The Diplomatic Service
The very rigid form of diplomatic address that was followed in the last century has been replaced by a polite, yet slightly less deferential, style of approach.
Ambassador is the most senior diplomatic rank, and ambassadors are formal representatives of the Head of State. In Commonwealth countries, the equivalent of the ambassador is normally the high commissioner.
The collective term for a group of diplomats residing in another county is a diplomatic mission. A diplomatic mission headed by an ambassador is known as an embassy; a diplomatic mission headed by a high commissioner is known as a high commission.
Below the ambassador in the diplomatic hierarchy come the following: minister; minister-counsellor; counsellor; first secretary; second secretary; third secretary; attaché; assistant attaché. In the absence of an ambassador or a senior diplomat, a chargé d’affaires will temporarily head the diplomatic mission. At formal events, the chargé d’affaires has a lower precedence than the ambassador.
Attachés are generally staff, acting in an advisory or administrative capacity, who are not members of their country’s diplomatic service, and are therefore temporarily ‘attached’ to the mission.