Archer's fall: Sons who became part of the legend
Friday 20 July 2001
William and James Archer were regular visitors to the Old Bailey during their father's trial.
The two sons are quite different. William, the elder at 29, is quieter, introverted and said to be more like Mary than Jeffrey. After attending Rugby School he studied art history and Spanish at Georgetown University in Washington DC. He lived there in frugal conditions, in a cheap flat, buying second-hand clothes.
Afterwards he spent time working with Kurdish refugees in Northern Iraq and at Mother Teresa's mission in Calcutta. He has also talked of emigrating to India.
James Archer, said to be much more like his father, went to Eton and became captain of the athletics team. He then went to Brasenose College, Oxford, where he and three friends shared a large three-storey house with a Colombian hired help who did the laundry and cleaning and provided breakfast in bed.
But it was after university that James really made his mark as a member of a group of self-publicising young brokers calling themselves the "Flaming Ferraris".
The five young traders were behind a PR stunt which ensured they were pictured arriving, Reservoir Dogs style, at an expensive Japanese restaurant, Nobu, in Park Lane in December 1998. The move was designed to raise their profile and increase their already considerable earnings. But the stunt backfired. James Archer now faces a life ban from working in the City for trying in effect to rig the Swedish stock exchange. He sold more than £1m of shares in a wood pulp company, Stora Enso, at below their market valuation to drive down the main exchange and make money on a series of other deals.
James claims he planned to sell only a small number of shares, but his finger slipped on the keyboard and he accidentally sold 10 times more than he intended.
The closest parallels to Jeffrey Archer's life lie not with his sons, however, but with his father, William. Both were compulsive liars who invented their past; both faced bankruptcy; both dabbled in politics as members of the Tory party; both were arrested on each side of the Atlantic and both stood in the dock of the Old Bailey on charges of serious dishonesty.
But William Archer never achieved his son's wealth. His life in crime was also far more extensive.
He was convicted of deception in the US and Britain. But he escaped relatively lightly from his misdemeanours. In June 1917, at the Supreme Court in the district of Columbia, he was convicted of fraud and sentenced to prison for three years. However, he was released on probation after just 10 months.
Then in November 1918 he appeared in court in Toronto for an offence committed within days of entering the country. He was sentenced to a year's hard labour, but was instead deported to Britain. Back in London he faced fraud charges left over from when he jumped bail and fled abroad in 1914. The case was dropped.
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