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In diplomacy, chargé d’affaires (French for “charged with (in charge of) matters”), often shortened to simply chargé, is the title of two classes of diplomatic agents who head a diplomatic mission on a temporary basis.

Chargés d’affaires

Chargés d’affaires (ministres chargés d'affaires), who were placed by the règlement of the Congress of Vienna in the fourth class of diplomatic agents, are heads of permanent mission accredited to countries to which, for some reason, it is not possible or not desirable to send agents of a higher rank (although the countries maintain diplomatic relations). In certain cases, a chargé d'affaires may be appointed for long periods, when a mission is headed by a non-resident ambassador, when countries have established diplomatic relations but not exchanged Ambassadors, or when they have recalled their ambassadors for a period of time (to express displeasure or serious disagreement) but not yet taken the extremely serious step of breaking diplomatic relations. It is not unheard of for chargé d'affaires to remain in place for an indefinite period. Since a chargé d'affaires does not need to present letters of credence to the host head of state, appointing a chargé may avoid a politically sensitive meeting or implying some form of approval or recognition of that head of state or government. Equally, the receiving country may express displeasure by declining to receive an ambassador, but maintain diplomatic relations by accepting a chargé. They are distinguished from chargés d’affaires ad interim by the fact that their credential are addressed by the minister for foreign affairs of the state which they are to represent to the minister for foreign affairs of the receiving state. They have precedence over the other class of chargés d’affaires.

Chargés d’affaires ad interim

Chargés d’affaires ad interim are those who temporarily head a diplomatic mission in the absence of the accredited head of that mission. They are presented as such, either orally or in writing, by heads of missions of the first, second or third rank to the minister for foreign affairs of the state to which they are accredited, when they leave their post temporarily, or pending the arrival of their successor. It is usual to appoint a counsellor or secretary of legation chargé d’affaires. Some governments are accustomed to give the title of minister to such chargés d’affaires, which ranks them with the other heads of legation.


In modern use, chargés d’affaires do not essentially differ from ambassador, envoy or ministers resident. They represent their nation, and enjoy the same privileges and immunities as other diplomatic agents.

However, there have been rare historical circumstances in which a diplomatic post, formally ranking as chargé d’affaires, was in fact employed in a more significant colonial role, as commonly held by a Resident. Thus, in Annam-Tonkin (most of present Vietnammarker), the first French chargé d’affaires at Huếmarker, the local ruler’s capital, since 1875; one of them (three terms) was appointed the first Resident-general on 11 June 1884, as they stopped being tributary to the Chinese empire, less than a year after the 25 August 1883 French protectorates over Annam and Tonkin (central and northern regions).

In French usage, chargé d’affaires may be used outside diplomacy either as a specific position, or in general terms to indicate an individual with some more or less temporary responsibility for a specific area of activity.

Usage: spelling and grammar

Chargé d’affaires generally follows French usage: chargé d’affaires is singular, chargés d’affaires for plural. The “d’affaires” is always in the plural form (with the plural “s” at the end), and uncapitalized throughout. Although non-standard and unusual, chargée d’affaires (with the feminine ending) may be seen where the chargé is female.

For temporary chargés, ad interim may or may not be added depending on the context, but is always lower case; it may be italicized or shortened to simply a.i.

References and footnotes

Sources and external links

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