Hallam Tennyson, 2nd Baron Tennyson, GCMG, PC (11 August 1852 - 2 December 1928), second Governor-General of Australia, was born at Chapel House, Twickenham, in Surrey, England. He was the elder son of Alfred Tennyson, the most popular and prominent poet of late Victorian England. Hallam was educated at Marlborough College and Trinity College, Cambridge, but his career aspirations ended when his parents' age and ill-health obliged him to leave Cambridge to become their personal secretary. The idea of going into politics was also abandoned.
It was partly for Hallam's benefit that Alfred Tennyson accepted a peerage in 1884, the year Hallam married Audrey Boyle (after being disappointed in his love for Mary Gladstone, daughter of William Ewart Gladstone). On his father's death in 1892, he inherited the title Baron Tennyson, and also the role of official biographer. His Tennyson: a Memoir was published in 1897.
Like his famous father, Tennyson was an ardent imperialist, and in 1883 he had become a council member of the Imperial Federation League, a lobby group set up to support the imperialist ideas of the Colonial Secretary, Joseph Chamberlain. It was this connection, as well as the Tennyson name, that led Chamberlain to offer Tennyson the position of Governor of South Australia in 1899. He was still in this position when the Governor-General, the Earl of Hopetoun, resigned suddenly in July 1902.
Tennyson was the senior state Governor and thus became acting Governor-General. There were some doubts about his ability to fill the job on a permanent basis since he had little experience of politics. But he had made a good impression in Australia through his modesty and frugality, unlike the ostentatiously imperious Hopetoun. In January 1903 he accepted the post for, at his own suggestion, a one-year appointment only.
The new Governor-General was popular and got on with Australians far better than his predecessor had done. But problems arose through the ambiguity of his position. The Prime Minister, Alfred Deakin, insisted that the Governor-General's official secretary must be appointed and paid by the Australian government. The British government objected (privately) because this would mean that the Governor-General could not carry out what was seen in London as his broader role in supervising the Australian government. Tennyson shared this view.
As a result, relations between Deakin and Tennyson grew tense. Deakin (rightly) suspected that Tennyson was reporting on him to London and trying to interfere on matters of policy, such as the naval agreement between Britain and Australia. For this reason Deakin did not encourage Tennyson to seek an extension of his one-year term. None of this was known to the public and Tennyson left Australia in January 1904 to universal expressions of approval. He spent the rest of his life in the Isle of Wight, serving as deputy governor from 1913. He died there at his house, Farringford in Freshwater in December 1928.