ROBERT HARDMAN: How David Barclay, who has died at 86, rose to be one half of ...

His was the ultimate Thatcherite success story, even if Sir David Barclay did his level best to prevent anyone from telling it: the workaholic boy from the back streets who left school at 14 and who, with his twin brother, built one of the great business empires of his time.

It encompassed great hotels, shipping fleets, breweries, a fortified island retreat — and the Daily Telegraph.

So when, in the twilight of her life, Lady Thatcher needed a helping hand, Sir David Barclay and Sir Frederick were more than willing to help.

Not only did they bankroll their heroine, but they ensured that she spent her final days in a suite at their grandest address, London’s Ritz Hotel, before her death in 2013.

Now, after a brief illness, the famously reclusive Sir David has himself passed away at the age of 86. He leaves a widow, four sons and nine grandchildren.

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JPictured: Joint owners of the Daily Telegraph Sir David Barclay (left) and his twin brother Sir Frederick after receiving their knighthoods from the Queen at Buckingham Palace in 2000

JPictured: Joint owners of the Daily Telegraph Sir David Barclay (left) and his twin brother Sir Frederick after receiving their knighthoods from the Queen at Buckingham Palace in 2000

Sir David Barclay with his then-wife Zoe Newton with their new born baby Aidan in 1956

Sir David Barclay with his then-wife Zoe Newton with their new born baby Aidan in 1956

He also leaves a twin brother from whom he was inseparable for most of his life, until a bizarre and painful rift towards the very end.

The details of that, however, remain opaque, as does so much about Sir David for the simple reason that he preferred it that way.

For years, he refused to submit any information to Who’s Who. Even today, his entry — like that of his twin — contains no details of any parents, wives (he would have two), children, hobbies or even his date of birth.

It simply lists a string of directorships, along with the honour of which the brothers were most proud.

In 2000, they both went to Buckingham Palace to be knighted by the Queen for services to charity. They had never trumpeted their philanthropy, but it ran into tens of millions.

The occasion was memorable for two reasons. First, it meant a rare sighting of them together (wearing identical purple ties).

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The Barclays bought a joint home on the rocky outcrop of Brecqhou, off the Channel island of Sark. They had bought the island for £2.3m in 1993, building a fortress like neo-Gothic mansion

The Barclays bought a joint home on the rocky outcrop of Brecqhou, off the Channel island of Sark. They had bought the island for £2.3m in 1993, building a fortress like neo-Gothic mansion

Second, the Queen performed the only double-knighting in living memory. Rather than queue one behind the other, both Barclays were allowed to kneel side by side to receive the accolade.

It was, perhaps, the high point of their partnership. A decade later, cracks began to appear, culminating in last year’s astonishing courtroom stories of bugged conversations and a toxic feud between the younger generations of the Barclay dynasty.

The rift followed a decision by Sir David’s sons to sell the Ritz to a Qatari sheikh. This ran against the wishes of Sir Frederick and his daughter, who believed a better deal could be struck than the reported price of around £750 million.

The fact one of Sir David’s sons had bugged many of Sir Frederick’s conversations made things more poisonous.

Though I understand that the brothers had some sort of reconciliation shortly before Sir David’s death, it meant an unhappy final chapter to his life.

Yet it was not one entirely unfamiliar to a man who filled a library with leather-bound copies of all the legal actions he pursued in life. It is a big library.

The Queen with David Barclay (centre) and Frederick Barclay (right) at the opening of the new headquarters of The Scotsman Publications Ltd in Edinburgh

The Queen with David

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