Grey Ruthven, 2nd Earl of Gowrie

Alexander Patrick Greysteil Ruthven, 2nd Earl of Gowrie, PC, FRSL (born in Dublin 26 November 1939), usually known as Grey Gowrie, is a Scottish hereditary peer. He was a Conservative Party politician for some years, including a period in the British Cabinet, and was later Chairman of Sotheby's and of the Arts Council of England. He has also published poetry. Lord Gowrie is the hereditary Clan Chief of Clan Ruthven.

The Earl of Gowrie

Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster
In office
11 September 1984  2 September 1985
Prime MinisterMargaret Thatcher
Preceded byThe Lord Cockfield
Succeeded byNorman Tebbit
Minister of State for the Arts
In office
11 June 1983  2 September 1985
Prime MinisterMargaret Thatcher
Preceded byPaul Channon
Succeeded byRichard Luce
Personal details
Born (1939-11-26) 26 November 1939
Dublin, Ireland
Political partyConservative
Alexandra Bingley
(m. 1962; div. 1974)

Adelheid Gräfin von der Schulenburg (m. 1974)
ParentsPatrick Hore-Ruthven
Pamela Cooper
Alma materEton College
Balliol College, Oxford
Harvard University


Early life and education

Lord Gowrie was born in Dublin, Ireland,[1] the elder son of Major The Hon. Patrick Hore-Ruthven, only surviving son of The 1st Baron Gowrie and his wife Lady Gowrie. His mother was Pamela Margaret Fletcher[2] (who later married Major Derek Cooper).[3] His younger brother is Malise Ruthven.

His father was killed in action in 1942, at which point he became his grandfather's heir apparent. When his grandfather, who had been the Governor-General of Australia, was created Earl of Gowrie in 1945, he became known by the courtesy title Viscount Ruthven of Canberra. He was educated at Eton and Balliol College, Oxford, and later at Harvard University.


The young Lord Ruthven succeeded to the Earldom of Gowrie, named for the old Scottish area of Gowrie around Perth, on the death of his grandfather on 2 May 1955; at the same time he succeeded as the 2nd Viscount Ruthven of Canberra, and 2nd Baron Gowrie of Canberra and of Dirleton (East Lothian). On 16 April 1956, he further succeeded his great-uncle (his grandfather's elder brother) The 10th Lord Ruthven of Freeland as the 3rd Baron Ruthven of Gowrie (the Scottish lordship of Ruthven of Freeland passed instead via the female line). He matriculated his coat of arms in 1959.[2]

Ireland and Wales

Lord Gowrie inherited Castlemartin House and Estate at Kilcullen, County Kildare, Ireland, from his great-aunt Sheelagh Blacker in 1967, and later sold it to Tony O'Reilly, to whom he also sold his Dublin home on Fitzwilliam Square. He lived partly in Ireland until 1983, and then moved to 'The Marches' region of Wales,[1] while also maintaining a London residence for much of the period.

Political career

Lord Gowrie joined the Conservative front bench under Ted Heath in 1972 as a Lord-in-waiting, a post he held until 1974. He later served under Margaret Thatcher as Minister of State for Employment between 1979 and 1981, and as Minister of State for Northern Ireland between 1981 and 1983 at the Northern Ireland Office (NIO). In 1983 he was sworn of the Privy Council and entered the Cabinet as Minister for the Arts, which he remained until 1985. He was also Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster between 1984 and 1985.[2] Despite being offered the post of Secretary of State for Education and Science he resigned from the Cabinet in 1985, stating that it was impossible for him to live in London on the £33,000 salary provided for the post.

Later career

After leaving government, Gowrie became Chairman of Sotheby's (1985–1994)[2] and later of the Arts Council of England - described as "the appointment of a Scot, born in Ireland and living in Wales" to a key English post. At the Arts Council, he secured the role as a distributor of funds from the National Lottery.

Gowrie lectured on English and American literature at Harvard and University College, London.[1] He was Provost of the Royal College of Art. He also made a number of television appearances, including in documentaries on Francis Bacon, artist and British folk revivalist and blues pioneer Rory McEwen, and the National Theatre, as well as multiple episodes of Question Time.

Lord Gowrie is a patron of the Elton John AIDS Foundation.[4] Together with Dr Rowan Williams and Sir Daniel Day-Lewis, he is a patron of the Wilfred Owen Association, formed in 1989 to commemorate the life and work of the renowned World War I poet Wilfred Owen.[5] He was also a founding director of the British Friends of the National Gallery of Ireland.


Lord Gowrie published one volume of poetry in his 20s, Postcard from Don Giovanni,[2] after a period working as an assistant to American poet Robert Lowell, and later co-authored a book on British painting, The Genius of British Painting, published in 1975.[2]

In the summer of 1999, having been diagnosed with a serious heart condition, he checked into Harefield Hospital, and, after a heart transplant, and a long recovery, left hospital in 2000; his health has remained frail since. He became friends with his principal surgeon, Sir Magdi Yacoub, and now chairs the institute named for him. Following his release from hospital, he published his first book of poetry for decades, The Domino Hymn, which contains references to his illness - the title refers to the fact that he was a "domino patient," i.e. one who received a heart from a fellow patient undergoing a heart-and-lung transplant.[6] He later also released Third Day with a mix of new and collected poetry.[1]

He was elected in 2003 a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature [7] In January 2009, Grey Gowrie accepted Farad Azima's invitation to chair the Advisory Board of the Iran Heritage Foundation.

Personal life


Lord Gowrie married Alexandra Bingley, daughter of Colonel Robert Bingley, on 1 November 1962. They had one son:

  • (Patrick Leo) Brer Ruthven, Viscount Ruthven of Canberra (b. 4 February 1964). Database developer and musician. Brer Ruthven married Julie Goldsmith and had one son, Heathcote Patrick Cornelius Ruthven, born 28 May 1990.

Lord Gowrie and Alexandra Bingley divorced in 1974.[2]

On 2 November 1974, Gowrie married Adelheid Gräfin von der Schulenburg (b. 24 October 1943), sixth and youngest child and fifth and youngest daughter of Fritz-Dietlof Graf von der Schulenburg (1902–10 August 1944), a German Graf (Count) and one of the leaders of the 1944 plot to assassinate Hitler, and his wife Charlotte Kotelmann.[8]


Gowrie remained friends with Robert Lowell, his poetic mentor, and was a pallbearer at his funeral. As stated, he is also friends with the eminent surgeon Magdi Yacoub. He was also friends with writer and producer Josephine Hart and with Edward Plunkett, the Anglo-Irish painter,[9] godfather to one of his sons, and purchaser of the Kent house of his famous grandfather, the writer Lord Dunsany.


  1. Sheep Meadow Press - Grey Gowrie
  2. Alexander Patrick Greysteil Hore-Ruthven, 2nd Earl of Gowrie
  4. Elton John AIDS Foundation patrons
  5. The Wilfred Owen Association, official site
  6. Pleasantville, Mount Pleasant, New York: Reader's Digest, October 2008, "Heartfelt: Grey Gowrie on living with another man's heart"
  7. "Royal Society of Literature All Fellows". Royal Society of Literature. Archived from the original on 5 March 2010. Retrieved 8 August 2010.
  8. Leo van der Pas. "Descendants of Herbert von Bismarck: Generation 21": Part XXI-88 (XX-49-1) Archived 6 July 2008 at the Wayback Machine and "Descendants of Herbert von Bismarck: Generation 22": XXII-88 (XXI-88-1); this however, mentions only two children out of six, per Countess Elisabeth von der Schulenburg's Daily Telegraph obituary. Count Fritz-Dietlof was himself fourth son (out of five sons) of Count Friedrich von der Schulenburg (d. 1939) by his wife Freda-Marie von Arnim.
  9. Dublin, The Irish Times, 4 June 2011: Artist will be seen as 'very important if rather austere' - Edward John Carlos Plunkett
Political offices
Preceded by
Harold Walker
Minister of State for Employment
Succeeded by
Michael Alison
Preceded by
Hon. Adam Butler
Minister of State for Northern Ireland
Succeeded by
The Earl of Mansfield
Preceded by
Paul Channon
Minister of State for the Arts
Succeeded by
Richard Luce
Preceded by
The Lord Cockfield
Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster
Succeeded by
Norman Tebbit
Cultural offices
Preceded by
The Lord Palumbo
Chairperson of the Arts Council of England
Succeeded by
Gerry Robinson
Peerage of the United Kingdom
Preceded by
Alexander Hore-Ruthven
Earl of Gowrie
Brer Ruthven, Viscount Ruthven of Canberra
Preceded by
Walter Hore-Ruthven
Baron Ruthven of Gowrie
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