The Lord Rees-Mogg
|Chairman of the Arts Council of Great Britain|
|Sir Kenneth Robinson|
|Editor of The Times|
|Sir William Haley|
|Member of the House of Lords|
8 August 1988 - 29 December 2012
14 July 1928
|Died||29 December 2012 (aged 84)|
|Resting place||Church of St James, Cameley|
|Political party||None (crossbencher)|
|Children||5 (including Jacob and Annunziata)|
|Alma mater||Balliol College, Oxford|
|Awards||Knight Bachelor (1981)|
William Rees-Mogg, Baron Rees-Mogg (14 July 1928 – 29 December 2012) was a British newspaper journalist who was Editor of The Times from 1967 to 1981. In the late 1970s, he served as High Sheriff of Somerset, and in the 1980s was Chairman of the Arts Council of Great Britain and Vice-Chairman of the BBC's Board of Governors. He was the father of the politicians Jacob and Annunziata Rees-Mogg.
William Rees-Mogg was born in 1928 in Bristol, England, into an upper-middle-class family, the son of Edmund Fletcher Rees-Mogg (1889-1962) of Cholwell House in the parish of Cameley in Somerset, an Anglican by religion, and his Irish American Catholic wife, Beatrice Warren, a daughter of Daniel Warren of New York. William Rees-Mogg was raised in the Roman Catholic faith.
Not yet eighteen, Rees-Mogg went up to Balliol College, Oxford, as a Brackenbury Scholar to read history in January 1946 as a place had fallen temporarily vacant. By the end of the Trinity (summer) term, he had been elected to the library committee (the junior committee) of the Oxford Union Society and was due to be an officer of the Oxford University Conservative Association under Margaret Roberts (the future Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher), President for Michaelmas (autumn) Term 1946.
However, he did not return to Oxford in October as he was forced to give up his place to a disabled ex-serviceman. From 1946 to 1948, beginning with an exceptionally bitter winter, he did his National Service in the Royal Air Force education department (his poor eyesight ruled out aircrew training) rising to the rank of sergeant. His duties included teaching illiterate recruits to read and write, and his reference from his commanding officer stated that he was competent to perform simple tasks under supervision.
He returned to Oxford to complete his degree, and became President of OUCA in Michaelmas Term 1950 and President of the Oxford Union in Trinity term, 1951. He graduated that term with a second-class degree.
Rees-Mogg began his career in journalism in London at the Financial Times in 1952 becoming chief leader writer in 1955 and, in addition, assistant editor in 1957. During this period, he was Conservative candidate for the safe Labour seat of Chester-le-Street in a by-election on 27 September 1956, losing to the Labour candidate Norman Pentland by 21,287 votes, as he did in the subsequent general election by a similar margin.
He moved to The Sunday Times in 1960, later becoming its Deputy Editor from 1964 where he wrote "A Captain's Innings", which many believe convinced Alec Douglas-Home to resign as Tory leader, making way for Edward Heath, in July 1965.
Rees-Mogg was editor of The Times from 1967 to 1981. In a 1967 editorial entitled "Who breaks a butterfly on a wheel?", he criticised the severity of the custodial sentence for Mick Jagger on a drugs offence. With colleagues, he attempted a buyout of Times Group Newspapers in 1981 in order to stop its sale by the Thomson Organisation to Rupert Murdoch, but was unsuccessful. Murdoch replaced him as editor with Harold Evans. Rees-Mogg wrote a comment column for The Independent from its foundation in the autumn of 1986 until near the end of 1992, when he rejoined The Times, where he remained a columnist until shortly before his death. In his Memoirs, published in 2011, he wrote of Murdoch: "Looking back, he has been an excellent proprietor for the Times, but also for Fleet Street."
Rees-Mogg was a member of the BBC's Board of Governors and chairman of the Arts Council, overseeing a major reform of the latter body which halved the number of arts organisations receiving regular funding and reduced the Council's direct activities. Having been High Sheriff of Somerset from 1978 to 1979, he was appointed a Knight Bachelor in the 1981 Birthday Honours and knighted by Elizabeth II in an investiture ceremony at Buckingham Palace on 3 November 1981. In the 1988 Birthday Honours, Rees-Mogg was made a life peer on 8 August that year as Baron Rees-Mogg, of Hinton Blewett in the County of Avon, and sat in the House of Lords as a cross-bencher. He was a member of the European Reform Forum. The University of Bath awarded him an Honorary Degree (Doctor of Laws) in 1977.
He co-authored, with James Dale Davidson, three books on the general topic of financial investment and the future of capitalism: Blood in the Streets, The Great Reckoning, and The Sovereign Individual. Published in 1997, The Sovereign Individual argues that in an internet age the nation state will become outmoded, and an era of the individual will develop. Peter Thiel, the co-founder of PayPal, stated in 2014 that The Sovereign Individual was the most influential book he had read.
Writing in The Times in 2001, Lord Rees-Mogg, who had a house in Somerset, described himself as "a country person who spends most of his time in London", and attempted to define the characteristics of a "country person". He also wrote that Tony Blair was as unpopular in rural England as Mrs Thatcher had been in Scotland. By now his liberal attitude to drugs policy had led to his being mocked as "Mogadon Man" by Private Eye. The magazine later referred to him as "Mystic Mogg" (a pun on "Mystic Meg", a tabloid astrologer) because of the perception that his economic and political predictions were ultimately found to be inaccurate.
In 1964, Rees-Mogg purchased Ston Easton Park near Bath, Somerset, the former home of the Hippisley family. The house had been threatened with demolition and Rees-Mogg partially restored it. He sold the house to the Smedley family in 1978.
Rees-Mogg and his wife Gillian Shakespeare Morris had five children. They are:
Afflicted by oesophageal cancer, he became seriously ill just before Christmas of 2012, and died in London on 29 December at the age of 84. Rees-Mogg's funeral was held at Westminster Cathedral on 9 January 2013, with his body being buried in the graveyard of the Church of St James at Cameley in the county of Somerset.
As president of Oxford University's Conservative society, the 20-year-old history student at Magdalen College is hoping to transform the face of student Conservatism into a virtuous, charity-loving and politically correct force.