Rupert Murdoch mourns death of his mother, Dame Elisabeth

Dec 6, 2012

Dame Elisabeth Murdoch, Australian matriarch of the Murdoch clan, has died at the age of 103

THE ONLY person the media tycoon Rupert Murdoch ever regarded with "true trepidation", his mother Dame Elisabeth Murdoch, has died at the age of 103.

Born in Melbourne, Australia, five years before the start of World War I, Dame Elisabeth married the media baron Sir Keith Murdoch when she was 18 and he was 42. His death in 1952 devastated her, but she spent more and more time doing philanthropic work, eventually becoming one of Australia's most generous patrons, says Laurence Money in the Melbourne newspaper The Age.

Dame Elisabeth was "a philanthropist of the old school", writes Money. "She quietly helped dozens of causes and charities with minimum fanfare. She was interested in everybody and everything, equally comfortable with a gardener in overalls as she was with a governor-general in full regalia."

Although her son, Rupert, bought out the family's media investments, Dame Elisabeth retained a keen interest in his burgeoning empire. For his part, Murdoch, 81, believes her longevity means he will continue to run News Corporation until an advanced age, says The Guardian.

Relations between the matriarch and her son were occasionally strained. She bitterly opposed his purchase of the News of the World in 1969 – "it almost killed me" - because she felt, prophetically, that the tabloid invaded people's privacy. It is thought that Murdoch's Australian tabloids have never featured naked women on page 3 because he feared his mother's approbation.

Dame Elisabeth was also fiercely critical of her son's decision to divorce his second wife, Anna, to marry 30-year old Wendi Deng, calling it "a terrible thing". It caused a frosty start to the relationship between Deng and Dame Elisabeth, but relations improved considerably over time.

Tributes to Dame Elisabeth were lead by the Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard who described her today as a woman who "was not only generous, but lead others to generosity", says the Sydney Morning Herald.

Dame Elisabeth died surrounded by family at her rural home set on more than 54 hectares southeast of Melbourne. "We have lost the most wonderful mother," said Rupert, "but we are all grateful to have had her love and wisdom for so many years."

Details of a memorial service will be confirmed shortly.

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