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Dame Elisabeth Murdoch

Matriarch of the Murdoch media clan;

Born: February 8, 1909; Died: December 5, 2012.

Dame Elisabeth Murdoch, who has died aged 103, was matriarch of the Murdoch media empire and the mother of News Corp chairman Rupert Murdoch. She was an inspiration to the family but also prepared to criticise them too. She would often voice concerns to her publisher son over his brand of journalism, including racy exclusives on celebrities and partisan stance on politics.

"We don't always see eye-to-eye or agree, but we do respect each other's opinions and I think that's important," she said in 2009. "I think the kind of journalism and the tremendous invasion of people's privacy, I don't approve of that."

Much of Dame Elisabeth's life was dedicated to charity. She served on and formed numerous institutes that promoted medical research, the arts and social welfare, and was a supporter of more than 100 charities and organisations.

Her work earned her civil honours in both her native Australia and Britain. She was appointed CBE in 1961 and DBE in 1963 in recognition of her work on the management committee of the Royal Children's Hospital in Melbourne.

She was born in Melbourne in 1909, the youngest of three daughters. Her father, Rupert Greene, was a wool entrepreneur and Elisabeth was educated at private schools in Victoria.

She was 19 when she married Rupert's father, Keith, in 1928. It is said that he had seen a picture of her in one of his magazines and arranged to meet her. After overcoming family resistance to marrying a much older man – he was 42 – the wedding was a great social occasion; the guests included the great Australian soprano Nellie Melba.

Keith's wedding present to Elisabeth was Cruden Farm, 30 miles south of Melbourne. She developed the gardens on the estate and continued to live there after Keith's death in 1952 and right up until her death. On Keith's death, Rupert took over his father's newspaper business and set about turning it into a global media empire.

Perhaps because her mother Marie was part-Scots and money was sometimes tight when she was a girl, Dame Elisabeth always decried the world's obsession with materialism and wealth at the expense of personal relationships.

"I think it's become a rather materialistic age, that worries me," she once said. "Money seems to be so enormously important and I don't think wealth creates happiness.

"I think it's personal relationships which matter. And I think there's just a bit too much materialism and it's not good for the young."

While her son remains a divisive figure, Dame Elisabeth was widely admired in Australia. Rupert's biographer Michael Wolff likened her to the Queen Mother.

She was also able to heal rifts in the family, including after Rupert Murdoch's divorce from Anna Murdoch and marriage to Wendi Deng in 1999.

Rupert remained close to his mother despite leading a global media empire that required him to split his time between Australia, Asia, Britain, New York, and Los Angeles. In a statement, he said his mother had always demonstrated the very best qualities of true public service.

Dame Elisabeth, who would have been 104 in January, is survived by 77 direct descendants, including three children Anne Kantor, Janet Calvert-Jones and Rupert. Her fourth and eldest child, Helen Handbury, died in 2004.

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