Governor of Southern Rhodesia

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Governor of Southern Rhodesia
Flag of the Governor of Southern Rhodesia (1952-1970).svg
Flag of the Governor from 1952 to 1980
Christopher Soames (cropped).jpg
Last in office
The Lord Soames
11 December 1979 – 18 April 1980
Style His Excellency The Right Honourable
Residence Government House, Salisbury (now Harare)
Appointer Monarch of the United Kingdom
Formation1 October 1923
First holder Sir John Chancellor
Final holder The Lord Soames
Abolished18 April 1980

The Governor of Southern Rhodesia was the representative of the British monarch in the self-governing colony of Southern Rhodesia from 1923 to 1980. The Governor was appointed by The Crown and acted as the local head of state, receiving instructions from the British Government.


Constitutional role

The Governor was also Commander-in-Chief of the armed forces and as such, in theory at least, exercised considerable influence over the running of the colony and its government, but in practice, the Governor's main function was to maintain a satisfactory relationship between the British and Southern Rhodesian Governments and acted in an advisory capacity most of the time. From 1951, however, in contrast to other colonies, the British government was represented in Southern Rhodesia by a High Commissioner in Salisbury (now Harare). [1]

When Southern Rhodesia was part of the Federation of Rhodesia and Nyasaland, the position of the Governor remained unchanged, but as Salisbury became the capital of the Federation, the Governor General resided at Government House, previously the Governor's official residence. [2] During this time, the Governor of Southern Rhodesia resided at Governor's Lodge in the suburb of Highlands. [3]


Following the Unilateral Declaration of Independence in 1965, the government of Ian Smith ceased to recognise the authority of the then Governor, Sir Humphrey Gibbs, and appointed Clifford Dupont to exercise the Governor's powers as Officer Administering the Government. [4]

However, Gibbs continued to occupy Government House, asserting his position as the Queen's de jure representative, and did not resign from the post until June 1969, following the decision of white voters in a referendum to approve a new constitution declaring Rhodesia, as Southern Rhodesia had become more commonly known, a republic. [5]

In 1977, Field Marshal The Lord Carver was designated Resident Commissioner for Rhodesia, but he resigned fourteen months later. [6]

The office of Governor remained vacant until 11 December 1979, when Lord Soames assumed the post, following the signing of the Lancaster House Agreement, under which Southern Rhodesia would achieve de jure independence as Zimbabwe on 18 April 1980.


Flag of the Governor of Southern Rhodesia (1924-1951) Flag of the Governor of Southern Rhodesia (1924-1951).svg
Flag of the Governor of Southern Rhodesia (1924–1951)
Flag of the Governor of Southern Rhodesia (1951-1952), featuring the Tudor Crown. Flag of the Governor of Southern Rhodesia (1951-1952).svg
Flag of the Governor of Southern Rhodesia (1951–1952), featuring the Tudor Crown.
Flag of the Governor of Southern Rhodesia (1952-1980), featuring St Edward's Crown. Flag of the Governor of Southern Rhodesia (1952-1970).svg
Flag of the Governor of Southern Rhodesia (1952–1980), featuring St Edward's Crown.

In common with most other British colonies, the flag used by the Governor, as the Sovereign's representative in Southern Rhodesia, was initially a Union Flag with a white roundel in the centre, charged with the shield from the colony's arms granted on 11 August 1924. Unique among the flags of the Governors of British colonies, this shield of Arms was not surrounded by the customary wreath. This flag was adopted on 1 October 1924 and was flown until 30 July 1951.

On 31 July 1951, a new flag was put into use for the Governor of Southern Rhodesia. This was dark blue and charged in the centre with a Royal Crown, its height being four-sevenths of the hoist. Initially the Tudor Crown would have been used, but after her accession to the throne in 1952, Elizabeth II indicated her preference for St Edward's Crown, and this version would have been used thereafter. Although the colony had attained 'Responsible Government' in 1923, it was never a fully fledged Dominion, and so did not have a Governor-General, whose flag in other Dominions would be dark blue, charged in the centre with the Royal Crest above a Crown, with the name of the Dominion written in a yellow scroll below.

List of governors of Southern Rhodesia

Term of officeMonarch Prime Minister
Took officeLeft officeTime in office
1 John Chancellor portrait.jpg Sir John Chancellor
1 October 192315 June 19284 years, 258 days George V Coghlan
Murray Bisset in 1901.png Sir Murray Bisset
15 June 192824 November 1928162 daysMoffat
2 No image.svg Sir Cecil Hunter-Rodwell
24 November 19281 May 19345 years, 158 daysMoffat
No image.svg Fraser Russell
1 May 19348 January 1935252 daysHuggins
3 Sir Herbert James Stanley.jpg Sir Herbert Stanley
8 January 19358 January 19427 years, 0 daysGeorge V
Edward VIII
George VI
No image.svg Fraser Russell
8 January 194210 December 1942336 daysGeorge VI
4 Evelyn Baring 1926.jpg Sir Evelyn Baring
10 December 194226 October 19441 year, 321 days
No image.svg Sir Robert James Hudson
26 October 194420 February 1945117 days
5 No image.svg Sir Campbell Tait
[lower-alpha 1]
20 February 19452 February 1946347 days
No image.svg Sir Fraser Russell
[lower-alpha 2]
2 February 194619 July 1946167 days
No image.svg Sir Robert James Hudson
19 July 194614 January 1947179 days
6 No image.svg Sir John Noble Kennedy
14 January 194721 November 19536 years, 311 daysGeorge VI
Elizabeth II
No image.svg Sir Robert Clarkson Tredgold
21 November 195326 November 19541 year, 5 daysElizabeth IITodd
7 No image.svg Sir Peveril William-Powlett
26 November 195428 December 19595 years, 32 daysTodd
8 Humphrey Gibbs 1948 (cropped).jpg Sir Humphrey Gibbs
[lower-alpha 3]
28 December 195924 June 19699 years, 178 daysWhitehead
Position vacant (24 June 1969 – 11 December 1979) [lower-alpha 4]
9 Christopher Soames (cropped).jpg The Lord Soames
11 December 197918 April 1980129 daysPosition abolished

For continuation after independence, see: President of Zimbabwe

See also


  1. Admiral Tait's health rapidly declined shortly after he arrived in Southern Rhodesia. He relinquished the Governorship after only a year, and died five months later at Government House in Salisbury.
  2. Russell had been appointed a KBE in the 1943 New Year Honours, announced in December 1942.
  3. Gibbs' position was not recognised by the Smith's government after the UDI on 11 November 1965.
  4. Field Marshal The Lord Carver was named as Resident Commissioner-designate on 1 September 1977.

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