Airlie is the eldest son of David Ogilvy, 7th Earl of Airlie and Lady Alexandra Coke. His younger brother was Sir Angus Ogilvy, the husband of HRH Princess Alexandra of Kent.
Born in Westminster, David Ogilvy was educated at Eton and served in the Scots Guards during the Second World War. In 1946 he was appointed ADC to the C-in-C and High Commissioner to Austria. He remained in the army until 1950, when he left to attend the Royal Agricultural College in Cirencester, in order to learn more about estate management. He currently maintains two homes on the family's 69 000 acre (280 km²) estate in Angus: Cortachy Castle and Airlie Castle. He also has a home in Chelsea, London.
He subsequently took up merchant banking, joining J. Henry Schroder in 1953. He was appointed a director of the company in 1961 and chairman of Henry Schroder Wagg & Co in 1973, and then of Schroders plc from 1977. In 1984, Lord Airlie resigned from Schroder to take up the position of Lord Chamberlain, when he was also sworn of the Privy Council and promoted to GCVO. The following year he was made KT, and two years after that Chairman of General Accident Fire and Life Assurance plc.
He was following in the footsteps of his late father, who served as Lord Chamberlain to Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mother. He remained in the post until 1997. He was made a Knight of the Thistle in 1985.
Lord Airlie has also served as the Lord Lieutenant of Angus in Scotland, and as the Captain General of The Royal Company of Archers and Gold Stick for Scotland. He was also the founding Chancellor of the University of Abertay, Dundee (1994–2009). In 1998 he was asked by the Labour government to stay on as a Lord in Waiting for life.
Lord Airlie's ancestral home in Tayside is Cortachy Castle near the ancient burgh of Kirriemuir, Angus. On 13 November 2007 he was asked to be Chancellor of the Order of the Thistle. His wife, the Countess of Airlie, is a Lady of the Bedchamber to Queen Elizabeth II. His grandmother, Mabell, Countess of Airlie was a Lady-in-Waiting and subsequently Lady of the Bedchamber to Queen Mary.
On 23 October 1952, he married Virginia Fortune Ryan, daughter of a wealthy American businessman John Barry Ryan and his wife, Margaret, daughter of wealthy financier Otto Kahn. The wedding took place at St Margaret's Church, Westminster, in the presence of Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mother and Princess Margaret.
They have six children and eleven grandchildren:Lady Doune Mabell Ogilvy (13 August 1953) she married Hereward Wake on 15 April 1977 and they were divorced in July 1995. They have four children:
John Hereward Wake (6 October 1978)
Henry Wake (1980)
Thom Wake (1984–1985)
Laura Katherine Wake (1986)
Lady Jane Fortune Margaret Ogilvy (24 June 1955) she married Francois Nairac on 30 August 1980. They have two daughters:
Jessica Doune Nairac (1985)
Annabel Lydia Nairac (1988)
David John Ogilvy, Lord Ogilvy (9 March 1958) he married Honorable Geraldine Harmsworth (daughter Vere Harold Esmond Harmsworth, 3rd Viscount Rothermere) in 1981 and they were divorce in 1990. They have one daughter. He remarried Taka King in 1991. They have three sons.
The Honourable Augusta Amadeus Caroline Ogilvy (3 December 1981)
The Honourable David Huxley Ogilvy (11 December 1991)
The Honourable Joseph Skene Ogilvy (21 March 1995)
The Honourable Michael Móir Ogilvy (20 January 1997)
The Honourable Bruce Patrick Mark Ogilvy (7 April 1959)
Lady Elizabeth Clementina Ogilvy (4 June 1965) she married Jonathan Baring. They have one son:
Samuel Fortune Patrick Baring (30 January 1995)
The Honourable Patrick Alexander Ogilvy (24 March 1971)
The numbering of the titles vary, depending on whether the attainted holders of the earldom and their successors are counted or not. He is a recipient of the Royal Victorian Chain. In November 2007, Buckingham Palace announced Lord Airlie was appointed Chancellor of the Order of the Thistle, following the death of the previous Chancellor, the Duke of Buccleuch. Late in 2009, His Lordship announced that he and his wife were retiring. His son has considered the future of Cortachy Castle, the family home for more than 500 years.
He was portrayed by actor Douglas Reith in the 2006 film The Queen in his capacity as Lord Chamberlain, planning the Funeral of Diana, Princess of Wales.