John Jacob, 1st Baron Astor (1886-1971)

Lt.-Col. John Jacob Astor, M.P., D.L., 1st Baron Astor of Hever; Owner of The Times

Associated Houses

Cliveden House


Hever Castle


He was born in New York City, but at the age of five his father settled their family permanently in England. He was educated at Eton and New College, Oxford, but after just a year chose a military career and was commissioned into the 1st Life Guards. He won a gold medal in the 1908 Olympics representing Britain in Rackets and between 1911 and 1914 served in India as Aide-de-Camp to the Viceroy, Lord Hardinge. On the outbreak of World War I he was sent to the Front as a Captain and was wounded at Messines in 1914. He returned to the Western Front as a Lt.-Colonel attached to the Royal Garrison Artillery. In 1918, two months before the end of the war, his right leg was shattered by a shell and subsequently amputated. Despite having a prosthetic leg, he still played competitive squash. In 1922, he purchased The Times newspaper (remaining as Chairman until 1959) and was elected to represent Dover in Parliament as a Unionist (Conservative), holding his seat for 23-years. In 1953, he became the first Chairman of the General Council of the Press and sponsored Hillary's successful expedition to the summit of Mount Everest. In 1916, he married Lady Violet, daughter of the 4th Earl of Minto, former Governor-General of India and Canada. They were the parents of three sons. In 1956, he was created the 1st Baron Astor of Hever Castle, the country seat he inherited in Kent. In 1962, he retired to Cannes in the South of France, where he died in 1971.  
Contributed by Mark Meredith on 11/04/2019 and last updated on 23/03/2023.
Image Courtesy of the National Portrait Gallery, London