Mary Archer

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Dame Mary Archer, Lady Archer of Weston-super-Mare
Born Mary Doreen Weeden
(1944-12-22) 22 December 1944 (age 70)
Epsom, Surrey, England, UK
Education Cheltenham Ladies' College; St Anne's College, Oxford; Imperial College London
Occupation Scientist
Years active 1968–present
Spouse(s) Jeffrey Archer (m. 1966)
Children The Hon. William Harold Archer (b. 1972)
The Hon. James Howard Archer (b. 1974)

Dame Mary Doreen Archer, Lady Archer of Weston-super-Mare, DBE (née Weeden; born 22 December 1944)[1] is a British scientist specialising in solar power conversion.

Early life and education[edit]

Mary Weeden was born in Epsom, Surrey in December 1944. Her father, Harold, was a chartered accountant.[2] She attended Cheltenham Ladies' College, before going on to study chemistry at St Anne's College, Oxford and physical chemistry at Imperial College London.[3]


After a brief period teaching at Oxford University,[1] Mary Archer worked as a scientific researcher under the Nobel prize-winning scientist Sir George Porter at the Royal Institution in London. It was during this period that she became interested in photoelectrochemistry, and she has both written and lectured extensively on the subject. In the mid-1970s, she was appointed to the Board of Directors of the International Solar Energy Society.[2]

Between 1976 and 1986, she was a lecturer in Chemistry at Newnham and Trinity Colleges in Cambridge.[4]

From 1984 to 1991, she was a director of the Fitzwilliam Museum Trust in Cambridge. She was a non-executive director of Mid Anglia Radio plc between 1988 and 1995.[1]

In 1988 Mary Archer joined the Council of Lloyds Insurance Company, becoming chair of the Lloyds Hardship Committee the following year.[2] She had been a Lloyds 'Name' since 1977.[5]

From 1988 to 2000, she was chairman of the National Energy Foundation, which promotes improving the use of energy in buildings. She later became its president.[6] She is also president of the UK Solar Energy Society (UKISES). Mary Archer is a Companion of the Energy Institute and was awarded the Institute's Melchett Medal in 2002.[4]

In 1994, Lady Archer was a non-executive director of Anglia Television at a time when it was the target of a takeover bid. Following reports from the London Stock Exchange, the Department of Trade and Industry appointed inspectors on 8 February 1994 to investigate possible insider dealing contraventions by certain individuals, including her husband. No charges were brought.[7]

She was chairman of Cambridge University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust (incorporating Addenbrooke’s and the Rosie Hospitals) for ten years until 2012, having previously been a non-executive director (1993–99), and vice-chairman (1999-2002) of Addenbrooke's Hospital NHS Trust.[1][8] Between 2005 to 2008, she led a pioneer NHS-funded initiative to create patient decision aids for patients with localised prostate cancer (or BPH). In 2007 she was awarded the Eva Philbin Award of the Institute of Chemistry of Ireland.[4] She was founder director of Cambridge University Health Partners, 2009–2012,[9] and was deputy chairman of ACT (Addenbrooke's Charitable Trust) from 1997-2015.[1] She is currently leading a group to create an online PDA and information/advice for bladder cancer patients in Addenbrooke’s Hospital, and across the Anglia Cancer Network.[10]

Mary Archer was appointed Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire (DBE) in the 2012 Birthday Honours for services to the National Health Service.[11]

She is chair of Imperial College Health Partners' Expert Advisory Board, and a trustee of the UK Stem Cell Foundation. In 2014 she joined Hydrodec Group plc as a non-executive director.[9] She remains a fellow of Newnham College, Cambridge and is a visiting professor at Imperial College, London. She has been an honorary fellow St Anne's College Oxford since 2013.[1] She serves on the Department of Trade and Industry's energy advisory group and a committee to promote science.[9]

Since January 2015, she has been chair of the trustees of the National Science Museum Group.[12]

Personal life[edit]


She married Jeffrey Archer in July 1966, having met at Oxford University, where Jeffrey had been studying for a Diploma in Education. She has described Jeffrey as being "fun, ebullient ... [h]e was older than my contemporaries and I liked that. He did things I'd never sort of done."[13]

They have two children: William Archer (born 1972), a theatre producer,[14] and James Archer (born 1974), a financial advisor and businessman.

The Archers live in the Old Vicarage, Grantchester, near Cambridge, the former home immortalised by Rupert Brooke in a poem of that title.[15]

Mary Archer has commented that she does not consider sexual fidelity to be an important factor in a successful marriage, suggesting that friendship and loyalty are more important qualities. [16]

Life with Jeffrey Archer[edit]

Between 1967 and 1974, she supported her husband's political career, first when he became a member of the Greater London Council, then from 1969 when he was elected as MP for Louth, Lincolnshire. She later supported him during his tenure as deputy chairman of the Conservative Party (1985–86), and again during his ultimately ill-fated campaign to become London Mayor in 1999.[17]

In the summer of 1974, the Archers were struck by a financial crisis, when Jeffrey lost over £400,000 in a bad investment. Faced with the threat of bankruptcy, the Archers were forced to move out of their five-bedroomed house in The Boltons.[17] Mary Archer took up a teaching post at Cambridge University, which, together with her husband's eventual success as a novelist, saved them from financial ruin.[5]

In 1987 she gave evidence at the High Court in a libel case brought by her husband against the Daily Star newspaper, which claimed Jeffrey had slept with a prostitute called Monica Coghlan. During his summing up at the end of the trial, the judge, Mr Justice Caulfield, asked: "Has she elegance? Has she fragrance? Would she have, without the strain of this trial, radiance?"[3][18]

When her husband was granted a life peerage in 1992, she gained the title Lady Archer of Weston-super-Mare.

In 2001, when Jeffrey Archer was accused of having commited perjury in the 1987 trial, she appeared at the Old Bailey to defend him.[19] Jeffrey Archer was subsequently convicted and imprisoned for perjury and perverting the course of justice.[20] The trial judge, Mr Justice Potts, questioned the veracity of Lady Archer's evidence, suggesting that she too had perjured herself. However, no further action was taken.[21]

Mary Archer is reported to have said that "Jeffrey has a genius for inaccurate precis",[22] and once commented that, "We are all human, but Jeffrey manages to be more human than most." [5]

She appeared on the BBC TV show Question Time in 2002, where she clashed with Ian Hislop, editor of satirical magazine Private Eye, over her husband's criminal conviction.[23]

In 2003, she took her former PA, Jane Williams, to court over an alleged breach of confidentiality. Lady Archer sought a permanent injunction against Williams, claiming she had stolen confidential documents about the family, and had planned to sell the information to the media.[24] Williams had previously taken Lady Archer to an industrial tribunal over claims of unfair dismissal.[25][26]


Mary Archer is a patron of the Rupert Brooke Society.[27] Between 1991 and 1999 she sat on the council of Cheltenham Ladies' College.[1]

She is a keen singer, singing first alto, and enjoys Baroque and Renaissance music. She also plays the piano and belongs to a small choir, Cantus, in Cambridge.[15] In 1988 she brought out a CD of Christmas carols, titled A Christmas Carol.[28] She is a non-executive director of the Britten Sinfonia, and has been president of the Guild of Church Musicians since 1989.[1]

She has written and contributed to various volumes of work concerning solar energy, the most significant being Photochemical & Photoelectrochemical Approaches to Solar Energy Conversion, which took 15 years to write. She has also co-edited Clean Electricity from Photovoltaics (2001); Molecular to Global Photosynthesis (2004); The 1702 Chair of Chemistry at Cambridge: Transformation and Change (2005) and Nanostructured and Photoelectrochemical Systems for Solar Photon Conversion (2008).[4]

In addition, Mary Archer has written (along with Nevill Wilmer) a book about Rupert Brooke's time at The Old Vicarage, Grantchester (Rupert Brooke and The Old Vicarage, Grantchester), published in May 1989, and more recently a book about the history of The Old Vicarage: The Story of The Old Vicarage Grantchester, published in 2012.[4]


In 2011, she revealed that she had recently undergone major surgery (removal of bladder) for bladder cancer at Addenbrooke's Hospital.[16] Despite her husband's offer to pay for her to have this surgery privately, she opted to be treated as a standard NHS patient on the public wards of her local hospital.[29]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h "Debrett's profile: Mary Doreen Archer, Lady Archer of Weston-super-Mare". Debrett's. Retrieved 3 November 2015. 
  2. ^ a b c Rustin, Susanna (23 October 2015). "Dame Mary Archer interview: 'To me everything has to work round family, and fortunately it has'". The Guardian (London). Retrieved 31 October 2015. 
  3. ^ a b Maguire, Kevin (20 July 2001). "Why Mary has stood by her man". The Guardian (London). Retrieved 28 April 2012. 
  4. ^ a b c d e "Speaker Profile: Dame Mary Archer". Speakers for schools. Retrieved 1 November 2015. 
  5. ^ a b c Rayner, Jay (1 October 2000). "Mary had a little lamb...". The Observer (London). Retrieved 31 October 2015. 
  6. ^ "National Energy Foundation trustees: Mary Archer". National Energy Foundation. Retrieved 6 November 2015. 
  7. ^ Watt, Nicholas (30 October 1999). "Archer's share deal under scrutiny again". The Guardian (London). Retrieved 31 October 2015. 
  8. ^ "Mary Archer receives award in Queen's Birthday Honours list". 16 June 2012. Retrieved 1 November 2015. 
  9. ^ a b c "Prime Minister appoints Dame Mary Archer as new chairman of the Science Museum group". Department of Culture, Media and Sport. 29 October 2014. Retrieved 31 October 2015. 
  10. ^ "Dame Mary Archer profile at Rightcare". 29 October 2014. Retrieved 1 November 2015. 
  11. ^ "Queen's Birthday Honours: Mary Archer made Dame". BBC News. 16 June 2012. Retrieved 6 November 2015. 
  12. ^ "Science Museum Group’s new Chairman announced". 29 October 2014. Retrieved 1 November 2015. 
  13. ^ Conlan, Tara. "Mary Archer, Life in the Fast Lane". The Daily Mail (London). Retrieved 31 October 2015. 
  14. ^ "William Archer profile at Bob&Co". London. Retrieved 1 November 2015. 
  15. ^ a b McGibbon, Rob (12 January 2015). "My haven, Dame Mary Archer: The 70-year-old scientist and wife of novelist Jeffrey in her study at their home in Cambridgeshire". The Daily Mail (London). Retrieved 31 October 2015. 
  16. ^ a b Grice, Elizabeth (4 Oct 2011). "Mary Archer: 'There are worse things in life than adultery’". The Telegraph. Retrieved 3 November 2015. 
  17. ^ a b Archer, Mary (24 August 2013). "Mary Archer: Most men need a wife to pump up their ego. Jeffrey needed one to puncture his". The Daily Mail (London). Retrieved 31 October 2015. 
  18. ^ Bindman QC, Geoffrey (4 September 2009). "The fragrant Archers". New Law Journal. Retrieved 31 October 2015. 
  19. ^ "Mary Archer: For better and worse", BBC News, 2001
  20. ^ Clough, Sue (20 Jul 2001). "The end: Archer goes to jail". The Telegraph. Retrieved 3 November 2015. 
  21. ^ Kelso, Paul (23 July 2001). "Mary Archer may sell her story". The Guardian. Retrieved 3 November 2015. 
  22. ^ White, Michael (20 July 2001). "Political chancer with lots of fizz". The Guardian. Retrieved 3 November 2015. 
  23. ^ "The best of Question Time". BBC News. 4 August 2004. Retrieved 31 October 2015. 
  24. ^ Woolcock, Nicola (3 Jul 2003). "'Lady Archer's attractive but her husband's a jerk'". The Telegraph. Retrieved 3 November 2015. 
  25. ^ Morris, Steven (3 September 2002). "Mary Archer was difficult and mean, says aide". The Guardian (London). Retrieved 31 October 2015. 
  26. ^ Sapsted, David (2 Sep 2002). "Lady Archer fights claim by sacked secretary". The Telegraph. Retrieved 3 November 2015. 
  27. ^ "Dame Mary's survival story" (PDF). Norfolk and Waveney - Prostate Cancer Support Group Newsletter (52). November 2014. Retrieved 3 November 2015. 
  28. ^ Bedell, Geraldine (23 October 2011). "Interview: Mary Archer - A Jeffreyish streak: With her seasonal album, the demure ex-don reveals a taste for publicity". The Independent. Retrieved 1 November 2015. 
  29. ^ Bloxham, Andy (19 August 2011). "Mary Archer on her battle with bladder cancer". The Telegraph (London). Retrieved 28 April 2012. 

Further reading[edit]