentioned, also played tennis. During one of his outings to Knokke-le-Zoute, he and his wife were caught short by the incoming tide and had to turn back. Not being at the agreed meeting point, their chauffeur called the police and luckily they were found after having gone missing for six hours. His wife – Clothilde Brosio – carried the same surname as her husband since they were distant cousins. She was an organised person who frequently held sumptuous banquets where the strictest rules of etiquette were respected. The Brosios also had a poodle named Pulpo, which was pampered by the couple and frequently accompanied them on official visits abroad. On a few occasions, the dog misbehaved and the visit had to be shortened!
Manlio Brosio is the Secretary General who saw the move from Paris to Brussels in 1967. He inaugurated the new NATO Headquarters in Brussels where, at the last minute, rolls of lawn had to be laid down for the day of the opening ceremony to avoid sinking in mud. When he retired from NATO in 1971, NATO was left revitalised and ready to adapt to the changing security environment. Brosio was awarded the Medal of Freedom by President Nixon, the United States’ highest civilian award.