Alexander Ruthven was born on 26 November 1939 in Ireland. He became the second Earl of Gowrie in 1955 following the death of his grandfather. He is normally known by the name ‘Grey’ or as Lord Gowrie.
He was educated at Eton and Balliol College, Oxford, and later attended Harvard University. He went into politics, joining the Conservative Party. He served on the Conservative front bench as Lord-in-Waiting under Ted Heath between 1972 and 1974 and later served under Margaret Thatcher. He was Minister of State for Employment from 1979 to 1981, Minister of State for Northern Ireland from 1981 to 1983 and Minister for the Arts from 1983 to 1985.
He resigned from politics in 1985, going on to become Chairman of Sotheby’s from 1985 to 1994 and later the Chairman of the Arts Council of England, where he was involved in securing the renewal of its Royal Charter.