William Rees-Mogg (1928-2012)

William Rees-Mogg M.P., Baron Rees-Mogg; Editor of The Times, etc.

Associated Houses

Cholwell House

Temple Cloud, near Cameley

He was born in Bristol and was brought up at Cholwell House in Somerset, built by his great-grandfather, a country solicitor, in 1855. Failing his scholarship exam to Eton, he took and won a scholarship to Charterhouse, meaning that his father only had to pay half of the school fees. Generally remembered as "pompous," he gained a reputation for playing the stock market and was later parodied by his classmate, Simon Raven, as the "deeply unlikeable" and "scheming opportunist" Somerset Lloyd-James in his book Alms for Oblivion. He then won another scholarship to read history at Balliol College, Oxford, becoming President of the Oxford Union in 1951.

Immediately after graduating, he 'accidentally' began his career in journalism with the Financial Times and during the same period he contested the Labour seat of Chester-le-Street for the Conservatives, but lost on both occasions. In 1960, he moved to The Sunday Times as its Deputy Editor before his appointment as Editor of The Times at "the precocious age" of 38, holding that position from 1967 to 1981. He was a member of the BBC's Board of Governors and as Chairman of the Arts Council he halved the number of organisations receiving funding and reduced the Council's direct activities. He was created a life peer in 1988 as Baron Rees-Mogg, of Hinton Blewett in the County of Avon, and sat in the House of Lords as a cross-bencher. From 2005, he was a member of the European Reform Forum that advocated, "the renegotiation of British membership within the EU".

He co-authored three books with James Dale Davidson on the future of investment and capitalism, earning himself the sobriquet, "Mystic Mogg". The most infamous of his books is The Sovereign Individual published in 1997 in which he predicts that the digital age will splinter society, bring about a rapid end to welfare and the nation-state, and give rise to an elite few - the sovereign individuals - who will be above tax and inflation. In 2014, Peter Thiel, co-founder of PayPal, called it the most influential book he's read, and in 2018 Alastair Campbell (Tony Blair's former press secretary) said it was, "the most important book you have never heard of (and) may explain (Jacob) Rees Mogg's love of hard Brexit".

In 1962, he married his secretary, Gillian Morris, whose father (Thomas Morris) was a car salesman from Hackney in East London and was Mayor of St. Pancras in 1961-62. Their wedding reception was held at the St. Pancras Town Hall. They were the parents of five children of whom the most conspicuous are the ex-Minister for Brexit Opportunities Jacob Rees-Mogg M.P. and his younger sister, Annunziata. In 1964, he stretched himself to buy Ston Easton Park in Somerset and partially restored it before selling it on in 1978. He lived for the rest of his life between London and The Old Rectory at Hinton Blewett, Somerset.
Contributed by Mark Meredith on 10/01/2022 and last updated on 05/03/2023.
The Brexit Revolutionaries Have Barely Begun, Britain Needs to Wake Up Fast, by Alastair Campbell (December 28, 2020); Jacob's Ladder: The Unauthorised Biography of Jacob Rees-Mogg (2019) by Michael Ashcroft