George Grey

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Sir George Grey

Sir George Grey in 1861
11th Premier of New Zealand
In office
13 October 1877 8 October 1879
Monarch Victoria
Governor George Phipps
Hercules Robinson
Preceded by Harry Atkinson
Succeeded by John Hall
3rd Governor of New Zealand
In office
18 November 1845 3 January 1854
Preceded byCaptain Robert FitzRoy
Succeeded byColonel Thomas Gore Browne
In office
4 December 1861 [1]  5 February 1868
Premier William Fox
Alfred Domett
Frederick Whitaker
Frederick Weld
Edward Stafford
Preceded byColonel Thomas Gore Browne
Succeeded bySir George Bowen
Governor of Cape Colony
In office
Preceded by George Cathcart (Charles Henry Darling acting)
Succeeded by Philip Edmond Wodehouse (Robert Wynyard acting)
3rd Governor of South Australia
In office
15 May 1841 25 October 1845
Preceded byColonel George Gawler
Succeeded byLieutenant Colonel Frederick Robe
Personal details
Born(1812-04-14)14 April 1812
Lisbon, Portugal
Died19 September 1898(1898-09-19) (aged 86)
South Kensington, London, England
Eliza Spencer
(m. 1839;died 1898)
Relatives John Gray (uncle)
Education Royal Grammar School, Guildford
Alma mater Royal Military Academy, Sandhurst
Signature George Grey Signature.jpg

Sir George Grey, KCB (14 April 1812 – 19 September 1898) was a British soldier, explorer, colonial administrator and writer. He served in a succession of governing positions: Governor of South Australia, twice Governor of New Zealand, Governor of Cape Colony, and the 11th Premier of New Zealand.

Order of the Bath Series of awards of an order of chivalry of the United Kingdom

The Most Honourable Order of the Bath is a British order of chivalry founded by George I on 18 May 1725. The name derives from the elaborate medieval ceremony for appointing a knight, which involved bathing as one of its elements. The knights so created were known as "Knights of the Bath". George I "erected the Knights of the Bath into a regular Military Order". He did not revive the Order of the Bath, since it had never previously existed as an Order, in the sense of a body of knights who were governed by a set of statutes and whose numbers were replenished when vacancies occurred.

Governor of South Australia South Australian vice-regal representative of the Australian monarch

The Governor of South Australia is the representative in the Australian state of South Australia of Elizabeth II, Queen of Australia. The Governor performs the same constitutional and ceremonial functions at the state level as does the Governor-General of Australia at the national level. In accordance with the conventions of the Westminster system of parliamentary government, the Governor nearly always acts solely on the advice of the head of the elected government, the Premier of South Australia. Nevertheless, the Governor retains the reserve powers of the Crown, and has the right to dismiss the Premier. As from June 2014, the Queen, upon the recommendation of the Premier, accorded all current, future and living former Governors the title 'The Honourable' for life. The first six Governors oversaw the colony from proclamation in 1836 until self-government and an elected Parliament of South Australia was enacted in the year prior to the inaugural 1857 election.

Governor-General of New Zealand Representative of the monarch of New Zealand

The Governor-General of New Zealand is the viceregal representative of the monarch of New Zealand, currently Queen Elizabeth II. As the Queen is concurrently the monarch of 15 other Commonwealth realms, and lives in the United Kingdom, she, on the advice of her New Zealand prime minister, appoints a governor-general to carry out her constitutional and ceremonial duties within the Realm of New Zealand.


Grey was born in Lisbon, Portugal, just a few days after his father, Lieutenant-Colonel George Grey was killed at the Battle of Badajoz in Spain. He was educated in England. After military service (1829–37) and two explorations in Western Australia (1837–39), Grey became Governor of South Australia in 1841. He oversaw the colony during a difficult formative period. Despite being seen as less hands-on than his predecessor George Gawler, his fiscally responsible measures ensured the colony was in good shape by the time he departed for New Zealand in 1845.

Lisbon Capital city in Lisbon metropolitan area, Portugal

Lisbon is the capital and the largest city of Portugal, with an estimated population of 505,526 within its administrative limits in an area of 100.05 km2. Lisbon's urban area extends beyond the city's administrative limits with a population of around 2.8 million people, being the 11th-most populous urban area in the European Union. About 3 million people live in the Lisbon metropolitan area, including the Portuguese Riviera. It is mainland Europe's westernmost capital city and the only one along the Atlantic coast. Lisbon lies in the western Iberian Peninsula on the Atlantic Ocean and the River Tagus. The westernmost portions of its metro area form the westernmost point of Continental Europe, which is known as Cabo da Roca, located in the Sintra Mountains.

Portugal Republic in Southwestern Europe

Portugal, officially the Portuguese Republic, is a country located mostly on the Iberian Peninsula in southwestern Europe. It is the westernmost sovereign state of mainland Europe, being bordered to the west and south by the Atlantic Ocean and to the north and east by Spain. Its territory also includes the Atlantic archipelagos of the Azores and Madeira, both autonomous regions with their own regional governments.

Siege of Badajoz (1812) 1812 siege by the English and Portuguese

In the Siege of Badajoz, also called the Third Siege of Badajoz, an Anglo-Portuguese Army, under General the Earl of Wellington, besieged Badajoz, Spain and forced the surrender of the French garrison.

He was arguably the most influential figure during the European settlement of New Zealand during much of the 19th century. Governor of New Zealand initially from 1845 to 1853, he established peace and became a pioneer scholar of the Māori culture, writing a study of their mythology and oral history. He was knighted in 1848. In 1854, Grey was appointed Governor of Cape Colony in South Africa, where his resolution of hostilities between the natives and European settlers was praised by both sides. Grey was again appointed Governor of New Zealand in 1861, following the granting of a degree of self-governance to New Zealand, serving until 1868. He was appointed as Premier in 1877, in which capacity he served until 1879.

New Zealand Country in Oceania

New Zealand is a sovereign island country in the southwestern Pacific Ocean. The country geographically comprises two main landmasses—the North Island, and the South Island —and around 600 smaller islands. It has a total land area of 268,000 square kilometres (103,500 sq mi). New Zealand is situated some 2,000 kilometres (1,200 mi) east of Australia across the Tasman Sea and roughly 1,000 kilometres (600 mi) south of the Pacific island areas of New Caledonia, Fiji, and Tonga. Because of its remoteness, it was one of the last lands to be settled by humans. During its long period of isolation, New Zealand developed a distinct biodiversity of animal, fungal, and plant life. The country's varied topography and its sharp mountain peaks, such as the Southern Alps, owe much to the tectonic uplift of land and volcanic eruptions. New Zealand's capital city is Wellington, while its most populous city is Auckland.

Māori culture Customs, cultural practices, and beliefs of the indigenous Māori people of New Zealand

Māori culture involves the customs, cultural practices, and beliefs of the indigenous Māori people of New Zealand. It originated from, and is still part of, Eastern Polynesian culture. Māori culture also forms a distinctive part of New Zealand culture and, due to a large diaspora and the incorporation of Māori motifs into popular culture, is found throughout the world. Within Māoridom, and to a lesser extent throughout New Zealand as a whole, the word Māoritanga is often used as an approximate synonym for Māori culture, the Māori-language suffix -tanga being roughly equivalent to the qualitative noun-ending -ness in English. Māoritanga has also been translated as "[a] Māori way of life."

Māori mythology mythology

Māori mythology and Māori traditions are the two major categories into which the legends of the Māori of New Zealand may usefully be divided. The rituals, beliefs, and the world view of Māori society were ultimately based on an elaborate mythology that had been inherited from a Polynesian homeland and adapted and developed in the new setting.

By political philosophy a Gladstonian liberal and Georgist, [2] Grey eschewed the class system for the prosaic life of Auckland's new governance he helped to establish.

Auckland Metropolitan area in North Island, New Zealand

Auckland is a city in the North Island of New Zealand. The most populous urban area in the country, Auckland has an urban population of around 1,628,900. It is located in the Auckland Region—the area governed by Auckland Council—which includes outlying rural areas and the islands of the Hauraki Gulf, resulting in a total population of 1,695,900. Auckland is a diverse, multicultural and cosmopolitan city, home to the largest Polynesian population in the world. A Māori-language name for Auckland is Tāmaki or Tāmaki Makaurau, meaning "Tāmaki with a hundred lovers", in reference to the desirability of its fertile land at the hub of waterways in all directions.

Early life

Grey was born in Lisbon, Portugal, the only son of Bvt. Lieutenant-Colonel George Grey, of the 30th (Cambridgeshire) Regiment of Foot, who was killed at the Battle of Badajoz in Spain just a few days before. His mother, Elizabeth Anne née  Vignoles, [3] on the balcony of her hotel in Lisbon, overheard two officers speak of her husband's death and this brought on the premature birth of the child. She was the daughter of a retired soldier [4] turned Irish clergyman, Major later Rev. John Vignoles. Grey's grandfather was Owen Wynne Gray (c. 1745 – 6 January 1819). Grey's uncle was John Gray, who was Owen Wynne Gray's son from his second marriage. [5]

30th (Cambridgeshire) Regiment of Foot

The 30th (Cambridgeshire) Regiment of Foot was an infantry regiment of the British Army, raised in 1702. Under the Childers Reforms it amalgamated with the 59th Regiment of Foot to form the East Lancashire Regiment in 1881.

John Gray was a soldier and a New Zealand politician. He came to New Zealand in 1847 in charge of a section of the Royal New Zealand Fencible Corps. He successfully stood for election to the 1st New Zealand Parliament in one of the electorates where most of the population was made up by military staff, the Southern Division. He retired after one term due to ill health in 1855, and died four years later.

Grey was sent to the Royal Grammar School, Guildford in Surrey, [6] and was admitted to the Royal Military College in 1826. Early in 1830, he was gazetted ensign in the 83rd (County of Dublin) Regiment of Foot. In 1830, his regiment having been sent to Ireland, he developed much sympathy with the Irish peasantry whose misery made a great impression on him. He was promoted lieutenant in 1833 and obtained a first-class certificate at the examinations of the Royal Military College, Sandhurst, in 1836. [7]

Royal Grammar School, Guildford school in Surrey, UK

The Royal Grammar School, Guildford, commonly known as the RGS, is a selective independent day school for boys in Guildford, Surrey in England. The school dates its founding to the death of Robert Beckingham in 1509 who left provision in his will to 'make a free scole at the Towne of Guldford'; in 1512 a governing body was set up to form the school. The school moved to the present site in the upper High Street after the granting of a royal charter from King Edward VI in 1552. Around that time, its pupils were playing cricket and their activity was later documented as the earliest definite reference to the sport. The school's Old Building, constructed between 1557 and 1586, is the home of a rare example of a chained library. It was established on the death of John Parkhurst, Bishop of Norwich, in 1575. Although defined as a 'free' school, the first statutes of governance, approved in 1608, saw the introduction of school fees, at the rate of 4 shillings per annum, along with the school's first admissions test. During the late 19th century the school ran into financial difficulty, which nearly resulted in the closure of the school. A number of rescue options were explored, including amalgamation with Archbishop Abbott's School. Funds were eventually raised, however, which allowed the school to remain open, although boarding was no longer offered.

Royal Military College, Sandhurst British Army military academy

The Royal Military College (RMC), founded in 1801 and established in 1802 at Great Marlow and High Wycombe in Buckinghamshire, England, but moved in October 1812 to Sandhurst, Berkshire, was a British Army military academy for training infantry and cavalry officers of the British and Indian Armies.

The 83rd Regiment of Foot was a British Army line infantry regiment, which was formed in Ireland in 1793 for service in the French Revolutionary Wars. The regiment served in the West Indies, South Africa and the Peninsular War, and after the end of the wars with France spent much of the nineteenth century in colonial garrisons. Among other service, the 83rd fought in the Ceylon Great Rebellion of 1817–18, the Canadian Rebellions of 1837, and the Indian Rebellion of 1857. Under the Childers Reforms, the regiment amalgamated with the 86th Regiment of Foot to form the Royal Irish Rifles in 1881.


In 1837, at the age of 25, Grey led an ill-prepared expedition that explored North-West Australia. British settlers in Australia at the time knew little of the region and only one member of Grey's party had been there before. It was believed possible at that time that one of the world's largest rivers might drain into the Indian Ocean in North-West Australia; were that found to be the case, the region it flowed through might be suitable for colonisation. Grey, with Lieutenant Franklin Lushington, of the 9th (East Norfolk) Regiment of Foot, offered to explore the region. On 5 July 1837, they sailed from Plymouth in command of a party of five, the others being Lushington; Dr William Walker, a surgeon and naturalist; and Corporals John Coles and Auger of the Royal Sappers and Miners. Others joined the party at Cape Town, and early in December they landed at Hanover Bay (west of Uwins Island in the Bonaparte Archipelago). Traveling south, the party traced the course of the Glenelg River. After experiencing boat wrecks, near-drowning, becoming completely lost, and Grey himself being speared in the hip during a skirmish with Aboriginal people, the party gave up. After being picked up by HMS Beagle and the schooner Lynher, they were taken to Mauritius to recover. [3] [8]

Two years later, Grey returned to Western Australia and was again wrecked with his party, again including Surgeon Walker, at Kalbarri; they were the first Europeans to see the Gascoyne River, but then had to walk to Perth, surviving the journey through the efforts of Kaiber, a Whadjuk Noongar man (i.e. indigenous to the Perth region), who organised food and what water could be found (they survived by drinking liquid mud). At about this time, Grey learnt the Noongar language. [3] [9]

In July 1839, Grey was promoted to captain and appointed temporary Resident Magistrate at King George Sound, Western Australia, following the death of Sir Richard Spencer RN KCH, the previous Resident Magistrate. [10]

Marriage and children

On 2 November 1839 at King George Sound, Grey married Eliza Lucy Spencer (1822–1898), daughter of the late Government Resident. Their only child, born in 1841 in South Australia, died aged 5 months. It was not a happy marriage. Grey, obstinate in his domestic affairs as in his first expedition, accused his wife unjustly of flirting with Rear Admiral Sir Henry Keppel on the voyage to Cape Town taken in 1860; he sent her away. She lived a life of misery until old age brought a formal reunion, but co-existed unhappily until 1897. [3] [9] [10]

Grey adopted Annie Maria Matthews (1853–1938) in 1861, following the death of her father, his half-brother, Sir Godfrey Thomas. [11] [12] She married Seymour Thorne George [13] on 3 December 1872 on Kawau Island. [14]

Governor of South Australia

Grey was the third Governor of South Australia, from May 1841 to October 1845, as a replacement for George Gawler, under whose stewardship the colony had become bankrupt through massive spending on public infrastructure. Gawler was also held responsible for the illegal retribution exacted by Major O'Halloran on an Aboriginal tribe, some of whose members had murdered all 25 survivors of the Maria shipwreck. Grey was governor during another mass murder: the Rufus River Massacre, of at least 30 Aboriginals, by Europeans, on 27 August 1841. [15] [16]

Grey has been credited with restoring the South Australia's finances by stringent fiscal administration, but Gawler, to whom Grey ascribed every problem in the colony, [3] has been largely vindicated: many of the works which he undertook to alleviate unemployment were of lasting value, and the real salvation of the colony's finances was the discovery of copper at Burra Burra in 1845.

Aboriginal Witnesses Act

In 1844, Grey enacted a series ordinances and amendments first entitled the Aborigines' Evidence Act and later known as the Aboriginal Witnesses Act. Effectively, the act created the conditions for the unprosecutable mass murder of Aboriginal Australians, where settler solidarity and the law of evidence ensured that the murder and massacre of Aboriginal Australians by European colonisers could not be tried solely on the evidence of Aboriginal witnesses. [17]

The act was established "To facilitate the admission of the unsworn testimony of Aboriginal inhabitants of South Australia and parts adjacent". While its stated aim was to make provisions for unsworn testimony by "uncivilised people" to be admissible in court, the act made it so that the court could not base the conviction of a White man on the testimony of an Aboriginal witness alone. The act also made Aboriginal testimony inadmissible in trials that carried the penalty of death. [18]

Governor of New Zealand

Grey served as Governor of New Zealand twice: from 1845 to 1853, and from 1861 to 1868.

During this time, European settlement accelerated, and in 1859 the number of Pākehā came to equal the number of Māori, at around 60,000 each. Settlers were keen to obtain land and some Māori were willing to sell, but there were also strong pressures to retain land – in particular from the Māori King Movement. Grey had to manage the demand for land for the settlers to farm and the commitments in the Treaty of Waitangi that the Māori chiefs retained full "exclusive and undisturbed possession of their Lands and Estates Forests Fisheries and other properties." The treaty also specifies that Māori will sell land only to the Crown. The potential for conflict between the Māori and settlers was exacerbated as the British authorities progressively eased restrictions on land sales after an agreement at the end of 1840 between the company and Colonial Secretary Lord John Russell, which provided for land purchases by the New Zealand Company from the Crown at a discount price, and a charter to buy and sell land under government supervision. Money raised by the government from sales to the company would be spent on assisting migration to New Zealand. The agreement was hailed by the company as "all that we could desire ... our Company is really to be the agent of the state for colonizing NZ." [19] The Government waived its right of pre-emption in the Wellington region, Wanganui and New Plymouth in September 1841.

First term

Grey was appointed the third Governor of New Zealand in 1845. [11] During the tenure of his predecessor, Robert FitzRoy, violence over land ownership broke out in the Wairau Valley in the South Island in June 1843. In March 1845 Māori chief Hōne Heke began the Flagstaff War, the causes of which can be attributed to the conflict between what the Ngāpuhi understood to be the meaning of the Treaty of Waitangi and the actions of succeeding governors of asserting authority over the Māori.

Fighting in the Nelson area by Ngāti Toa

A land dispute that began before Grey’s arrival in Zealand was a dispute as to sale of land on the Wairau plains to Captain Blenkinsop. He had negotiated with Ngāti Toa that he could take wood and water from Cloudy Bay in payment of a ship’s cannon. But the document that Blenkinsopp drew up in English, which the chiefs could not read, stated that 26,500 acres of the Wairau Plains were sold to Blenkinsopp.

A major clash came in 1843 when Te Rauparaha and his nephew Te Rangihaeata tried to prevent the survey of lands in the Wairau plains. These lands had been claimed by the New Zealand Company "on two grounds – alleged purchase by Captain Blenkinsop, master of a Sydney whaler in 1831-2; and the negotiations between their principal agent (Colonel Wakefield) and Rauparaha, the head of this tribe, in 1839". [20]

The Ngāti Toa war party warned off the surveyors, but they persisted. Te Rauparaha burnt down a whaling hut (known as a whare) which contained the surveyors' equipment. The local magistrate ordered his arrest and deputised about 50 settlers for this purpose. Te Rauparaha resisted, fighting broke out and 22 settlers and at least four Māori were killed. Te Rangihaeata, the warlike nephew of Te Rauparaha, insisted on killing the captured men because his wife, who was Te Rauparaha's daughter and Capt Benkinsop's ex-wife, had been accidentally shot and killed. The settlers were furious as many of those killed in utu were unarmed Quakers. Te Rauparaha was astonished not to face a strong British military reaction. He left the Rangitāne land he had conquered and never returned. These events took place during the governorship of Robert FitzRoy. It was not until 1846 that Governor Grey had Te Rauparaha arrested. However, his imprisonment, which remained controversial amongst the Ngāti Toa, was not related to the Wairau Affray.

Hōne Heke and the fighting in the Bay of Islands

Drawing of Hone Heke, who opposed Grey's governorship Gilfillan hone heke.jpg
Drawing of Hōne Heke, who opposed Grey's governorship

In 1845 George Grey arrived in New Zealand to take up his appointment as governor. At this time Hōne Heke challenged the authority of the British, beginning by cutting down the flagstaff on Flagstaff Hill at Kororareka. On this flagstaff the flag of the United Tribes of New Zealand had previously flown; now the Union Jack was hoisted; hence the flagstaff symbolised the grievances of Heke and his ally Te Ruki Kawiti, as to changes that had followed the signing of the Treaty of Waitangi.

There were many causes of the Flagstaff War and Heke had a number of grievances in relation to the Treaty of Waitangi. While land acquisition by the Church Missionary Society (CMS) had been controversial, the rebellion led by Heke was directed against the colonial forces with the CMS missionaries trying to persuade Heke to end the fighting. [21] [22] Despite the fact that Tāmati Wāka Nene and most of Ngāpuhi sided with the government, the small and ineptly led British had been beaten at Battle of Ohaeawai. Backed by financial support, far more troops, armed with 32-pounder cannons, that had been denied to FitzRoy, Grey attacked and occupied Kawiti's fortress at Ruapekapeka; this forced Kawiti to retreat. The Ngāpuhi were astonished that the British could keep an army of nearly 1000 soldiers in the field continuously. Heke's confidence waned after he was wounded in battle with Tāmati Wāka Nene and his warriors, and by the realisation that the British had far more resources than he could muster; his enemies included some Pākehā Māori supporting colonial forces. [23]

After the Battle of Ruapekapeka, Heke and Kawiti were ready for peace. [24] It was Tāmati Wāka Nene they approached to act as intermediary in negotiations with Governor Grey, who accepted the advice of Nene that Heke and Kawiti should not be punished for their rebellion. The fighting in the north ended and there was no punitive confiscation of Ngāpuhi land. [25]

The Ngati Rangatahi and Hutt Valley Campaign

Colonists arrived at Port Nicholson, Wellington in November 1839 in ships charted by the New Zealand Company. Within months the New Zealand Company purported to purchase approximately 20 million acres (8 million hectares) in Nelson, Wellington, Whanganui and Taranaki. Disputes arose as to the validity of purchases of land, which disputes remained unresolved when Grey became governor.

The company saw itself as a prospective quasi-government of New Zealand and in 1845 and 1846 proposed splitting the colony in two, along a line from Mokau in the west to Cape Kidnappers in the east – with the north reserved for Maori and missionaries. The south would become a self-governing province, known as "New Victoria" and managed by the company for that purpose. Britain's Colonial Secretary rejected the proposal. [19] The company was known for its vigorous attacks on those it perceived as its opponents – the British Colonial Office, successive governors of New Zealand, and the Church Missionary Society (CMS) that was led by the Rev. Henry Williams. Williams attempted to interfere with the land purchasing practices of the company, [26] [27] [28] which exacerbated the ill-will that was directed at the CMS by the Company in Wellington and the promoters of colonisation in Auckland who had access to the Governor and to the newspapers that had started publication.

Unresolved land disputes that had resulted from New Zealand Company operations erupted into fighting in the Hutt Valley in 1846. The Ngati Rangatahi were determined to retain possession of their land. They assembled a force of about 200 warriors led by Te Rangihaeata, Te Rauparaha's nephew (son of his sister Waitohi, d. 1839), also the person who had killed unarmed captives in Wairau Affray. Governor Grey moved troops into the area and by February had assembled nearly a thousand men together with some Māori allies from the Te Āti Awa hapu to begin the Hutt Valley Campaign.

The Māori attacked Taita on 3 March 1846, but were repulsed by a company of the 96th Regiment. The same day Grey declared martial law in the Wellington area. [29]

Richard Taylor, a CMS missionary from Whanganui, attempted to persuade the Ngāti Tama and Ngāti Rangatahi to leave the disputed land. Eventually Grey paid compensation for the potato crop they had planted on the land. He also gave them 300 acres at Kaiwharawhara by the modern ferry terminal. Chief Taringakuri agreed to these terms. But when the settlers tried to move onto the land they were frightened off. [30] On 27 February the British and their Te Ati Awa allies burnt the Māori Pa at Maraenuku in the Hutt Valley, which had been built on land that the settlers claimed to own. The Ngati Rangatahi retaliated on 1 and 3 March by raiding settlers’ farms, destroying furniture, smashing windows, killing pigs, and threatening the settlers with death if they gave the alarm. They murdered Andrew Gillespie and his son. [31] 13 families of settlers moved into Wellington for safety. Governor Grey proclaimed martial law on 3 March. Sporadic fighting continued, including a major attack on a defended position at Boulcott's Farm on 6 May. [30] On 6 August 1846, one of the last engagements was fought – the Battle of Battle Hill – after which Te Rangihaeata left the area. The Hutt Valley Campaign was followed by the Wanganui Campaign from April to July 1847.

In January 1846 fifteen chiefs of the area, including Te Rauparaha, had sent a combined letter to the newly arrived Governor Grey, pledging their loyalty to the crown. After intercepting letters from Te Rauparaha, Grey realised he was playing a double game. He was receiving and sending secret instructions to the local Maori who were attacking settlers. In a surprise attack on his at Taupo (now named Plimmerton) at dawn on 23 July, Te Rauparaha, who was now quite elderly, was captured and taken prisoner. [32] [33] The justification given for his arrest was weapons supplied to Māori deemed to be in open rebellion against the Crown. However, charges were never laid against Te Rauparaha so his detention was declared unlawful. [33] [34] While Grey’s declaration of Martial law was within his authority, internment without trial would only be lawful if it had been authorised by statute. Te Rauparaha was held prisoner on HMS Driver, then he was taken to Auckland on HMS Calliope where he remained imprisoned until January 1848. [33]

His son Tāmihana was studying Christianity in Auckland and Te Rauparaha gave him a solemn message that their iwi should not take utu against the government. Tāmihana returned to his rohe to stop a planned uprising. Tāmihana sold the Wairau land to the government for 3,000 pounds. [10] Grey spoke to Te Rauaparaha and persuaded him to give up all outstanding claims to land in the Wairau valley. Then, realising he was old and sick he allowed Te Rauparaha to return to his people at Otaki in 1848. [35]

Government at Auckland

Government House in Auckland, as painted by Edward Ashworth in 1842 or 1843 First Government House, Auckland.jpg
Government House in Auckland, as painted by Edward Ashworth in 1842 or 1843

Auckland was made the new capital in March 1841 [36] and by the time Grey was appointed governor in 1845, it had become a commercial centre as well as including the administrative institutions such as the Supreme Court. [37] After the conclusion of the war in the north, government policy was to place a buffer zone of European settlement between the Ngāpuhi and the city of Auckland. [38] The background to the Invasion of Waikato in 1863 also, in part, reflected a belief that the Auckland was at risk from attack by the Waikato Māori.

Governor Grey had to contend with newspapers that were unequivocal to their support of the interests of the settlers: the Auckland Times, Auckland Chronicle, The Southern Cross, which started by William Brown as a weekly paper in 1843 and The New Zealander, which was started in 1845 by John Williamson. These newspapers were known for their partisan editorial policies – both William Brown and John Williamson were aspiring politicians. The Southern Cross supported the land claimants, such as the New Zealand Company, and vigorously attacked Governor Grey's administration, while The New Zealander, supported the ordinary settler and the Māori. The northern war adversely affected business in Auckland, such that The Southern Cross stopped publishing from April 1845 to July 1847. [39] Hugh Carleton, who also became a politician, was the editor of The New Zealander then later established the Anglo-Maori Warder, which followed an editorial policy in opposition to Governor Grey. [40]

At the time of the northern war The Southern Cross and The New Zealander blamed Henry Williams and the other CMS missionaries for the Flagstaff War. [22] [41] The New Zealander newspaper in a thinly disguise reference to Henry Williams, with the reference to "their Rangatira pakeha [gentlemen] correspondents", went on to state:

We consider these English traitors far more guilty and deserving of severe punishment, than the brave natives whom they have advised and misled. Cowards and knaves in the full sense of the terms, they have pursued their traitorous schemes, afraid to risk their own persons, yet artfully sacrificing others for their own aggrandizement, while, probably at the same time, they were most hypocritically professing most zealous loyalty. [22]

Official communications also blamed the CMS missionaries for the Flagstaff War. In a letter of 25 June 1846 to William Ewart Gladstone, the Colonial Secretary in Sir Robert Peel's government, Governor Grey referred to the land acquired by the CMS missionaries and commented that "Her Majesty's Government may also rest satisfied that these individuals cannot be put in possession of these tracts of land without a large expenditure of British blood and money”. [11] [22] By the end of his first term as governor Grey had changed his opinion as to the role of the CMS missionaries, which was limited to attempts to persuade Hōne Heke bring an end to the fighting with the British soldiers and the Ngāpuhi, led by Tāmati Wāka Nene, who remained loyal to the Crown. [42] [43]

When he returned to New Zealand in 1861 for his second term as governor, Sir George and Henry Williams meet at the Waimate Mission Station in November 1861. [44] Also in 1861 Henry’s son Edward Marsh Williams was appointed by Sir George to be the Resident Magistrate for the Bay of Islands and Northern Districts.

Legacy of Grey's first term as Governor

During Grey's first tenure as Governor of New Zealand, he was created a Knight Commander of the Order of the Bath (1848). When Grey was knighted he chose Tāmati Wāka Nene as one of his esquires. Sir George Grey was a profound influence on the final form of the New Zealand Constitution Act 1852, after the 1846 Act was largely suspended at his request. He was briefly appointed Governor-in-Chief, while he oversaw the establishment of the first provinces of New Zealand.

He took pains to tell Māori that he had observed the terms of the Treaty of Waitangi, assuring them that their land rights would be fully recognised. In the Taranaki district, Māori were very reluctant to sell their land, but elsewhere Grey was much more successful, and nearly 33 million acres (130,000 km²) were purchased from Māori, with the result that British settlements expanded quickly. Grey was less successful in his efforts to assimilate the Māori; he lacked the financial means to realise his plans. Although he subsidised mission schools, requiring them to teach in English, only a few hundred Māori children attended them at any one time.

Grey gave land for the establishment of Auckland Grammar School in Newmarket, Auckland in 1850. The school was officially recognised as an educational establishment in 1868 through the Auckland Grammar School Appropriation Act of the Provincial Government. [45] Chris Laidlaw concludes that Grey ran a "ramshackle" administration marked by "broken promises and outright betrayal" of Maori people. [46] Grey's collection of Māori artefacts, one of the earliest from New Zealand and assembled during his first Governorship, was donated to the British Museum in 1854. [47]

Second term

Painting of Sir George Grey by Daniel Louis Mundy 1860s GeorgeEdwardGrey02.jpg
Painting of Sir George Grey by Daniel Louis Mundy 1860s

Grey was again appointed Governor in 1861, to replace Governor Thomas Gore Browne, serving until 1868. [11] His second term as Governor was greatly different from the first, as he had to deal with the demands of an elected parliament, which had been established in 1852.

Invasion of the Waikato

Immediately prior to Grey’s re-appointment as governor there were rising tensions in Taranaki that eventually led to the involvement of British military forces at Waitara, in what is called the First Taranaki War, from March 1860 until the fighting subsided in 1862.

The leaders of the King movement or Kīngitanga had written a letter to Governor Browne stating that the Waikato tribes had never signed the Treaty of Waitangi and that they were a separate nation. Browne regarded the stance of the Kīngitanga as an act of disloyalty; and prepared plans for the invasion of Waikato, in part to uphold "the Queen's supremacy" in the face of the Kīngitanga challenge. [48] [49]

Grey launched the invasion of the Waikato in 1863 to take control of the heartland of the Kīngitanga. The war brought thousands of Imperial British troops to New Zealand: 18,000 men served in the British forces at some point during the campaign, with a peak of about 14,000 troops in March 1864. [50]

In the later 1860s the British government determined to withdraw Imperial troops from New Zealand. At the time the Māori chiefs Te Kooti and Titokowaru had the colonial government and settlers extremely alarmed with a series of military successes. With the support of the Premier Edward Stafford, Grey evaded instructions from the Colonial Office to finalise the return of the regiments, which had commenced in 1865 and 1866. In the end, the British government recalled (removed) Grey from the office of Governor in February 1868. [11] He was replaced by Sir George Bowen and during his term hostilities concluded with the abandoned pursuit of war leader Riwha Titokowaru — again in Taranaki — in 1869.

The legacy of Sir George Grey

Grey was greatly respected by Māori, and often travelled with a company of chiefs. He induced leading chiefs to write down their accounts of Māori traditions, legends and customs. His principal informant, Wiremu Maihi Te Rangikāheke, taught Grey to speak Māori. [11] Historian Michael King noted:

He learned Māori and persuaded Māori authorities to commit their legends and traditions to writing, some of which were subsequently published ... His collected papers would turn out to be the largest single repository of Māori-language manuscripts. [51]

Grey bought Kawau Island in 1862, on his return to New Zealand for a second term as governor. For 25 years he lavished large amounts of his personal wealth on the island's development, including enlarging and remodelling Mansion House, the former residence of the copper mine superintendent. Here he planted a huge array of exotic trees and shrubs, acclimatised many bird and animal species, and amassed a celebrated collection of rare books and manuscripts, artworks and curiosities, plus artefacts from the Māori people.

In 1865, during Grey’s second term as governor, the capital was transferred to Wellington, which was seen as a better choice for an administrative capital because of its proximity to the South Island.

Governor of Cape Colony

Portrait of Sir George Grey as Governor of the Cape Colony GGrey VA0898.jpg
Portrait of Sir George Grey as Governor of the Cape Colony

Grey was Governor of Cape Colony from 5 December 1854 to 15 August 1861. He founded Grey College, Bloemfontein in 1855 and Grey High School in Port Elizabeth in 1856. in 1859 he laid the foundation stone of the New Somerset Hospital, Cape Town. When he left the Cape in 1861 he presented the National Library of South Africa with a remarkable personal collection of medieval and Renaissance manuscripts and rare books.

During his term as Governor, Grey faced a growing rivalry between the eastern and western halves of the Cape Colony, as well as a small, but also growing, movement for local democracy ("responsible government") and greater independence from British rule. "There were moves for responsible government in the Cape Parliament in 1855 and 1856 but they were defeated by a combination of Western conservatives and Easterners anxious about the defence of the frontier under a responsible system. But undoubtedly Sir George Grey's political ability, charm and force of personality – aided by the parliamentary leadership of liberal-minded Attorney-General, William Porter – contributed to this result." [52] In South Africa Grey dealt firmly with the natives, endeavouring to "protect" them from white settlement while simultaneously using reservations to coercively demilitarize them, using natives, in his own words, "as real though unavowed hostages for the tranquillity of their kindred and connections." [53] On more than one occasion, Grey acted as arbitrator between the government of the Orange Free State and the natives, eventually drawing the conclusion that a federated South Africa would be a good thing for everyone. The Orange Free State would have been willing to join the federation, and it is probable that the Transvaal would also have agreed. However, Grey was 50 years before his time: the colonial office would not agree to his proposals. In spite of their instructions, Grey continued to advocate union, and, in connection with other matters, such as the attempt to settle soldiers in South Africa after the Crimean War, instructions were ignored.

All considered it was unsurprising that Sir George was recalled in 1859. He had, however, scarcely reached England before a change of government led to the offer of another term, on the understanding that he abandon schemes for the federation of South Africa and, in future obey his instructions. Grey was convinced that the boundaries of the South African colonies should be widened, but could not obtain support from the British government. He was still working for this support when, war with the Māori having broken out, it was decided that Grey should again be appointed governor of New Zealand. When he left his popularity among the people of Cape Colony was unbounded, and the statue erected at Cape Town during his lifetime described him as

a governor who by his high character as a Christian, a statesman, and a gentleman, had endeared himself to all classes of the community, and who by his zealous devotion to the best interests of South Africa and his able and just administration, has secured the approbation and gratitude of all Her Majesty's subjects in this part of her dominions. [54]

Return to England

Although by philosophy Grey was a liberal, his extremist views on the questions of the Colonial Empire, of emigration, of Home Rule for Ireland and the cause of the English poor were contrary to the interests of Gladstone's Liberal government. Grey was marked as a "dangerous man". In 1870, at a parliamentary by-election for the Borough of Newark that followed the death of the sitting Liberal MP, Grey stood as an independent liberal against Gladstone's Liberal candidate Sir Henry Storks. Determined that Grey should not be elected and seeing that splitting the liberal vote would result in both Grey and Storks losing to the Conservative candidate, the Liberal government engineered an arrangement where both would withdraw, leaving another Liberal candidate, Samuel Boteler Bristowe, to take the seat. Storks was rewarded with the post of Surveyor-General of the Ordnance and Grey returned to New Zealand later that year. [55]

Premier of New Zealand

New Zealand Parliament
1875 5th Auckland West Independent
1876 1879 6th Thames Independent
1879 1881 7th Thames Independent
1881 1884 8th Auckland East Independent
1884 1887 9th Auckland East Independent
1887 1890 10th Auckland Central Independent
1891 1893 11th Newton Independent
1893 1895 12th Auckland Independent

In 1875 Sir George was elected Superintendent of Auckland Province (24 March 1875 – 31 October 1875). [56] He stood in the general election for both the Auckland West and the Thames electorates in the 1875–76 general election. In the two-member Auckland electorate, only Grey and Patrick Dignan were put forward as candidates, and were thus declared elected on 22 December 1875. [57] The two-member Thames electorate was contested by six candidates, including Julius Vogel (who was Premier in 1875), William Rowe and Charles Featherstone Mitchell. On election day (6 January 1876), Grey attracted the highest number of votes and, unexpectedly, Rowe beat Vogel into second place (Vogel also stood in Wanganui, where he was returned). Hence Grey and Rowe were declared elected for Thames. [58] A protest against Grey's election was lodged with the returning officer the following day, protesting that Grey had not been eligible to stand in Thames as he had already been elected in Auckland West. This petition was filed to the House of Representatives at the end of January. [59]

With this controversy going on for several months unresolved, Grey advised in mid June 1876 in a series of telegrams that he had chosen to represent Auckland West. [60] On 8 July, the report of the committee inquiring into his election for Thames was read to the House. It was found that this was in accordance with the law, but that he had to make a decision for which electorate he would sit. [61] On 15 July 1876, Grey announced that he would represent Thames, and he moved that a by-election be held in Auckland West for the seat that he would vacate there. [62]

Cabinet portrait of Grey, 1885 George Grey, 1885.jpg
Cabinet portrait of Grey, 1885

Grey opposed the abolition of the provinces, but his opposition proved ineffective; the provincial system was abolished in 1876. On defeating Harry Atkinson on 13 October 1877 in a vote of no confidence, he was elected Premier by Parliament. He asked Governor Lord Normanby for a dissolution of parliament but was flatly refused. Grey thought New Zealand's unique constitutional 'provincialism' was under threat, so championed radical causes, such as one man-one vote. An economic downturn in 1878 put pressure on incomes; defection across the floor of the house of four Auckland members defeated Grey on a vote in October 1879. He resigned as prime minister. Grey described his philosophical radicalism:

This is a revolt against despotism…. What I am resolved to maintain is this, that there shall be equal justice in representation and in the distribution of land and revenue to every class in New Zealand … equal rights to all — equal rights in education, equal rights in taxation, equal rights in representation … equal rights in every respect. [63]

His government did not operate particularly well, with Grey seeking to dominate the government came into conflict with the governor. His term as premier is regarded by historians as a failure. [51] Towards the end of 1879, Grey's government got into difficulties over land tax. Eventually, Grey asked for an early election, in 1879.

Grey was elected in both the Thames and the City of Christchurch electorates in September 1879. [64] Grey came first in the three-member Christchurch electorate (Samuel Paull Andrews and Edward Stevens came second with equal numbers of votes, 23 votes ahead of Edward Richardson). [65] Richardson petitioned against Grey's return on technical grounds, as Grey had already been elected in the Thames electorate. [66] [67] The electoral commission unseated Grey on 24 October, [68] with Richardson offered this vacancy a few days later. Grey kept the Thames seat and remained a member of parliament through that electorate. [69]

In the 1881 election, Grey was elected in Auckland East [70] and re-elected in the 1884 election. [71] In the 1887 election Grey was returned for the Auckland Central electorate. [72]

Statue of Sir George Grey in Albert Park, Auckland Georgegrey.jpg
Statue of Sir George Grey in Albert Park, Auckland

In 1889, Grey put forward the Election of Governor Bill, which would have allowed for a "British subject" to be elected to the office of Governor "precisely as an ordinary parliamentary election in each district." [73]

By now Grey was suffering from ill health and he retired from politics in 1890, leaving for Australia to recuperate. On returning to New Zealand, a deputation requested him to contest the Newton seat in Auckland in the 1891 by-election. The retiring member, David Goldie, also asked Grey to take his seat. Grey was prepared to put his name forward only if the election was unopposed, as he did not want to suffer the excitement of a contested election. [74] [75] Grey declared his candidacy on 25 March 1891. [76] On 6 April 1891, he was declared elected, as he was unopposed. [77] In December 1893, Grey was again elected, this time to Auckland City. He left for England in 1894 and did not return to New Zealand. He resigned his seat in 1895. [11]


Grey died at his residence at the Norfolk Hotel, Harrington Road, South Kensington, London on 19 September 1898, and was buried in St Paul's Cathedral. [11] [78] Grey lived longer than any other New Zealand Prime Minister, 86 years and 158 days.

Places and institutions named after Grey

Places named after Grey include Greytown in the Wairarapa region of New Zealand's North Island, the Grey River in the South Island's West Coast region (and thus indirectly the town of Greymouth at the river's mouth), and the Auckland suburb of Grey Lynn; the Division of Grey, an Australian Electoral Division in South Australia and the town of Grey in Western Australia. Grey Street, Melbourne is also believed to have been named after George Edward Grey.

In South Africa, Grey was instrumental in the founding of the Grey Institute, later named the Grey High School, Port Elizabeth, Grey College, Bloemfontein and Grey's Hospital in Pietermaritzburg. Grey's Pass near Citrusdal and the towns of Greytown, KwaZulu-Natal and Greyton, Western Cape are named for him, while Lady Grey, Eastern Cape is named after his wife. The main business thoroughfare in the town of Paarl (Western Cape) is named Lady Grey Street after his wife.

Grey's Spring, sometimes called Grey's Well, is a historic site in Kalbarri, Western Australia.

Taxa named after Grey

Menetia greyii , a species of lizard, is named after Grey. Other animal taxa named in his honour include two mammals and a bird. [79]

The genus Greyia (wild bottlebrush) which is endemic in southern Africa was also named after him. [80]

The Governor , an historical drama miniseries based on Grey's life, was made by TVNZ and the National Film Unit in 1977, featuring Corin Redgrave in the title role. Despite critical acclaim, the miniseries attracted controversy at the time because of its then-large budget. [81]


Coat of arms of George Grey
George Grey Arms.svg
The arms of George Grey consist of: [82]
Issuant from a Knight’s Helm, open and affronté, upon a Wreath of the colours, an Unicorn passant Ermine, armed, maned, tufted and unglued Or, in front of a Sun in Splendour.
Barry of six Argent and Azure, in chief three Torteaux and an Ermine label of three points. The shield is encircled by a circlet Gules edged Or and bears the motto ‘Tria Juncta in Uno’ Or.

See also

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From the Herald archives


Further reading

Government offices
Preceded by
Colonel George Gawler
Governor of South Australia
Succeeded by
Lieutenant-Colonel Frederick Robe
Preceded by
Captain Robert FitzRoy
Governor of New Zealand
Succeeded by
Colonel Thomas Gore Browne
Preceded by
Colonel Thomas Gore Browne
Succeeded by
Sir George Bowen
Preceded by
George Cathcart
Charles Henry Darling (acting)
Governor of Cape Colony
Succeeded by
Robert Wynyard (acting)
Sir Philip Wodehouse
Preceded by
Harry Atkinson
Premier of New Zealand
Succeeded by
John Hall
Political offices
Preceded by
Maurice O'Rorke
Superintendent of Auckland Province
Provincial Councils abolished
New Zealand Parliament
Preceded by
Charles Gordon O'Neill
Member of Parliament for Thames
Served alongside: William Rowe, John Sheehan
Succeeded by
John Sheehan
Preceded by
William Speight
Member of Parliament for Auckland East
Constituency abolished, recreated in 1905
Title next held by
Frederick Baume
New constituency Member of Parliament for Auckland Central
Constituency abolished, recreated in 1905
Title next held by
Alfred Kidd
Preceded by
David Goldie
Member of Parliament for Newton
Constituency abolished
Preceded by
Alfred Cadman
John Shera
Thomas Thompson
Member of Parliament for Auckland
Served alongside: Charles Button, William Crowther
Succeeded by
Thomas Thompson