William Shawcross

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William Hartley Hume Shawcross, CVO (born 28 May 1946, Sussex, England) is the Chairman of the Charity Commission for England and Wales,[1] and a British writer and commentator.


Shawcross was educated at St Aubyns Preparatory School, Rottingdean, Eton College and University College, Oxford. He attended St Martin's Art School to study sculpture after leaving Oxford. He worked as a journalist for The Sunday Times. He writes and lectures on issues of international policy, geopolitics, Southeast Asia and refugees for a number of publications, including Time, Newsweek, International Herald Tribune, The Spectator, The Washington Post and Rolling Stone. He has also written a number of books, including biographies of Rupert Murdoch and the Shah of Iran. His official biography of Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother was released in the UK on 17 September 2009 and in the United States on 20 October 2009.

Shawcross was Chairman of ARTICLE 19, the international centre on censorship, from 1986 to 1996. He was a Member of Council of the Disasters Emergency Committee from 1997 to 2002, and a board member of the International Crisis Group from 1995 to 2005.

In 2009 he signed a petition against the arrest and attempted extradition of Roman Polanski [2]

He was a member of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees's Informal Advisory Group from 1995 to 2000. From 1997 to 2003 he was a member of the BBC World Service Advisory Council. In 2008 he became a Patron of the Wiener Library and in 2011 he joined the board of the Anglo-Israel Association and was appointed to the board of the Henry Jackson Society.

Shawcross took up the Chairmanship of the Charity Commission for England and Wales on 1 October 2012.[3] He was re-appointed to the post in 2015, at which point the work commitment of the role was increased from two to three days per week.[4]

Private life and honours[edit]

Shawcross's father was the politician, lawyer, Chief British Prosecutor at Nuremberg and life peer Hartley Shawcross. His mother was Joan Winifred Mather, who died in a riding accident on the Sussex Downs in 1974. In 1970 he married the writer and art critic Marina Warner, and their son, Conrad, is an artist. The marriage ended in divorce in 1980.[5]

Shawcross married Michal Levin in 1981.[6] Their daughter Eleanor, was a member of the Council of Economic Advisers to George Osborne from 2008.[6] She had previously worked on Boris Johnson's mayoral campaign. Eleanor is married to Simon Wolfson, Baron Wolfson, who is the son of David Wolfson, Baron Wolfson of Sunningdale, both of whom are Conservative life peers and who are the current and former Next chairmen.[7][8][9]

Shawcross and his third wife, Hon. Olga Polizzi, CBE, married in 1993.[6] His stepdaughter is the hotelier and television presenter Alex Polizzi.

He has lifelong ties to Cornwall where he is a keen campaigner in the preservation and protection of local Conservation Areas. His campaign succeeded in obtaining Grade II listing for St Mawes's historic, and endangered, sea wall.[citation needed]

He was appointed Commander of the Royal Victorian Order (CVO) in the 2011 New Year Honours.[10]


  • Dubcek: Dubcek and Czechoslovakia 1918–1968 (1970), a New York Times Book of the Year
  • Crime and Compromise: Janos Kadar and the politics of Hungary since Revolution (1974)
  • Sideshow: Kissinger, Nixon and the Destruction of Cambodia (1979), nominated for a Pulitzer Prize
  • The Quality of Mercy: Cambodia, Holocaust and Modern Conscience (1984), awarded the Freedom From Hunger Media Award
  • The Shah's Last Ride: The fate of an ally (1988)
  • Kowtow!: A Plea on Behalf of Hong Kong (1989)
  • Murdoch: The making of a media empire (1992)
  • Deliver us from Evil: Warlords, Peacekeepers and a World of Endless Conflict (2000)
  • Queen and Country (2002)
  • Allies (2004)
  • Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother: The Official Biography (2009)
  • Justice and the Enemy: Nuremberg, 9/11, and the Trial of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed (2011)
  • Counting One's Blessings: The Selected Letters of Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother (2012)


  1. ^ New Charity Commission boss breaks with 'quango queen' predecessor who was slammed for using organisation for political purposes (Glen Owen, Mail Online, Sunday 2 June 2013)
  2. ^ https://www.huffingtonpost.com/bernardhenri-levy/artist-rally-behind-polan_b_302371.html
  3. ^ "Curriculum Vitae". William Shawcross. 
  4. ^ "William Shawcross reappointed as Chair of the Charity Commission". GOV.UK. 
  5. ^ "The International Who's Who 2004 - Europa Publications". Books.google.co.uk. p. 1533. Retrieved 2016-04-08. 
  6. ^ a b c "Profile: William Shawcross". The Sunday Times. 20 September 2009. Retrieved 26 August 2016.  (subscription required)
  7. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 3 May 2010. Retrieved 16 January 2011. 
  8. ^ Dunbar, Polly (2011-01-16). "Britain's 50 most powerful posh people under 30: From the catwalk to Westminster". Dailymail.co.uk. Retrieved 2016-04-08. 
  9. ^ "George Osborne's Treasury team - the power behind the coalition government". Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 2016-04-08. 
  10. ^ "No. 59647". The London Gazette (Supplement). 31 December 2010. p. 3. 

External links[edit]

Non-profit organization positions
Preceded by
Suzi Leather
Chair of the Charity Commission