William Rees-Mogg

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William Rees-Mogg later Baron Rees-Mogg (14 July 1928 – 29 December 2012) was a British liberal 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 is the father of the politicians Jacob Rees-Mogg and Annunziata Rees-Mogg.

Early life

William Rees-Mogg was born in Bristol, England, into a middle-class family, the son of Edmund Fletcher Rees-Mogg (1889–1962) of Cholwell House[1] in the parish of Cameley in Somerset, an Anglican, and his Irish American Roman Catholic wife, Beatrice Warren, a daughter of Daniel Warren of New York.[2][3] William Rees-Mogg was raised in his mother's Roman Catholic faith.


After leaving Oxford University 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.[4][5]

During this period, he stood as the Conservative Party candidate for the safe Labour seat of Chester-le-Street, county Durham, in a by-election on 27 September 1956, losing to the Labour Party candidate Norman Pentland by 21,287 votes,[6] as he did in the subsequent general election in 1959 by a similar margin. He subsequently joined the Bow Group, a political pressure group which worked inside the Conservative Party to make it more liberal.

He moved to The Sunday Times newspaper in 1960, later becoming its Deputy Editor from 1964[5] where he wrote "A Captain's Innings",[7] which many believe convinced Alec Douglas-Home to resign as Conservative Party leader, making way for the even more liberal Edward Heath, in July 1965.[6]

Rees-Mogg was editor of The Times from 1967 to 1981. In a 1967 editorial entitled "Who breaks a butterfly on a wheel?",[7] he criticised the severity of the custodial sentence for Mick Jagger on a drugs offence.[8] 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.[9] Murdoch replaced him as editor with Harold Evans.

Rees-Mogg wrote a comment column for the Left-wing newspaper The Independent from its foundation in the autumn of 1986 until near the end of 1992,[10] when he rejoined The Times,[11] 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."[12]

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.

Writing in The Times in 2001, 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 Margaret Thatcher had been in Scotland. By now his liberal attitude to drugs policy had led to his being mocked as "Mogadon Man" by the satirical magazine Private Eye.[8] 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.[9][13]

Rees-Mogg also served as the chairman of the London publishing firm Pickering & Chatto Publishers and of NewsMax Media and wrote a weekly column for The Mail on Sunday.[14]


He was nominated a Knight Bachelor in the 1981 Queen's Birthday Honours List and knighted by Elizabeth II in an investiture ceremony at Buckingham Palace on 3 November 1981. In the 1988 Queen's Birthday Honours List, 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 (not as a conservative).

He was a member of the European Reform Forum. The University of Bath awarded him an Honorary Degree (Doctor of Laws) in 1977.[15]

Personal life

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.[16] He sold the house to the Smedley family in 1978.

Rees-Mogg and his wife Gillian Shakespeare Morris had five children.


Rees Mogg died from oesophageal cancer in London at the age of 84.[17] His funeral was held at the Roman Catholic Westminster Cathedral on 9 January 2013,[18] with his body being buried in the graveyard of the Church of St James at Cameley in Somerset.


Rees-Mogg authored the following books:

  • The reigning error: The crisis of world inflation (1975)
  • Blood in the Streets: Investment Profits in a World Gone Mad (1987, with James Dale Davidson)
  • Picnics on Vesuvius: Steps towards the millennium (1992)
  • The Great Reckoning: How the World Will Change Before the Year 2000 (1992, with James Dale Davidson)
  • The Sovereign Individual: Mastering the Transition to the Information Age (1997, with James Dale Davidson)


  1. Burke's Genealogical and Heraldic History of the Landed Gentry, 15th Edition, edited by H. Pirie-Gordon, London, 1937, pp.1610-1611, pedigree of "Rees-Mogg of Cholwell", p.1611
  2. Burke, 1937, p.1611
  3. Baes, Stephen (29 December 2012). "Lord Rees-Mogg obituary". The Guardian (London). https://www.theguardian.com/media/2012/dec/29/william-rees-mogg-obituary. 
  4. Byrne, Ciar (12 June 2006). "The Indestructible Journos". The Independent (London). https://www.independent.co.uk/news/media/the-indestructible-journos-482007.html. 
  5. 5.0 5.1 (1992) The Encyclopedia of the British Press, 1422–1992. London: Palgrave Macmillan, 482. ISBN 9780312086336. 
  6. 6.0 6.1 Dennen, Tom (Fall 2010). ""Wealth Transfer" is Cyclic "Reckoning"". The Journal of History 10 (2). London: News Source, Inc..
  7. 7.0 7.1 Budden, Rob (29 December 2012). "Journalist Lord Rees-Mogg dies". Financial Times (London). http://www.ft.com/intl/cms/s/0/ba777540-51b0-11e2-abb6-00144feab49a.html#axzz2Gc9sVyCc. 
  8. 8.0 8.1 Bates, Stephen (29 December 2012). "Lord Rees-Mogg obituary". The Guardian (London). https://www.theguardian.com/media/2012/dec/29/william-rees-mogg-obituary. 
  9. 9.0 9.1 "Obituary: William Rees-Mogg". The Daily Telegraph (London). 30 December 2012. https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/obituaries/9770732/William-Rees-Mogg.html. 
  10. Rees-Mogg, William (21 December 1992). "Is this the end of life as I know it?". The Independent (London). https://www.independent.co.uk/voices/is-this-the-end-of-life-as-i-know-it-1564873.html. 
  11. The Rt Hon Lord Rees-Mogg Authorised Biography. People of Today. Debrett's (2012).
  12. Preston, Peter (13 July 2011). "Memoirs by William Rees-Mogg – review". The Guardian (London). https://www.theguardian.com/books/2011/jul/13/william-rees-mogg-memoirs-review. 
  13. Wilby, Peter (8 January 2007). "Prints of darkness". The Guardian (London). https://www.theguardian.com/media/2007/jan/08/mondaymediasection14. 
  14. https://www.independent.co.uk/news/obituaries/lord-rees-mogg-times-editor-who-later-brought-high-moral-purpose-to-his-public-service-8433470.html
  15. University of Bath: Honorary Graduates 1966 to 1988. University of Bath (2012).
  16. Reid, Robert Douglas (1979). Some buildings of Mendip. The Mendip Society. ISBN 0-905459-16-4. 
  17. Booth, Jenny (29 December 2012). "Former Times editor William Rees-Mogg dies". The Times (London). http://www.thetimes.co.uk/tto/news/uk/article3643207.ece. 
  18. O'Carroll, Lisa (10 January 2013). "Tributes paid to Lord Rees-Mogg at funeral". The Guardian. https://www.theguardian.com/media/2013/jan/10/tributes-lord-rees-mogg-funeral. 
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