Sir David, 67, is known to have been ill in recent months. He had suffered from recurring hepatitis and it is understood that the failing health of his wife had put him under strain. He was found collapsed at his London home on Tuesday morning and died in hospital yesterday afternoon.
He was editor-in-chief and chairman of Associated Newspapers, the publishers of the Daily Mail, the Mail on Sunday and the London Evening Standard. But it was as editor of the Daily Mail for 21 years that he made his greatest impact on British journalism.
For years the Mail had been the poor relation in the middle market to the all-conquering Daily Express. English rejuvenated the newspaper, taking it to a tabloid in 1971 and in particular targeting middle-England's housewives. He also innovated, with bigger news-led features and magazine-style journalism.
He insisted that the newspaper know its readers perfectly and then reflect their tastes, interests and prejudices. Importantly, he also persuaded the newspaper's owner, Lord Rothermere, to invest heavily in a formidable newsgathering operation that means the Mail now has the biggest editorial budget of any British newspaper.
David English started out in Fleet Street at 20 on the Daily Mirror in its heyday in the Fifties, and learnt his journalism from Hugh Cudlipp, the legendary Mirror editor.
After years of huge financial losses and battles with the Express, his Mail overtook its greatest rival in the mid-Eighties. Now, with Paul Dacre as editor, but Sir David at the head of the company since 1992, the Mail is on the verge of overtaking the mass-market Daily Mirror.
The Eighties was Sir David's heyday. He was Baroness Thatcher's favourite editor and was knighted by her in 1982. Diana, Princess of Wales used him for confidential press advice, and during the 1992 general election John Major called him late at night to ask for help on his ailing campaign.
Simon Kelner, editor of The Independent, said last night: "Like countless other newspaper men around the world, I owe David a massive debt of gratitude for his selflessness in passing on the wisdom born of his vast experience. He was truly the journalist's journalist."Reuse content