John Jacob Astor, 1st Baron Astor of Hever

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The Lord Astor of Hever
John Jacob Astor V, 1st Baron Astor of Hever
Member of the House of Lords
Lord Temporal
In office
21 March 1956 – 19 July 1971
Hereditary Peerage
Preceded byPeerage created
Succeeded byThe 2nd Lord Astor of Hever
Member of Parliament
for Dover
In office
15 November 1922 – 15 June 1945
Preceded bySir Thomas Polson
Succeeded byJohn Thomas
Personal details
Born(1886-05-20)20 May 1886
Manhattan, New York City, U.S.
Died19 July 1971(1971-07-19) (aged 85)
Cannes, France
Political partyConservative
(m. 1916; died 1965)
Parent(s)William Waldorf Astor
Mary Dahlgren Paul
RelativesSee Astor family
Alma materEton College
New College, Oxford

Lieutenant-Colonel John Jacob Astor V, 1st Baron Astor of Hever, DL (20 May 1886 – 19 July 1971) was an American-born English newspaper proprietor, politician, sportsman, military officer, and a member of the Astor family.[1]


Astor was born in Manhattan, New York City, in 1886, the fourth child of William Waldorf Astor, 1st Viscount Astor (1848–1919), and Mary Dahlgren Paul (1858–1894). He was five years old when his family left New York to live in England.[1] He was raised on an estate purchased by his father at Cliveden-on-Thames in Buckinghamshire and was educated at Eton College and at New College, Oxford.[2] Upon his father's death in 1919, Astor inherited Hever Castle, near Edenbridge, Kent, where he lived the life of an English country gentleman.

Olympic Games[edit]

Olympic medal record
Representing the  United Kingdom
Men's rackets
Gold medal – first place 1908 London Men's doubles
Bronze medal – third place 1908 London Men's singles

Astor represented Great Britain in rackets at the 1908 Summer Olympics, winning the gold medal in the men's doubles competition together with Vane Pennell, and winning bronze in the men's singles event.[3]

Astor had been the British Public Schools rackets champion in 1904–1905, and in the same year as his Olympic competition he played singles and doubles in the British Army rackets championships.[4]

Despite the later loss of a leg, he was able to play and win against younger opponents at squash on a prosthetic limb.[2]

Military service[edit]

He served in the 1st Life Guards, which he joined in 1906[4] after a year at Oxford, and was Aide-de-Camp to Baron Hardinge, Viceroy of India between 1911 and 1914. Within his regiment he was promoted Captain in 1913 and Major in 1920.[4]

In World War I, he was wounded serving with his regiment at Messines in October 1914. After recovering he returned to the Western Front, rising to the rank of Lieutenant-Colonel commanding 520 Household Siege Battery of the Royal Garrison Artillery and awarded the Légion d'Honneur as a Chevalier. In September 1918, near Cambrai, his right leg was shattered by a shell and later amputated.[2]

He was Honorary Colonel of the Kent and Sussex Heavy Regiment, Royal Artillery, between 1927 and 1946 and Honorary Colonel of the 23rd London Regiment, between 1928 and 1949. In World War II he was Lieutenant-Colonel of the 5th Battalion, City of London Home Guard, a unit drawn from newspaper employees,[5] between 1940 and 1944.[4]

Marriage and children[edit]

Astor married Lady Violet Mary Elliot-Murray-Kynynmound (28 May 1889 - 3 January 1965) on 28 August 1916. She was the third daughter of Gilbert Elliot-Murray-Kynynmound, 4th Earl of Minto and his wife Lady Mary Caroline Grey. From her previous marriage to Major Lord Charles George Francis Mercer Nairne Petty-Fitzmaurice, who was killed in action at Ypres in 1914, Lady Violet had two children, Margaret and George.[6]

Lord and Lady Astor had three sons:[7]


He was a director of the Great Western Railway between 1929 and 1946. In 1926, Astor was Lieutenant of the City of London, then held the offices of Justice of the Peace from 1929 and Deputy Lieutenant of Kent from 1936 until 1962. He was a director of Hambros Bank between 1934 and 1960. He was vice-chairman of Phoenix Insurance between 1941 and 1952 and Chairman of between 1952 and 1958. He was a director of Barclays Bank between 1942 and 1952.[citation needed] [8]

In 1922, he purchased The Times newspaper following the death of its owner, Alfred Harmsworth, 1st Viscount Northcliffe. During his tenure as head of The Times, Lord Astor had the newspaper sponsor Edmund Hillary's expedition that made the first successful climb to the summit of Mount Everest. Astor remained chairman of the paper until 1959 when his son Gavin took over. In 1966, The Times was sold to Canadian newspaper tycoon, Roy Thomson.

Astor served as the first chairman of the General Council of the Press, which was established in 1953. He resigned from the position in April 1955 due to ill-health.[9]

In addition to his newspaper business, John Jacob V served in politics, as Alderman of the London County Council between 1922 and 1925, and in the Parliament of the United Kingdom for 23 years as Unionist Member of Parliament (MP) for Dover from 1922 to 1945. On 21 January 1956 he was created Baron Astor of Hever, of Hever Castle in the County of Kent,[10] taking his seat in the House of Lords on 21 March.[11] In 1962, he moved from England to France.


He died on 19 July 1971 in Cannes, France.[1]


John Astor was a great benefactor of The Middlesex Hospital, London W 1, both financially and in service given. He was a member of The Board of Governors for 40 years, and chairman for 24 years. He endowed the Chair of Physiology in 1920. He gave the money for the Nurses' Home in Foley St, which still stands despite the demolition of the hospital, which closed in 2005. For many years, the name of the donor was unknown, but it was later named John Astor House in his honour. He gave money towards the Windeyer Building of the Medical School, and Astor College, the medical students' residence.

Selected artworks from the family's vast collection were bequeathed to the National Gallery including the prized "Thames below Westminster" by Claude Monet. John Jacob V and Violet are buried together on the grounds of Hever Castle, which, since 1983, has been owned by Broadland Properties Limited and is a major tourist attraction. Eldest son Gavin succeeded him as Baron.[citation needed]


  1. ^ a b c "Lord Astor of Hever Is Dead, Published The Times of London. American-Born Press Lord Headed Newspaper for 37 Years. Served in House of Commons 1922-1945". The New York Times. 20 July 1971. Retrieved 27 July 2014. Lord Astor of Hever, former publisher of The Times of London, died today ...
  2. ^ a b c Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Volume 2. Oxford University Press. 2004. p. 796. ISBN 0-19-861352-0.Article by Derek Wilson.
  3. ^ "John Jacob Astor". Olympedia. Retrieved 6 April 2021.
  4. ^ a b c d Who Was Who, 1971-1980. A and C Black. 1982. p. 30. ISBN 0-7136-2176-1.
  5. ^ Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Volume 2. p. 797.
  6. ^ Burke's Peerage 2003[page needed]
  7. ^ Burke's Peerage 1999, page 131
  8. ^ "Some recollections by A.W. Tuke AND R.J.H Gillman" Barclays Bank Limited 1926-1969 (c) Barclays Bank Limited 1972 under appendix I (Directors of Barclays Bank Limited from 1896 to 1969, p.117. Printed in Great Britain at the University Press, Oxford by Vivian Ridler Printer to the University.
  9. ^ The Press and the People. General Council of the Press. 1955. p. 2.
  10. ^ "No. 40692". The London Gazette. 24 January 1956. p. 499.
  11. ^ "Lord Astor of Hever (1956)". Parliamentary Debates (Hansard). House of Lords. 21 March 1956.

External links[edit]

Parliament of the United Kingdom
Preceded by Member of Parliament for Dover
Succeeded by
Peerage of the United Kingdom
New creation Baron Astor of Hever
Succeeded by
Media offices
New office Chairman of the General Council of the Press
Succeeded by
Linton Andrews