Robin McLaren was born 14 August 1934, the son of the late Robert Taylor McLaren and of Marie Rose McLaren (née Simond); he was educated at Richmond and East Sheen County Grammar School for Boys, Ardingly College and St John's College, Cambridge (Scholar; MA). In 1964 he married Susan Ellen Hatherly.
After serving in the Royal Navy, 1953-55, McLaren entered the Foreign Service in 1958. Following a year as a language student in Hong Kong, 1959-60, his diplomatic career included: Third Secretary, Peking [China], 1960-61; Foreign Office, 1961-64; Assistant Private Secretary to Lord Privy Seal (Mr Edward Heath), 1963-64; Second, later First Secretary, Rome [Italy], 1964-68; seconded to Hong Kong Government as Assistant Political Adviser, 1968-69; First Secretary, Foreign and Commonwealth Office, 1970-73; Deputy Head of Western Organisations Department, 1974-75; Counsellor and Head of Chancery, Copenhagen [Denmark], 1975-78; Head of Hong Kong and Gen. Department, 1978-79, of Far Eastern Department, 1979-81, FCO; Political Adviser, Hong Kong, 1981-85; Ambassador to Philippines, 1985-87; Assistant Under Secretary of State, FCO, 1987-90; Senior British Representative, Sino-British Joint Liaison Group, 1987-89; Deputy Under-Secretary of State, FCO, 1990-91; Ambassador to People's Republic of China, 1991-94.
McLaren was awarded the KCMG in 1991 (CMG 1982). He died on 20 July 2010.