The Sunday Times Magazine - UK (2022-05-01)

(EriveltonMoraes) #1

14 • The Sunday Times Magazine

It’s less than 150 miles — 1,200 furlongs
— from the capital’s suburbs to Rees-
Mogg’s constituency, but to get there you
travel back half a century. In this swathe of
rich farming country southwest of Bath
there are skylarks and song thrushes,
daffodils and dazzling magnolias, and fruit
trees in full blossom. The parish of West
Harptree lies on the north side of the
Mendip Hills. This is cider country: there
are apple orchards nestled next to dairy and
beef farms. Listed in the Domesday Book,
its population today is still less than 400,
clustered around two manor houses — Tilly
Manor and Gournay Court — with the
pretty 12th-century Church of St Mary in
the middle. Local issues include milk prices,
bovine TB, badger culling and flooding in
low-lying villages. In bad years constituents
have lost homes and livelihoods.
Unlike some candidates transplanted
into rural constituencies, Rees-Mogg grew
up here. A short ride along narrow lanes
takes you to the village of Hinton Blewett,
where he lived in the Old Rectory with
views across rolling countryside. There,
young Jacob — fourth of the five children
of William Rees-Mogg, formerly the editor
of The Times — spent his early years, being
raised by Crook. “Veronica has been with
my family since 1965,” he says. “She is very
much part of the family.”
Despite appearances (he is fond of a top
hat and tails) he is not from an aristocratic
family, rather an upper-middle-class one.
His paternal grandfather was a Somerset
landowner, his paternal grandmother an
American actress. His father, William, was
renowned for never losing his cool, a quality
his son tries to emulate. He died ten years
ago, aged 84. “I was devoted to my father and
I still miss him,” Rees-Mogg says. “He was a
strong Catholic, and so at least was prepared
for his end and ready to meet his maker.”
His mother, Gillian, Lady Rees-Mogg,
83, the daughter of a lorry driver turned car
salesman, was William’s secretary when he
was City editor at The Sunday Times, before
becoming his wife. She lives near by and is in
good health. Rees-Mogg visits her regularly.

His wife is Helena Anne Beatrix
Wentworth Fitzwilliam de Chair, 44, the
daughter of the poet and aristocrat
Somerset de Chair and Lady Juliet Tadgell.
Rees-Mogg met her in the Noughties
when she was a journalist on an oil and
gas magazine. She’s heir to the Fitzwilliam
fortune of land, houses and art, with an
estimated net worth of £45 million. She
also stands to inherit Bourne Park House,
her mother’s stately home in Kent.
The pair were introduced by Rees-Mogg’s
sister Annunziata, the former Brexit Party
MEP. “It was at an event to campaign
for a referendum on the Lisbon treaty,”
Rees-Mogg recalls. Was it love at first sight?
“Well, I think my poor wife was bored at
first sight because I spoke to her for about
20 minutes solidly on Thomas Wentworth
[a 17th-century English statesman], who is
Helena’s ancestor, and I think Helena
thought, who is this strange man?”
It was at Bourne Park House that
Rees-Mogg proposed, under one of his
mother-in-law’s six Van Dycks. They were

married in Canterbury Cathedral in 2007.
Today Helena arrives from the Mendip
Farmers’ Hunt covered in mud before
dashing off to get changed. She’s a keen wit.
Asked at a party conference whether Sixtus
would be getting a younger brother or
sister, she replied firmly: “I’m done. There
will be no Septimus or Octopus.” Four years
ago she was splashed across the newspapers
when she confronted a group of Class War
protesters as they ambushed the family
outside their London home. When “Scum”
was daubed on the side of her Land Rover
Discovery, she said: “Dreadful people. It
should have been ‘Tory scum’.”
Protesters addressed the children too,
telling them: “Your daddy is a totally
horrible person. Lots of people hate him.”
Does he worry about them being exposed
to abuse? “It’s something I’ve talked to
them about from an early age. Inevitably if
you are a public figure somebody at school
will say, my daddy doesn’t like your daddy.
They need to know that’s how life is.”
In the past he has enlisted their help in
political canvassing, accompanied by
Nanny. “We do quite often canvass on
Saturday mornings,” he says. “At the end
we go to the toy shop as a reward. They’re
quite competitive to see who can hand
out the most leaflets.”

Rees-Mogg drew
criticism for
reclining on the
front bench of the
House of Commons
while taking
questions in 2019

From left: marrying Helena de
Chair, 2007; confronted by
Class War protesters, 2018; with
his nanny, Veronica Crook, 2018
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