Rupert Murdoch’s Mother Dies at 103

Dame Elisabeth Murdoch devoted herself to charitable causes, and sometimes questioned the tabloid journalism that enriched her family

Dame Elisabeth Murdoch, an Australian philanthropist and the mother of News Corp. chief Rupert Murdoch, has died. She was 103.

She died in Australia at her home in Cruden Farm.

Dame Elisabeth primarily devoted herself to charitable causes, but by virtue of marriage and progeny, she had a front row seat to the shifts in media that took place over the last century.

Getty ImagesShe was the widow of Australian newspaper publisher Sir Keith Murdoch and was appointed a Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire (DBE) in 1963.  

In a statement, Rupert Murdoch paid tribute to his mother's commitment to country and community.

“We have lost the most wonderful mother but we are all grateful to have had her love and wisdom for so many years," Rupert Murdoch said. “Throughout her life, our mother demonstrated the very best qualities of true public service. Her energy and personal commitment made our country a more hopeful place and she will be missed by many.”

Before her marriage, Dame Elisabeth volunteered for the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. However, as her family grew in prominence and wealth, her litany of charitable causes expanded exponentially. Among the issues she took on were mental illness, epilepsy, substance abuse, the environment and medical research. Organizations that benefited from her support included everything from the Australian Ballet to the Royal Women's Hospital.

She also played a founding role in the Royal Children's Hospital in Australia and the Murdoch Children's Research Institute.

The 81-year old Rupert Murdoch routinely pointed to his mother's longevity as evidence that he would not have to surrender the reins of power at News Corp. in the near future, Fox News chief Roger Ailes told the New Yorker's Ken Auletta recently.

“When the Queen Mum died, at one hundred and one,” Ailes recalled. “I said to Rupert, ‘She had a good run.’ Murdoch replied, 'I’d call it an early death.'”

Though the Murdoch clan has been largely successful in keeping any internecine conflicts under wraps, Dame Elisabeth did occasionally chastise Rupert Murdoch for his tabloid paper's penchant for sensationalism. In an interview published in 2011, but conducted eight years before, she told Daily Beast writer David Leser that she feared that newspapers like the ones run by her son were guilty of invading people's privacy.

"I think going back to the privacy [issue], I think we value our privacy and we expect it to be respected, so we ought to respect other people’s privacy," she said. "It’s a question that comes up often."

When asked if she had expressed her views to Rupert Murdoch, she said, "We don’t often get into that. We’ve had it all out before.”

Dame Elisabeth was mother to four children including Rupert Murdoch, Anne Kantor
and Janet Calvert-Jones. Her eldest daughter, Helen Handbury, died in 2004.

She would have been 104 in January and is survived by 77 direct descendants, including 50 great-grandchildren and six great-great-grandchildren.

Her funeral will be private.