William Waldegrave, Baron Waldegrave of North Hill

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The Lord Waldegrave of North Hill
Official portrait, 2020
Chief Secretary to the Treasury
In office
5 July 1995 – 2 May 1997
Prime MinisterJohn Major
ChancellorKenneth Clarke
Preceded byJonathan Aitken
Succeeded byAlistair Darling
Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food
In office
20 July 1994 – 5 July 1995
Prime MinisterJohn Major
Preceded byGillian Shephard
Succeeded byDouglas Hogg
Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster
In office
10 April 1992 – 20 July 1994
Prime MinisterJohn Major
Preceded byChris Patten
Succeeded byDavid Hunt
Secretary of State for Health
In office
2 November 1990 – 10 April 1992
Prime MinisterMargaret Thatcher
John Major
Preceded byKenneth Clarke
Succeeded byVirginia Bottomley
Junior ministerial offices
Minister of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs
In office
26 July 1988 – 2 November 1990
Prime MinisterMargaret Thatcher
Sec. of StateGeoffrey Howe
John Major
Douglas Hurd
Preceded byDavid Mellor
Succeeded byDouglas Hogg
Minister of State for Housing and Planning
In office
13 June 1987 – 26 July 1988
Prime MinisterMargaret Thatcher
Sec. of StateNicholas Ridley
Preceded byJohn Patten
Succeeded byThe Earl of Caithness
Minister of State for Environment, Countryside and Planning
In office
10 September 1986 – 12 June 1987
Prime MinisterMargaret Thatcher
Sec. of StateNicholas Ridley
Preceded byThe Lord Elton
Succeeded byThe Lord Belstead
Minister of State for Local Government
In office
2 September 1985 – 9 September 1986
Prime MinisterMargaret Thatcher
Sec. of StateKenneth Baker
Nicholas Ridley
Preceded byKenneth Baker
Succeeded byRhodes Boyson
Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State
for Environment
In office
13 June 1983 – 2 September 1985
Serving with Sir George Young (1983-1985)
The Earl of Avon (1983-1985)
Prime MinisterMargaret Thatcher
Sec. of StatePatrick Jenkin
Preceded byGiles Shaw
Succeeded byAngela Rumbold
Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State
for Education and Science
In office
15 September 1981 – 13 June 1983
Serving with Rhodes Boyson (1981-1983)
William Shelton (1981-1983)
Prime MinisterMargaret Thatcher
Sec. of StateMark Carlisle
Sir Keith Joseph
Preceded byNeil Macfarlane
Succeeded byPeter Brooke · Bob Dunn
Parliamentary offices
Member of the House of Lords
Lord Temporal
Assumed office
28 July 1999
Life Peerage
Member of Parliament
for Bristol West
In office
3 May 1979 – 8 April 1997
Preceded byRobert Cooke
Succeeded byValerie Davey
Personal details
William Arthur Waldegrave

(1946-08-15) 15 August 1946 (age 77)
London, England
Political partyConservative
(m. 1975)
Parent(s)The 12th Earl Waldegrave
Mary Hermione Grenfell
RelativesThe 13th Earl Waldegrave (brother)
Lady Hussey of North Bradley (sister)
EducationEton College
Alma materUniversity of Oxford
Harvard University

William Arthur Waldegrave, Baron Waldegrave of North Hill PC (/ˈwɔːlɡrv/; born 15 August 1946) is a British Conservative Party politician who served as a Cabinet minister from 1990 until 1997, and is a life member of the Tory Reform Group. Since 1999, he has been a life peer in the House of Lords. Since 8 February 2009, Lord Waldegrave has been the Provost of Eton College. Additionally, he was inaugurated as Chancellor of the University of Reading on 9 December 2016.[1]

Waldegrave's 2015 memoir, A Different Kind of Weather, discusses his high youthful political ambition, his political and to some extent personal life, and growing acceptance that he would not achieve his ultimate ambition. It also provides an account of the Heath, Thatcher and—to a lesser extent—Major governments, including his role in the development of the 'community charge' or poll tax. It includes a chapter entitled 'The Poll Tax – all my own work'.[2]

Waldegrave served as a Trustee (1992–2011) and Chair (2002–2011) of the Rhodes Trust, during which time he also helped to create and served as a Trustee of the Mandela Rhodes Foundation. His portrait hangs at Rhodes House, Oxford.[3]

He was the Chairman of Trustees of the National Museum of Science and Industry from 2002 to 2010.[4]

Early life[edit]

Bearing the title The Honourable from birth as a younger son of an Earl, Waldegrave was the youngest (by six years) of the seven children of Mary Hermione Grenfell and the 12th Earl Waldegrave, his elder brother being the present Earl. His father's title was created five generations earlier for the diplomat and ambassador James Waldegrave, 1st Earl Waldegrave, whose grandfather was James II and VII.

Waldegrave is the nephew of the courtier Dame Frances Campbell-Preston and one of his sisters is Lady Susan Hussey, who became Baroness Hussey of North Bradley upon her husband's elevation to the House of Lords.


Waldegrave was privately educated at Eton College, where he won the Newcastle Scholarship in 1965. He then studied at the University of Oxford where he was an undergraduate student of Corpus Christi College, Oxford. During his study, he served for a term as president of the Oxford Union and the Oxford University Conservative Association.[5] Oxford was followed by Harvard University in the United States, on a Kennedy Scholarship. In 1971, he was elected a Prize Fellow of All Souls College, Oxford, and is now[when?] a distinguished fellow.

Early career[edit]

In 1971, Waldegrave was working at the Conservative Research Department; that March he was appointed to the Central Policy Review Staff (CPRS, also referred to as the 'Think-Tank'). "He was from the beginning one of the most active 'philosophers' of the CPRS, and the proponent of strong views about its proper roles and functions".[6] He was one of the few openly political members of the staff and was used by Victor Rothschild, head of the CPRS, as a link with both the Conservative party (then in government) and the outside, non-Civil Service world.[7] He left in December 1973.[8]

Parliamentary career[edit]

Waldegrave with US President George H. W. Bush in 1990

He was elected to the House of Commons as Member of Parliament (MP) for Bristol West in 1979. He was regarded as a member of the "wet" or moderate tendency of the Conservative Party, and despite this progressed well from the backbenches in Margaret Thatcher's government.

As junior minister[edit]

He became a Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State at the Department of Education and Science in 1981 before moving to the Department of the Environment in 1983. He remained at Environment, becoming a Minister of State in 1985, until he became a Minister of State at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office in 1988. In this post he was involved in setting policy on arms exports to Iraq; the initial draft of the Scott Report found that he had agreed in February 1989 to relax the policy, but had sent out 38 untrue letters to Members of Parliament stating that the policy was unchanged. However, Sir Richard Scott exonerated Waldegrave of "duplicitous intent" in wrongly describing the Government's policy.[9]

As a Cabinet minister[edit]

He was promoted to the Cabinet as Secretary of State for Health in November 1990, just days before Thatcher's resignation, and remained a member of the Cabinet throughout John Major's time as Prime Minister. He became Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster in the Cabinet Office with responsibility for public services and science in 1992, Secretary of State of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food in 1994 and Chief Secretary to the Treasury in 1995.

As member of the House of Lords[edit]

After losing his Commons seat to Valerie Davey in the 1997 general election, he entered the House of Lords being created a life peer as Baron Waldegrave of North Hill, of Chewton Mendip in the County of Somerset, on 28 July 1999.[10]

Private sector[edit]

Lord Waldegrave was a Director of Adam & Company, a member of the Royal Bank of Scotland Group, from 2017 to 2018. He has been a Director of Coutts & Company, also a member of the Royal Bank of Scotland Group, since 2012. He is currently non-executive director of GW Pharmaceuticals, which is involved in the cannabis business.[11][12]

Personal life[edit]

He is married to Caroline Burrows, cookery writer and managing director of Leith's School of Food and Wine. They have four children, Katherine, Elizabeth, James and Harriet.[citation needed]

Waldegrave is a trustee of Cumberland Lodge, an educational charity.[13] He is an active member of the Board of Managers for the Lewis Walpole Library, Yale University.[14]

Other notable events[edit]

Waldegrave attended Bilderberg Group meetings four times: 1987, 1988, 1990 and 1995.[citation needed]

In 1993, when he was the British science minister Waldegrave offered a prize for the best lay explanation of the Higgs Boson. He had observed that British taxpayers were paying a lot of money (in contributions to CERN) for something very few of them understood, and he challenged UK particle physicists to explain, in a simple manner on one piece of paper, 'What is the Higgs Boson, and why do we want to find it?'[15]

Professor David Miller's metaphor, which he entitled "A quasi-political explanation of the Higgs boson", is probably the most quoted explanation of the Higgs Boson and won the prize:[15][16]

  • Miller asked his listeners to imagine a room full of Conservative party workers quietly talking to one another. This represents the Higgs field in space.
  • A former Conservative Prime Minister enters the room. All the workers she passes are strongly attracted to her. As she moves through the room, the cluster of admirers around her create resistance to her movement, and she becomes 'heavier'. This can be imagined as how a particle moves through the Higgs field. The field clusters around a particle, resisting its motion and giving it mass.
  • If a sleazy rumour crosses the room, it creates the same sort of clustering. The workers gather together to hear the details, the cluster can move across the room as the workers pass on the details to their neighbours. This cluster is the Higgs particle or Higgs Boson.[citation needed]

Further reading[edit]

  • Waldegrave, William: A Different Kind of Weather - A Memoir, Constable (2015); ISBN 978-1-47211-975-9


Coat of arms of William Waldegrave, Baron Waldegrave of North Hill
The shield and crest are the same as those of the Earl Waldegrave.
Out of a ducal coronet Or a plume of five ostrich feathers the first two Argent the third per pale Argent and Gules the last two Gules.
Per pale Argent and Gules.
On either side a talbot reguardant Sable eased Or gorged with a mural crown Argent and holding in the mouth a columbine Gules slipped Or.
Coelum Non Animum (Always The Same Person)[17]


  1. ^ "University of Reading". University of Reading.
  2. ^ Waldegrave, William: A Different Kind of Weather - A Memoir, Constable (2015); ISBN 978-1-47211-975-9
  3. ^ "In responding to thanks, Waldegrave stresses international value of Rhodes Scholarships - The Rhodes Scholarships". Rhodeshouse.ox.ac.uk. 21 October 2011. Retrieved 15 July 2016.
  4. ^ "Baron Waldegrave of North Hill". Parliament UK website. Retrieved 17 May 2015.
  5. ^ "Past Presidents". Oxford University Conservative Association. 16 August 2023. Retrieved 16 August 2023.
  6. ^ Inside The Think Tank - Advising the Cabinet 1971–1983 Tessa Blackstone and William Plowden 1988 ISBN 0 7493 0302 6 p27
  7. ^ Inside The Think Tank - Advising the Cabinet 1971–1983 Tessa Blackstone and William Plowden 1988 ISBN 0 7493 0302 6 p28
  8. ^ Tessa Blackstone and William Plowden 1988 ISBN 0 7493 0302 6 Appendix 4
  9. ^ David Pallister, "Waldegrave: 'Untrue' letters sent to MPs", The Guardian, 16 February 1996, p. 12.
  10. ^ "No. 55571". The London Gazette. 3 August 1999. p. 8353.
  11. ^ "Board of Directors | GW Pharmaceuticals, PLC". Archived from the original on 5 October 2019. Retrieved 5 October 2019.
  12. ^ "GWPH Stock Forecast, Price & News (GW Pharmaceuticals)". www.marketbeat.com.
  13. ^ "Lord Waldegrave: Cumberland Lodge". Retrieved 24 February 2016.
  14. ^ "The Lewis Walpole Library: Board of Managers". Library.yale.edu. Retrieved 15 July 2016.
  15. ^ a b Coghlan, Andy (11 September 1993). "Rising to Waldegrave's challenge . . ". New Scientist.
  16. ^ Miller, David J. "A quasi-political Explanation of the Higgs Boson".
  17. ^ Debrett's Peerage. 2019. p. 4689.

External links[edit]

Parliament of the United Kingdom
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