Sir John Holmes was educated at Preston Grammar School and Balliol College, Oxford. He joined the Foreign and Commonwealth Office in 1973 and served in a wide range of diplomatic roles in London, Moscow, Paris, New Delhi and Lisbon. In 1995, Sir John joined Prime Minister John Major in Downing Street as his Private Secretary (Overseas Affairs) and diplomatic adviser. He continued this role with Prime Minister Tony Blair from 1997 to 1999, becoming at the same time Principal Private Secretary. In 1999, Sir John was appointed as the British Ambassador in Lisbon, moving to Paris as Ambassador from 2001 to 2007. He then served as UN Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator (2007-10), before taking over the post of Director of the Ditchley Foundation (2010-16). He was Chair of the Electoral Commission from 2017 to 2021. He is currently a Trustee of the British Red Cross and of the Institut Français in London, and Chair of the Humanitarian Memorial Committee. Sir John is married with three daughters.