He moved his family to England and purchased the Pall Mall Gazette, a daily newspaper, in 1892, and afterwards purchased the London weekly paper, the Observer. As the great grandson of John Jacob Astor, the successful fur trader and creator of the Astor family bundle, William Waldorf was born into a life of privilege. He studied abroad in Germany and Italy before returning America to earn a law degree at Columbia University. However he failed in his bid to become a U.S. senator.
During, as well as after, his unsuccessful senatorial campaign, Astor found himself the target of numerous media strikes. He was criticized for his aloof nature, considerable prosperity and his family’s history as landlords of tenement buildings. A committed Republican, Astor received a reprieve in the press in the type of an appointment by President Chester Arthur to serve as the minister to Italy, a place he held from 1882 to 1885. Around now, Astor tried his hand at writing, creating two novels; Valentino (1884) and Sforza: A Story of Milan (1889). Neither literary attempt was well received.