Former Sunday Telegraph editor Sir Peregrine Worsthorne has died aged 96


Former Sunday Telegraph editor Sir Peregrine Worsthorne – who famously caused a storm when he uttered the F-word on national television – has died at the age of 96.

The journalist, writer and broadcaster spent 36 years with the Telegraph – the majority of which was with the Sunday edition, which he edited for three years between 1986 and 1989.

Mr Worsthorne, universally known as ‘Perry’, had previously worked at the Times and the Glasgow Herald.

In an obituary published today, the Telegraph described Mr Worsthorne, who died on Friday, as being’ among the most unpredictable and provocative columnists of his generation, as well as the most stylish’.

His unpredictability was famously highlighted in March 1973 when he uttered the F-word on television.

Journalist, writer and broadcaster Sir Peregrine Worsthorne spent 36 years with the Telegraph – the majority of which was with the Sunday edition, which he edited for three years between 1986 and 1989 

At the time he only the second person to do so, after Kenneth Tynan.

The incident happened on BBC magazine programme Nationwide when Mr Worsthorne was asked what he thought the British public would think about then defence minister Lord Anthony Lambton being caught in bed with two prostitutes in a sting by the now-defunct News of the World.

He replied: ‘I shouldn’t think they give a f***.’

The comment was said at the time to have infuriated the Telegraph’s then owner.

Mr Worsthorne (pictured with wife Lucinda Lambton), universally known as 'Perry', had previously worked at the Times and the Glasgow Herald before joining the Telegraph

Mr Worsthorne (pictured with wife Lucinda Lambton), universally known as ‘Perry’, had previously worked at the Times and the Glasgow Herald before joining the Telegraph

However, Mr Worsthorne later defended his comment, saying: ‘There is a possibility it was not spontaneous. To the best of my knowledge it was the mot juste (the exact right word).’  

Born in Chelsea, London, on December 22, 1923, was the younger son of General Alexander Lexy Koch de Gooreynd, a Belgian banker who had served his country in World War One.

His mother was Priscilla Reyntiens, a London councillor and board member and supporter of mental health institutions, who was the granddaughter of the 12th Earl of Abingdon.

His parents separated when he was six and he scarcely saw his father again. His mother later married Montagu Norman, the then governor of the Bank of England.  

Mr Worsthorne attended the independent Stowe School in Buckinghamshire before winning a scholarship to Cambridge University.

The Second World War broke out during his studies and he was called up to the Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire Light Infantry – but injured his shoulder in training.

After recovering, he returned to war service, taking part in Operation Phantom during the Allied campaign in Italy, before finishing his studies at Cambridge.

He earned his first job in journalism at the Glasgow Herald in 1946, working there for two years before moving on to the Times.

He became a correspondent in Washington from 1950 to 1952, before joining the Telegraph in 1953.

In 1961, Mr Worsthorne was appointed as the first deputy editor of the new Sunday Telegraph, rejecting an offer of an editorship at the Yorkshire Post in the process – a decision he expressed some regret about in later autobiographies.

Mr Worsthorne, who was knighted in 1991 for services to journalism, was married twice. After his first wife died in 1990, he married the architectural writer Lucinda Lambton (pictured with him receiving his honour in 1991)

Mr Worsthorne, who was knighted in 1991 for services to journalism, was married twice. After his first wife died in 1990, he married the architectural writer Lucinda Lambton (pictured with him receiving his honour in 1991)

Mr Worsthorne was an associate editor of the paper between 1976 and 1986, before finally realising his dream of becoming the editor of The Sunday Telegraph that year.

He was demoted three years later by the Telegraph’s chief executive Andrew Knight.

Mr Worsthorne continued writing a column for the paper until 1997.

During his time at the Telegraph, Mr Worsthorne, a life-long Conservative supporter, showed support for a return to colonisation, mourned the decline of the British Empire and was criticised for his views on homosexuality.

He wrote an editorial piece in 1982 criticising politician Roy Jenkins for his tolerance of ‘queers’ and clashed with Sir Ian McKellen during a BBC Radio Three debate – prompting the actor to announce that he was gay. 

He also clashed with Andrew Neil, then the editor of the Sunday Times, after he wrote a column comparing modern editors to playboys – which centred on Mr Neil’s relationship with former Miss India, Pamella Bordes.

Mr Neil sued for defamation and was awarded £1,000, while his newspaper, which also sued, was awarded its then cover price of 60p.

Mr Worsthorne later said he was ‘teasing’ and that he did not expect Mr Neil to sue.  

Mr Worsthorne, who was knighted in 1991 for services to journalism, was married twice, first to Claudie Bertrande Baynham, in 1950, with whom he had a daughter, Dominique, and stepson David.

After his wife died in 1990, he married the architectural writer Lucinda Lambton. The couple lived in Buckinghamshire. 

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