The son of Thomas Dugdale, 1st Baron Crathorne and Nancy Tennant, he was educated at Eton College in Berkshire. He was further educated at Trinity College, Cambridge, where he graduated with a Bachelor of Arts (later converted to a Master of Arts) in fine arts in 1963. Crathorne worked in the impressionist painting department of Sotheby & Co from 1963–66, when he became assistant to president of the Parke-Bernet Galleries in New York City, a post he held until 1969.
In 1969, he created an independent fine art consultancy, James Dugdale & Associates, which later became James Crathorne & Associates, and has made many lecture tours to the United States. In 1981, Crathorne held a lecture series about "Aspects of England" at the Metropolitan Museum in New York City and in 1988, he made a lecture tour for the bicentenary of Australia, talking about Captain James Cook. From 1979-93, he was director of Blakeney Hotels Ltd, from 1988-99 of Woodhouse Securities Ltd, and from 2000-01 of Hand Picked Hotels. Between 1993-98, he was also director of Cliveden plc, and from 1999 of its successor, Cliveden Ltd.
Lord Crathorne was Honorary Secretary of the All Party Parliamentary Arts and Heritage Group at Westminster for 1981 and became Chairman & Hon. Secretary in 2010, and in 2015 became Co-Chairman & Hon. Sec. Since 1988 he has been a member of the Advisory Panel on Works of Art in the House of Lords and from 1997 he has been Joint Secretary of the All Party Parliamentary Photography Group.
In 1972 Lord Crathorne became a fellow of the Royal Society of Arts (RSA) and was member of council of RSA from 1982-88. He was a member of the court of the University of Leeds from 1985–97 and governor of the Queen Margaret's School, York Ltd from 1986-99. From 1983-2011 he was member of the editorial board of House magazine at Westminster. Since 1987 he was president of the Yarm Civic Society. For the Georgian Group, he has been a member of the executive committee, and was its chair between 1990-99.
Lord Crathorne has been also president of the Cleveland Sea Cadets, of the Cleveland Family History Society as well as of the Hambleton District of the Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE) since 1988. He was patron of the Cleveland Community Foundation from 1990-2004 and president of the Cleveland and North Yorkshire branch of the Magistrates' Association from 1997-2003. For the Joint Committee of the National Amenity Societies, he was deputy chair between 1993 and 1996 and chair between 1996-99.
Since 1997, Lord Crathorne has been vice president of The Public Monuments and Sculpture Association (PMSA) and since 1998 was president of the Cleveland Mountain Rescue Team. Since 1999, he has been also president of the North Yorkshire County Scout Council, patron of the North Yorkshire Branch of the British Red Cross, as well as member of the court of the University of York and the University of Hull. Lord Crathorne was vice-president of the Yorkshire and Humberside branch of the Reserve Forces and Cadets Association (RFCA) since 1999, and its president from 2006-2009. He was further vice-president of the RFCA in North England since 2001, president of the Cleveland and South Durham branch of the Magistrates' Association since 2003 and patron of the Tees Valley Community Foundation since 2004. He was President of The Yorkshire Agricultural Society in 2014-15.
Lord Crathorne has been trustee of the Georgian Theatre Royal in Richmond since 1970, vice-president of the Cleveland Wildlife Trust since 1989 and patron of the Attingham Trust for the Study of the British Country House since 1990. For the Captain Cook Birthplace Museum Trust, he has been trustee since 1978 and chair since 1993. From 1988-94, Lord Crathorne was member of the National Trust of the Yorkshire Regional Committee, and, from 1992–95, he was trustee of the National Heritage Memorial Fund.
In 1999, he was made a Knight of the Venerable Order of Saint John (KStJ). In 2002, Lord Crathorne received the Queen's Golden Jubilee Medal. In 2010 he became a Fellow of The Society of Antiquities. In 1999 he was appointed Lord Lieutenant of North Yorkshire, for which he was appointed Knight Commander of the Royal Victorian Order (KCVO) in the 2013 New Year Honours.
He became an Honorary Doctor of Laws (LLD) conferred by Teesside University in 2013. The Freedom of the Town of Richmond was conferred on Lord Crathorne on 24 July 2014 by the Town Mayor and Councillors. He retired as Lord Lieutenant on 12 September 2014. He became an Hon. Doctor of the University of York in 2015. The Freedom of the City of York was conferred in April 2015.
From 1970, he was married to Sylvia Mary Montgomery, a daughter of actress Jane Baxter. She died of cancer in 2009. They had two daughters and a son.1939–1959: Mr James Dugdale
1959–1972: The Honourable James Dugdale
1972–1977: The Honourable James Dugdale FRSA
1977–1999: The Right Honourable The Lord Crathorne FRSA
1999–2010: The Right Honourable The Lord Crathorne KCVO FRSA
2010–: The Right Honourable The Lord Crathorne KCVO FRSA FSA
Edouard Vuillard Purnell (1967)
Tennant's Stalk (1973) ISBN 0333138201
A Present from Crathorne (1989)
Cliveden, the Place and the People (1995)
The Royal Crescent Book of Bath (1998)
Parliament in Pictures (1999)