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The Lord Archer of Weston-super-Mare
Jeffrey Archer @ Oslo bokfestival 2012 4.jpg
Archer in 2012
Member of the House of Lords
Lord Temporal
Assumed office
27 July 1992
Life peerage
Member of Parliament
for Louth (Lincolnshire)
In office
4 December 1969 – 20 September 1974
Preceded by Cyril Osborne
Succeeded by Michael Brotherton
Personal details
Jeffrey Howard Archer

15 April 1940 (1940-04-15) (age 84)
London, England
Political party Non-affiliated (since 2001)
Other political
Conservative (prior to 2001)
(m. 1966)
Children 2
Occupation Politician, author
Writing career
Occupation Novelist, short story writer, playwright
Period 1976–present
Genre Thriller, drama

Jeffrey Howard Archer, Baron Archer of Weston-super-Mare (born 15 April 1940) is an English novelist, life peer, convicted criminal, and former elected politician who remains a member of the House of Lords. Before becoming an author, Archer was a Member of Parliament (1969–1974), but did not seek re-election after a financial scandal that left him almost bankrupt.

Archer revived his fortunes as a novelist. His 1979 novel Kane and Abel remains one of the best-selling books in the world, with an estimated 34 million copies sold worldwide. Overall his books have sold more than 320 million copies worldwide.

Archer became deputy chairman of the Conservative Party (1985–86). He was made a life peer in 1992 and subsequently became Conservative candidate to be the first elected Mayor of London. He resigned his candidacy in 1999 after it emerged that he had lied in his 1987 libel case. He was imprisoned (2001–2003) for perjury and perverting the course of justice, ending his active political career.

Early life and education

Jeffrey Howard Archer was born in the City of London Maternity Hospital in Holloway, London on 15 April 1940. He was two weeks old when his family moved to Somerset, eventually settling in the seaside town of Weston-super-Mare, where Archer spent most of his early life. His father, William (died 1956), was 64 years old when Jeffrey Archer was born. Early in his career, Archer gave conflicting accounts to the press of his father's supposed, but non-existent, military career. William Archer was, in fact, a bigamist, fraudster, and conman, who impersonated another William Archer, a deceased war medal holder. He was at different times employed as a chewing gum salesman in New York and a mortgage broker in London. In the latter capacity, he was charged at the Old Bailey with a series of fraud offences. On being released on bail, he absconded to the US under the name William Grimwood. In the US, William Archer fathered a child, Rosemary Turner (21 June 1917 – 11 October 1986), Jeffrey's half-sister. In 1940 Rosemary married lawyer Brien McMahon who went on to become the Democratic senator for Connecticut (1945–1952) and a contender for the Democratic presidential nomination in 1952. After Brien McMahon's death that year, Rosemary married, in 1953, the Belgian ambassador to Washington, Baron Silvercruys. The First Lady, Mamie Eisenhower, was the guest-of-honour at their wedding. As a boy Archer dreamt of being captain of the Bristol Rovers Football Club. He is still a fan of the club.

Wellington School

In 1951, Archer won a scholarship to Wellington School in Somerset, not Wellington College in Berkshire, as he was later inclined to claim after passing the 11-plus. At this time his mother, Lola, was employed as a journalist on Weston's local newspaper, the Weston Mercury. She wrote a weekly column entitled "Over the Teacups", and frequently wrote about Jeffrey, calling him 'Tuppence'. Although Archer enjoyed the local fame this brought him, it caused him to be the victim of bullying while at Wellington School.

Archer left school with O-levels in English literature, art, and history. He then spent a few years in a variety of jobs, including training with the army and a short period with the Metropolitan Police. He later worked as a physical education teacher, first at Vicar's Hill, a preparatory school in Hampshire, and later at Dover College in Kent.


In 1963 Archer was offered a place at the Oxford University Department for Continuing Education to study for a Diploma of Education. The course was based in the department, and Archer became a member of Brasenose College. There have been claims that Archer provided false evidence of his academic qualifications to Brasenose, the apparent citing of an American institution which was actually a bodybuilding club, for instance, in gaining admission to the course. It has also been alleged Archer provided false statements about three non-existent A-Level passes and a U.S. university degree. Although the diploma course only lasted a year, Archer spent a total of three years at Oxford. At Oxford, Archer was successful in athletics, competing in sprinting and hurdling, and became president of the Oxford University Athletic Club. Television coverage survives of him making false starts in a 1964 sprint race, but he was not disqualified. He gained a blue in athletics and went on to run for England, and once competed for Great Britain.

Archer raised money for the charity Oxfam, obtaining the support of The Beatles in a fundraising drive. The band accepted his invitation to visit the Principal's lodge at Brasenose College, where they were photographed with Archer and dons of the college, although they did not play there.

Early career

After leaving Oxford, Archer continued as a charity fundraiser, initially working for the National Birthday Trust, a medical charity that promoted safe childbirth, before joining the United Nations Association (UNA) as its chief fundraiser. The then chairman of the UNA, Humphry Berkeley, alleged that there were numerous discrepancies in Archer's expense claims while he worked at the UNA.

Around this time, Archer began a career in politics, serving as a Conservative councillor on the Greater London Council (1967–1970).

Archer set up his own fundraising and public relations company, Arrow Enterprises, in 1969. That same year he opened an art gallery, the Archer Gallery, in Mayfair. The gallery specialised in modern art, including pieces by the sculptor and painter Leon Underwood. The gallery ultimately lost money, however, and Archer sold it two years later.

Member of Parliament

At 29, Archer was elected Member of Parliament (MP) for the Lincolnshire constituency of Louth, holding the seat for the Conservative Party in a by-election on 4 December 1969. Archer beat Ian Gow to the selection after winning over a substantial proportion of younger members at the selection meeting. The national party had concerns about Archer's selection, specifically relating to the UNA expenses allegations made by Humphry Berkeley, himself a former Conservative MP. Berkeley tried to persuade the Conservative Central Office that Archer was unsuitable as a parliamentary candidate. Archer brought a defamation action against Berkeley and the story was kept out of the press, although a truncated version of the story did appear in The Times. The case was eventually settled out of court, with Archer agreeing to pay legal costs of around £30,000.

Louth constituency had three key areas: Louth, Cleethorpes, and Immingham. During his time as an MP, Archer was a regular at the Immingham Conservative Club in the most working-class part of the constituency. In 1970 he took part in the Kennedy Memorial Test, a 50-mile running/walking race from Louth to Skegness and back.

In parliament, Archer was on the left of the Conservative Party, rebelling against some of his party's policies. He advocated free TV licences for elderly people and was against museum entrance charges. In 1971, he employed David Mellor to deal with his correspondence. He tipped Mellor to reach the cabinet. In an interview, in February 1999 Archer said, "I hope we don't return to extremes. I'm what you might call centre-right but I've always disliked the right wing as much as I've disliked the left wing."

Financial crisis

In 1974, Archer was a casualty of a fraudulent investment scheme involving a Canadian company called Aquablast. The debacle lost him his first fortune and left him almost £500,000 in debt. Fearing imminent bankruptcy, he stood down as an MP at the October 1974 general election.

While he was a witness in the Aquablast case in Toronto in 1975, Archer was accused of stealing three suits from a department store. Archer denied the accusation for many years, but in the late 1990s he finally acknowledged that he had taken the suits, although he claimed that at the time he had not realised he had left the shop. No charges were ever brought.

Writing career

Archer wrote his first book, Not a Penny More, Not a Penny Less, in the autumn of 1974, as a means of avoiding bankruptcy. The book was picked up by the literary agent Deborah Owen and published first in the U.S., then eventually in Britain in the autumn of 1976. A radio adaptation was aired on BBC Radio 4 in the early 1980s and a BBC Television adaptation of the book was broadcast in 1990.

Kane and Abel (1979) proved to be his best-selling work, reaching number one on The New York Times bestsellers list. Like most of his early work, it was edited by Richard Cohen, the Olympic fencing gold-medallist. It was made into a television mini-series by CBS in 1985, starring Peter Strauss and Sam Neill. The following year, Granada TV screened a 10-part adaptation of another Archer bestseller, First Among Equals, which told the story of four men and their quest to become prime minister. In the U.S. edition of the novel, the character of Andrew Fraser was eliminated, reducing the number of protagonists to three.

As well as novels and short stories, Archer has also written three stage plays. The first, Beyond Reasonable Doubt, opened in 1987 and ran at the Queen's Theatre in London's West End for over a year. Archer's next play, Exclusive, opened at the Strand Theatre, London, in September 1989. It was not well received by critics, and closed after a few weeks. His final play, The Accused, opened at the Theatre Royal, Windsor on 26 September 2000, before transferring to the Theatre Royal Haymarket in the West End in December.

In 1988, author Kathleen Burnett accused Archer of plagiarizing a story she had written, and including it in his short-story collection, A Twist in the Tale. Archer denied he had plagiarized the story, claiming he had simply been inspired by the idea.

While Archer's books are commercially successful, critics have been generally unfavorable towards his writing. Journalist Hugo Barnacle, writing for The Independent about The Fourth Estate (1996), thought the novel, while demonstrating that "the editors don't seem to have done any work", was "not wholly unsatisfactory".

Archer has said that he spends considerable time writing and re-writing each book. He goes abroad to write the first draft, working in blocks of two hours at a time, then writes anything up to 17 drafts in total. Since 2010, Archer has written the first draft of each new book at his villa in Majorca, called "Writer's Block".

In 2011, Archer published the first of seven books in The Clifton Chronicles series, which follow the life of Harry Clifton from his birth in 1920, through to his funeral in 1993. The first novel in the series, Only Time Will Tell, tells the story of Harry from 1920 through to 1940, and was published in the UK on 12 May 2011. The seventh and final novel in the series, This Was a Man, was published on 3 November 2016.

The Short, the Long and the Tall, an illustrated collection of Archer's short stories, was published in November 2020, with watercolor illustrations by artist Paul Cox.

Over My Dead Body was published in October 2021, and is the fourth book in a series featuring detective William Warwick. The book was critically acclaimed and became a New York Times bestseller.

In January 2020 it was reported that Archer had sued his former literary agents, Curtis Brown, for £500,000 in unpaid royalties.

Return to politics

Deputy party chairman

Archer's political career revived in the 1980s, and he became a popular speaker among the Conservative grassroots. He was appointed deputy chairman of the Conservative Party by Margaret Thatcher in September 1985. Norman Tebbit, party chairman, had misgivings over the appointment, as did other prominent members of the party, including William Whitelaw and Edward Heath. During his tenure as deputy chairman, Archer was responsible for a number of embarrassing moments, including his statement, made during a live radio interview, that many young, unemployed people were simply unwilling to find work. At the time of Archer's comment, unemployment in the UK stood at a record 3.4 million. Archer was later forced to apologise for the remark, saying that his words had been "taken out of context". Archer resigned as deputy chairman in October 1986.

Kurdish charity and peerage

When Saddam Hussein suppressed Kurdish uprisings in 1991, Archer, with the Red Cross, set up the charity Simple Truth, a fundraising campaign on behalf of the Kurds. In May 1991, Archer organised a charity pop concert, starring Rod Stewart, Paul Simon, Sting and Gloria Estefan, who all performed free of charge. Archer stated that his charity had raised £57,042,000, though it was later reported that only £3 million came from the Simple Truth concert and appeal, the rest from aid projects sponsored by the British and other governments, with significant amounts pledged before the concert. The charity would later incur further controversy. Having been previously rejected, Archer was made a life peer on 27 July 1992 as Baron Archer of Weston-super-Mare, of Mark in the County of Somerset. Prime Minister John Major recommended him largely because of Archer's role in aid to the Kurds. Archer and Major had been friends for a number of years.

Political statements in 1990s

In a speech at the 1993 Conservative conference, Archer urged then Home Secretary Michael Howard, to "Stand and deliver," saying: "Michael, I am sick and tired of being told by old people that they are frightened to open the door, they're frightened to go out at night, frightened to use the parks and byways where their parents and grandparents walked with freedom ... We say to you: stand and deliver!". He then attacked violent films and urged tougher prison conditions to prevent criminals from re-offending. He criticised the role of "do-gooders" and finished off the speech by denouncing the opposition party's law and order policies. This was a time when Archer was actively seeking another front-line political role.

Archer has also consistently been an opponent of a return to capital punishment.

Allegations of insider dealings

In January 1994, Mary Archer, then a director of Anglia Television, attended a directors' meeting at which an impending takeover of Anglia Television by MAI, which owned Meridian Broadcasting, was discussed. The following day, Jeffrey Archer bought 50,000 shares in Anglia Television, acting on behalf of a friend, Broosk Saib. Shortly after this, it was announced publicly that Anglia Television would be taken over by MAI. As a result, the shares jumped in value, whereupon Archer sold them on behalf of his friend for a profit of £77,219. The arrangements he made with the stockbrokers meant he did not have to pay at the time of buying the shares.

An inquiry was launched by the Stock Exchange into possible insider trading. The Department of Trade and Industry, headed by Michael Heseltine, announced that Archer would not be prosecuted due to insufficient evidence. His solicitors admitted that he had made a mistake, but Archer later said that he had been exonerated.

London mayoral candidature

In 1999, Archer had been selected by the Conservative Party as candidate for the London mayoral election of 2000, with the support of two former Prime Ministers, Baroness Thatcher and John Major.

On 21 November 1999 the News of the World published allegations made by Ted Francis, a former friend, that Archer had committed perjury in his 1987 libel case. Archer withdrew his candidature the following day. After the allegations broke, Archer was disowned by his party. Conservative leader William Hague explained: "This is the end of politics for Jeffrey Archer. I will not tolerate such behaviour in my party." On 4 February 2000, Archer was expelled from the party for five years.

Perjury trial and imprisonment


On 26 September 2000, Archer was charged with perjury and perverting the course of justice during the 1987 libel trial. Simultaneously, Archer starred in a production of his own courtroom play The Accused, staged at London's Theatre Royal Haymarket. The play concerned the court trial of an alleged murderer and assigned the role of jury to the audience, which would vote on the guilt of Archer's character at the end of each performance.

The perjury trial began on 30 May 2001. On 19 July 2001, Archer was found guilty of perjury and perverting the course of justice at the 1987 trial. He was sentenced to four years' imprisonment by Mr Justice Potts. Archer's mother had died shortly before he was sentenced and he was released for the day to attend her funeral.


Archer was initially sent to HM Prison Belmarsh, a Category "A" prison, but was moved to HM Prison Wayland, a Category "C" prison in Norfolk, on 9 August 2001. Despite automatically qualifying as a category "D" prisoner, given it was a first conviction and he did not pose a serious risk of harm to the public, his status as such was suspended pending a police investigation into allegations about his Kurdish charity. He was then transferred to HM Prison North Sea Camp, an open prison, in October 2001. From there he was let out to work, briefly, at the Theatre Royal in Lincoln, and allowed occasional home visits.

Media reports claimed he had abused this privilege by attending a lunch with a friend, Education Secretary Gillian Shephard. In September 2002 he was transferred to a Category "B" prison, Lincoln. After three weeks, he was moved to the Category "D" HM Prison Hollesley Bay in Suffolk.

During his imprisonment, Archer was visited by a number of high-profile friends, including actor Donald Sinden and entertainer Barry Humphries (who performed as Dame Edna Everage).

In October 2002, Archer repaid the Daily Star the £500,000 damages he had received in 1987, as well as legal costs and interest of £1.3 million. That month, he was suspended from Marylebone Cricket Club for seven years.

On 21 July 2003, Archer was released on licence from Hollesley Bay after serving half of his sentence. He remained a peer, there being no legal provision through which his peerage could be removed at the time other than passing a new Act of Parliament. He also retained membership of the House of Lords, which did not then have the power to expel members; however, Archer has not taken an active part in the proceedings of the House. Politically, he is a non-affiliated member.

Prison diaries

While in prison, Archer wrote the three-volume memoir A Prison Diary, with volumes fashioned after Dante's Divine Comedy, and named after the first three prisons in which he was kept. His prison term also served as inspiration for nine of the 12 short stories in the collection Cat O' Nine Tales.

Subsequent incidents

In 2004, the government of Equatorial Guinea alleged that Archer was one of the financiers of the failed 2004 coup d'état attempt against it, citing bank details and telephone records as evidence. In 2009, Archer said: "I am completely relaxed about it. Mr Mann [Simon Mann, the English mercenary leader of the coup] has made clear that it's nothing to do with me." In 2011, Mann, imprisoned in Equatorial Guinea for his role in leading the failed 2004 coup d'état but released on humanitarian grounds later, told The Daily Telegraph that his forthcoming book, Cry Havoc, would reveal "the financial involvement of a controversial and internationally famous member of the British House of Lords in the plot, backed up by banking records." He claimed documents from the bank accounts in Guernsey of two companies Mann used as vehicles for organising the coup, showed a 'J H Archer' paying $135,000 into one of the firms.

Personal life

Archer has been married to Mary Weeden since July 1966. They met at Oxford University, where Weeden was studying chemistry at St Anne's College. She went on to specialise in solar power.

They have two children: William Archer (born 1972), a theatrical producer, and James Archer (born 1974), a financial adviser and businessman.

In 1979, the Archers purchased the Old Vicarage, Grantchester, a house associated with the poet Rupert Brooke. Every summer, they host a lavish garden party in the grounds to celebrate their wedding anniversary. Following the near-bankruptcy of the Aquablast scandal, by the early 1980s, Archer was back in a comfortable financial position and began to hold shepherd's pie and Krug parties for prominent people at his London penthouse, which overlooks the River Thames and the Houses of Parliament.

On 26 February 2006, on Andrew Marr's Sunday AM programme, Archer said he had no interest in returning to front-line politics and would pursue his writing instead.

Archer in fiction

Archer was satirically portrayed as a misunderstood secret agent, saviour of Britain and mankind and "overall thoroughly good chap", by actor Damian Lewis in the BBC drama Jeffrey Archer: The Truth (2002). Scriptwriter Guy Jenkin explained that "my Jeffrey Archer is the man who has frequently saved Britain over the last 30 years. He's beloved of all women he comes across, all men, all dogs—he's a superhero." Ian Hislop and Nick Newman's 1994 BBC Radio 4 satirical series Gush purported to be "written by master storyteller Archie Jeffries".

In the Amazon series Good Omens, a reference is made by one of the angels in Aziraphale's bookshop: "Something smells evil." Aziraphale replies, "Oh, that would be the Jeffrey Archer books, I'm afraid."

In the Doctor Who episode Silence in the Library, the Doctor mentions that the Library has whole continents of Jeffrey Archer.


Archer has published 42 works, which have been translated into 33 languages, with combined sales of more than 275 million copies.

Kane and Abel series

  • Kane and Abel (1979)
  • The Prodigal Daughter (1982)
  • Shall We Tell the President? (1986 - revised edition)

Clifton Chronicles

  • Only Time Will Tell (2011)
  • The Sins of the Father (2012)
  • Best Kept Secret (2013)
  • Be Careful What You Wish For (2014)
  • Mightier Than the Sword (2015)
  • Cometh The Hour (2016)
  • This Was a Man (2016)

William Warwick series

  • Nothing Ventured (2019)
  • Hidden in Plain Sight (2020)
  • Turn a Blind Eye (2021)
  • Over My Dead Body (2021)
  • Next in Line (2022)
  • Traitor's Gate (2023)

Other novels

  • Not a Penny More, Not a Penny Less (1976)
  • First Among Equals (1984)
  • A Matter of Honour (1986)
  • As the Crow Flies (1991)
  • Honour Among Thieves (1993)
  • The Fourth Estate (1996)
  • The Eleventh Commandment (1998)
  • Sons of Fortune (2002)
  • False Impression (2005)
  • The Gospel According to Judas by Benjamin Iscariot, with Francis J. Moloney (2007)
  • A Prisoner of Birth (2008)
  • Paths of Glory (2009)
  • Heads You Win (2018)

Short stories/collections

  • A Quiver Full of Arrows (including "Old Love") (1980)
  • A Twist in the Tale (1988)
  • Fools, Knaves, and Heroes: Great Political Short Stories Editor, Introduction. (1991)
  • Twelve Red Herrings (1994)
  • The Collected Short Stories (1997) Collects A Quiver Full of Arrows, A Twist in the Tale and Twelve Red Herrings
  • To Cut a Long Story Short (2000)
  • Cat O'Nine Tales (2006)
  • And Thereby Hangs a Tale (2010)
  • The New Collected Short Stories (2011) Collects To Cut a Long Story Short, Cat O'Nine Tales, and And Thereby Hangs a Tale
  • The Jeffrey Archer Short Story Challenge Collection Editor, Contributor (Unique) (2013)
  • Four Warned (Quick Reads, 2014) Four shorts stories, all previously published (in Twelve Red Herrings, Cat O'Nine Tales and And Thereby Hangs a Tale)
  • It Can't Be October Already (2017) Single short story (included in Cat O'Nine Tales)
  • Tell Tale (2017)
  • The Short, the Long and the Tall (2020)


  • Beyond Reasonable Doubt (1987)
  • Exclusive (1989)
  • The Accused (2000)

Prison diaries (non-fiction)

  • 1. Hell — Belmarsh (2002)
  • 2. Purgatory — Wayland (2003)
  • 3. Heaven — North Sea Camp (2004)

For children

  • By Royal Appointment (1980)
  • Willy Visits the Square World (1980)
  • Willy and the Killer Kipper (1981)
  • The First Miracle (1994)

See also

Kids robot.svg In Spanish: Jeffrey Archer para niños

  • Jonathan Aitken — Archer's contemporary, another Conservative politician imprisoned for perjury
  • Chris Huhne — Liberal Democrat politician, imprisoned for perverting the course of justice
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