Hugh Massingberd was born at Cookham Dean, Berkshire, in 1946. His father was in the Colonial Service, and later worked for the BBC; his mother was a schoolmistress. He boarded at Port Regis Preparatory School in Dorset, and Harrow. After an unsatisfactory stint as a solicitor's articled clerk in Lincoln's Inn, he gained a place to read History at Cambridge, only to pull out before matriculating. He then drifted into publishing and journalism, where he has made desultory attempts to keep afloat for the last thirty-five years.
Altogether he has written or edited some forty books, including works of genealogical reference, studies of royalty and social history as well as a series of illustrated volumes covering palaces, grand hotels and country houses, great and small. His five volumes of collections from the Obituaries page of The Daily Telegraph (which he created in 1986 and edited for eight years), and a further volume covering The Very Best of the Daily Telegraph Books of Obituaries were all published by Macmillan. The fifth volume was shortlisted for the inaugural Bollinger Everyman Prize for Comic Writing in 2000.
In addition to being Obituaries Editor of the Daily Telegraph, he was also that newspaper's Heritage columnist and TV critic. He has two children from his first marriage and, following a sojourn in his ancestral county of Lincolnshire, now lives with his second wife in London. He has listed his recreations as gluttony, sloth, watching cricket at the Oval and hanging round stage-doors and unsaddling enclosures.