Sir Charles Augustus FitzRoy
(10 June 1796
– 16 February
) was a British military officer, politician and member of the aristocracy, who held governorships in several British colonies during the 19th century.
Family and peerage
Charles was born in England
, the eldest son of General Lord Charles FitzRoy
and Frances Mundy. His grandfather, Augustus FitzRoy, 3rd Duke of Grafton
, was the Prime Minister of Great Britain
from 1768 to 1770.
Charles' half brother Robert FitzRoy would become a pioneering meteorologist and surveyor, captain of HMS Beagle, and later Governor of New Zealand.
The young Charles FitzRoy was educated at the Harrow School
, before receiving a commission in the Royal Horse Guards
regiment of the British Army
at the age of 16. Just after his 19th birthday, FitzRoy's regiment took part in the Battle of Waterloo
, where he was wounded. He travelled to Lower Canada
with the Duke of Richmond
in 1818. On 11 March 1820
, he married Lady Mary Lennox (daughter of the Duke of Richmond), just after his promotion to captain
. In 1825, he was promoted to the rank of lieutenant-colonel
and appointed Deputy Adjutant General
of the Cape Colony
(now the Cape of Good Hope
FitzRoy was elected to the British House of Commons in 1831 as the Member of Parliament for Bury St Edmunds.
Governor of Prince Edward Island and the Leeward Islands
Sir Charles was appointed as the eleventh Governor of Prince Edward Island
off the coast of Canada
on 31 March 1837
, and was granted a knighthood
just before his departure. He returned to England in 1841 and shortly afterwards was made Governor of the Leeward Islands
, near the West Indies
Governor of New South Wales
Sir Charles was chosen as the tenth Governor of the colony of New South Wales
by Lord Stanley
in 1845. FitzRoy replaced Sir George Gipps
as governor who had been a strong ruler but had provoked the animosity of many in the colony. It is likely that FitzRoy was chosen because he tended to be more appeasing in his approach. FitzRoy, his wife and his son George arrived in the colony on board HMS Carysfort
on 2 August 1846
. His wife and other children joined them later. Soon after his arrival he was asked to use his influence to procure the disallowance of an act of the Tasmanian legislature imposing a duty of 15% on products imported from New South Wales. Fitzroy brought before the British government the advisability of some superior functionary being appointed, to whom all measures passed by local legislatures should be referred before being assented to. In the long discussion over the separation of the Port Phillip district
, Fitzroy showed tact and himself favoured bi-cameral legislatures for the new constitutions. The need for some type of federation between the various colonies was recognized, and as a step towards this Fitzroy was given a commission in 1850 appointing him governor-general of the Australian colonies. During his governorship great steps were made in the development of New South Wales. Transportation
of convicts ceased, the Sydney University
was founded, a branch of the royal mint was established and responsible government was granted.
In 1847, Fitzroy served briefly as Governor of the Colony of North Australia
, although his lieutenant-governor, George Barney
had the main responsibility for establishing the new colony under FitzRoy's direction.
After sixteen months in the colony, Sir Charles' wife Mary was killed in a coach accident on 7 December 1847. A distraught FitzRoy considered resigning and returning to England, but his finances did not permit it.
In 1851 he named Grafton, New South Wales, after his grandfather Augustus FitzRoy, 3rd Duke of Grafton.
Sir Charles remained in New South Wales for eight eventful years, which saw many changes take place in the Australian colonies, not in the least being the first tentative steps towards Federation of the Australian states. In 1853, FitzRoy was appointed as Governor of Van Diemen's Land, South Australia and Victoria — essentially a pre-Federation Governor-General of Australia, with wide-ranging powers to intervene in inter-colonial disputes.
1855 was an eventful year for Sir Charles FitzRoy. On 28 January 1855
he departed Australia and returned to England. On 11 September
, his eldest son Augustus (a captain in the Royal Regiment of Artillery
) was killed in the Crimean War
. On 11 December
, he married Margaret Gordon (widow of a Melbourne
Sir Charles Augustus FitzRoy died in London on 16 February 1858 at the age of 61.
Additional sources listed by the Australian Dictionary of Biography:
- G. C. Mundy, Our Antipodes, vols 1-3 (Lond, 1852); J. D. Lang, An Historical and Statistical Account of New South Wales, vols 1-2 (Lond, 1875); G. W. Rusden, History of Australia, vols 1-3 (Lond, 1883); A. P. Martin, Life and Letters of the Right Honourable Robert Lowe, Viscount Sherbrooke, vols 1-2 (Lond, 1893); J. M. Ward, Earl Grey and the Australian Colonies, 1846-1857 (Melb, 1958); G. Blainey, ‘The Gold Rushes: The Year of Decision’, Historical Studies, no 38, May 1962; Goodwood manuscripts (County Record Office, Chichester); Newcastle manuscripts (University of Nottingham); Grey papers (University of Durham); CO 201/368-403.