Sir Christopher John Frayling (born 25 December 1946) is a British educationalist and writer, known for his study of popular culture.
Christopher Frayling was born in Hampton, a suburb of London, in affluent circumstances. After attending Repton School, Frayling read history at Churchill College, Cambridge and gained a PhD in the study of Jean-Jacques Rousseau. He was appointed a Fellow of the college in 2009. He taught history at the University of Bath and was awarded an Honorary Degree (Doctor of Arts) from that University in 2003. In 1979 Frayling was appointed Professor of Cultural History at London's post-graduate art and design school, the Royal College of Art. Frayling was Rector of the Royal College of Art from 1996 to 2009.
He was the Chairman of Arts Council England from 2005 until January 2009. He also served as Chairman of the Design Council, Chairman of the Royal Mint Advisory Committee, and a Trustee of the Victoria and Albert Museum. He was a governor of the British Film Institute in the 1980s. In April 2014 he was appointed Chancellor of the Arts University Bournemouth.
He has had a wide output as a writer and critic on subjects ranging from vampires to westerns. He has written and presented television series such as The Art of Persuasion on advertising and Strange Landscape on the Middle Ages. He has conducted a series of radio and television interviews with figures from the world of film, including Woody Allen, Deborah Kerr, Ken Adam, Francis Ford Coppola and Clint Eastwood. He has written and presented several television series, including The Face of Tutankhamun and Nightmare: Birth of Horror.
He studied spaghetti westerns and specifically director Sergio Leone. He has written a very popular biography of Leone, Something To Do With Death (2000); helped run the Los Angeles-based Gene Autry Museum's exhibit on Leone in 2005; and appeared in numerous documentaries about Leone and his films, particularly the DVD documentaries of Once Upon a Time in the West (1968). He also provided audio commentaries for the special edition DVD releases of A Fistful of Dollars, For a Few Dollars More, Once Upon a Time in the West and The Colossus of Rhodes.
In 2001, he was awarded a knighthood for "Services to Art and Design Education" and chose as his motto "PERGE SCELUS MIHI DIEM PERFICIAS", which can be translated as "Proceed, varlet, and let the day be rendered perfect for my benefit". That is, "Go ahead, punk, make my day". The bendlets charged with billets allude to 'perfs' or 'sprocket holes' in 35mm film, and thus stand for film studies, an area of Sir Christopher's academic work. The bendlets are placed in the 'sinister' (a traditional mark of bastardy) because Frayling's writings about westerns and cowboy films were initially regarded by other academics as illegitimate - the reference to bastardy is thus an ironic satire of this perspective. This aspect of the design was suggested by a former student of Professor Frayling's.