Hercules Robinson, 1st Baron Rosmead

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The Lord Rosmead

1st Administrator of Montserrat
In office
14 February 1854 1855
Monarch Victoria
Preceded bynone (new office)
Succeeded by Edward Everard Rushworth
6th Lieutenant Governor of Saint Christopher
In office
Monarch Victoria
Preceded by Sir Edward Hay
Succeeded by Sir Benjamin Pine
5th Governor of Hong Kong
In office
9 September 1859 11 March 1865
Monarch Victoria
Lieutenant Governor MG Charles van Straubenzee
MG Sir James Grant
MG Sir John Michel
MG Sir Charles Staveley
MG William Brown
MG Sir Philip Guy
Preceded by Sir John Bowring
Succeeded by Sir Richard Graves MacDonnell
Acting Governor of British Ceylon
In office
21 March 1865 16 May 1865
Monarch Victoria
Preceded by Terence O'Brien
acting governor
Succeeded byHimself
13th Governor of British Ceylon
In office
16 May 1865 4 January 1872
Monarch Victoria
Preceded byHimself
acting governor
Succeeded by Henry Turner Irving
14th Governor of New South Wales
In office
4 March 1872 24 February 1879
Monarch Victoria
Preceded by The Earl Belmore
Succeeded by Lord Augustus Loftus
1st Governor of Fiji
In office
10 October 1874 June 1875
Monarch Victoria
Preceded bynone (office created)
Succeeded by Sir Arthur Hamilton-Gordon
8th Governor of New Zealand
In office
27 March 1879 9 September 1880
Monarch Victoria
Premier Sir George Grey
John Hall
Preceded by The Marquess of Normanby
Succeeded by Sir Arthur Hamilton-Gordon
8th High Commissioner for Southern Africa
In office
22 January 1881 1 May 1889
Monarch Victoria
Prime Minister Thomas Charles Scanlen
Thomas Upington
Sir Gordon Sprigg
Preceded by Sir George Strahan (acting)
Succeeded by Sir Henry Smyth (acting)
8th Governor of Cape Colony
In office
22 January 1881 1 May 1889
Monarch Victoria
Prime Minister Thomas Charles Scanlen
Thomas Upington
Sir Gordon Sprigg
Preceded by Sir George Strahan (acting)
Succeeded by Sir Henry Smyth (acting)
Acting Governor of British Mauritius
In office
15 December 1886 18 December 1886
Monarch Victoria
Preceded byHenry Nicholas Duverger-Beyts (acting)
Succeeded byWilliam Hanbury Hawley (acting)
10th High Commissioner for Southern Africa
In office
30 May 1895 21 April 1897
Monarch Victoria
Prime Minister Cecil Rhodes
Sir Gordon Sprigg
Preceded by Sir Henry Brougham Loch
Succeeded by Sir William Goodenough (acting)
10th Governor of Cape Colony
In office
30 May 1895 21 April 1897
Monarch Victoria
Prime Minister Cecil Rhodes
Sir Gordon Sprigg
Preceded by Sir Henry Brougham Loch
Succeeded by Sir William Goodenough (acting)
Baron Rosmead
BornHercules George Robert Robinson
(1824-12-19)19 December 1824
Died28 October 1897(1897-10-28) (aged 72)
London, England, UK
Title Baron Rosmead, of Rosmead in the County of Westmeath and of Tafelberg in South Africa
Tenure10 August 1896 – 28 October 1897
Other titles Baronet of Ennismore Gardens
Predecessornone (new creation)
SuccessorHercules Arthur Temple Robinson, 2nd Baron Rosmead
HeirHercules Arthur Temple Robinson
Spouse(s)Lady Nea Arthur Ada Rose D'Amour Annesley
IssueHercules Arthur Temple Robinson (b. 10 October 1891) [1]

Hon. Eleanor Frances Alti Maria Robinson (d. 24 Nov 1893) [1]
Hon. Nora Augusta Maud Robinson [1]

Hon. Nerida Leeta Robinson


Parents Admiral Hercules Robinson
Frances Elizabeth Wood
OccupationArmy officer, colonial administrator

Hercules George Robert Robinson, 1st Baron Rosmead, GCMG , PC (19 December 1824 – 28 October 1897), was a British colonial administrator who became the 5th Governor of Hong Kong and subsequently, the 14th Governor of New South Wales, the first Governor of Fiji, and the 8th Governor of New Zealand. From June 1859 until August 1896, he was known as Sir Hercules Robinson.

Privy Council of the United Kingdom Formal body of advisers to the sovereign in the United Kingdom

Her Majesty's Most Honourable Privy Council, commonly known as the Privy Council of the United Kingdom or simply the Privy Council, is a formal body of advisers to the Sovereign of the United Kingdom. Its membership mainly comprises senior politicians who are current or former members of either the House of Commons or the House of Lords.

Governor of Hong Kong head of the Hong Kong Government during British rule

The Governor of Hong Kong was the representative in Hong Kong of the British Crown from 1843 to 1997. In this capacity, the governor was president of the Executive Council and Commander-in-Chief of the British Forces Overseas Hong Kong. The governor's roles were defined in the Hong Kong Letters Patent and Royal Instructions. Upon the end of British rule and the transfer of Hong Kong to the People's Republic of China in 1997, most of the civil functions of this office went to the Chief Executive of Hong Kong, and military functions went to the Commander of the People's Liberation Army Hong Kong Garrison.

Governor of New South Wales vice-regal representative of the Australian monarch in New South Wales

The Governor of New South Wales is the viceregal representative of the Australian monarch, Queen Elizabeth II, in the state of New South Wales. In an analogous way to the Governor-General of Australia at the national level, the Governors of the Australian states perform constitutional and ceremonial functions at the state level. The governor is appointed by the queen on the advice of the premier of New South Wales, for an unfixed period of time—known as serving At Her Majesty's pleasure—though five years is the norm. The current governor is retired judge Margaret Beazley, who succeeded David Hurley on 2 May 2019.

Early life and Government career

He was of Irish descent on both sides; his father was Admiral Hercules Robinson, [2] his mother was Frances Elizabeth Wood, from Rosmead, County Westmeath, from which he afterwards took his title. From the Royal Military College, Sandhurst, he was commissioned into the 87th Foot as a Second Lieutenant on 27 January 1843, [3] he was promoted Lieutenant by purchase on 6 September 1844, [4] and reached the rank of Captain. However, in 1846, through the influence of Lord Naas, Robinson obtained a post in the Board of Public Works in Ireland, and subsequently became chief commissioner of fairs and markets.

Irish people Ethnic group, native to the island of Ireland, with shared history and culture

The Irish are a nation and ethnic group native to the island of Ireland, who share a common Irish ancestry, identity and culture. Ireland has been inhabited for about 12,500 years according to archaeological studies. For most of Ireland's recorded history, the Irish have been primarily a Gaelic people. From the 9th century, small numbers of Vikings settled in Ireland, becoming the Norse-Gaels. Anglo-Normans conquered parts of Ireland in the 12th century, while England's 16th/17th-century (re)conquest and colonisation of Ireland brought many English and Lowland Scots people to parts of the island, especially the north. Today, Ireland is made up of the Republic of Ireland and the smaller Northern Ireland. The people of Northern Ireland hold various national identities including British, Irish, Northern Irish or some combination thereof.

Admiral (Royal Navy) senior rank of the Royal Navy of the United Kingdom

Admiral is a senior rank of the Royal Navy of the United Kingdom, which equates to the NATO rank code OF-9, outranked only by the rank of admiral of the fleet. Royal Navy officers holding the ranks of rear admiral, vice admiral and admiral of the fleet are sometimes considered generically to be admirals. The rank of admiral is currently the highest rank to which a serving officer in the Royal Navy can be promoted, admiral of the fleet being in abeyance except for honorary promotions of retired officers and members of the Royal Family.

County Westmeath County in the Republic of Ireland

County Westmeath is a county in Ireland. It is in the province of Leinster and is part of the Midlands Region. It originally formed part of the historic Kingdom of Meath. It was named Mide because the kingdom was located in the geographical centre of Ireland. Westmeath County Council is the administrative body for the county, and the county town is Mullingar. At the 2016 census, the population of the county was 88,770.

His energy in these positions, notably during the famine of 1848, and the clearness and vigour of his reports, secured for him at the age of 29 the office of president of the council of the island of Montserrat on 14 February 1854. [5]

Montserrat British Overseas Territory in the Caribbean

Montserrat is a British Overseas Territory (BOT) in the Caribbean. The island is in the Leeward Islands, which is part of the chain known as the Lesser Antilles, in the West Indies. Montserrat measures approximately 16 km (10 mi) in length and 11 km (7 mi) in width, with approximately 40 km (25 mi) of coastline. Montserrat is nicknamed "The Emerald Isle of the Caribbean" both for its resemblance to coastal Ireland and for the Irish ancestry of many of its inhabitants.

Robinson also pushed for the introduction of a cadet scheme in the colonial administration during the similar serendipitous civil service reforms advocated by William Gladstone, the then chancellor of the exchequer. He proposed a civil service examination held in the UK that selected the successful candidates (the cadet) to learn Chinese and subsequently work in Hong Kong. The approval of the Colonial Office to this proposal resulted in the gradual expansion of the cadet and although the cadet did not fulfil the initial expectation of working as an interpreter, they provided excellent civil service in the administration and established rules in the process, emancipating the administration from ad hoc and disorganised practices. [6]

Service in St Kitts and Hong Kong

Subsequently, Robinson was appointed lieutenant-governor of Saint Kitts on 6 November 1855, [7] serving until 1859. On 17 June 1859, at age of 35 Robinson was appointed as Governor of Hong Kong, [8] the youngest in Hong Kong colonial history, as which he served until March 1865. On 28 June 1859, [9] he was knighted in recognition of his services for introducing coolie labour into the territory.[ citation needed ]

Saint Kitts island in Saint Kitts and Nevis

Saint Kitts, also known more formally as Saint Christopher Island, is an island in the West Indies. The west side of the island borders the Caribbean Sea, and the eastern coast faces the Atlantic Ocean. Saint Kitts and the neighbouring island of Nevis constitute one country: the Federation of Saint Kitts and Nevis. Saint Kitts and Nevis are separated by a shallow 3-kilometre (2 mi) channel known as "The Narrows".

The dignity of Knight Bachelor is the basic and lowest rank of a man who has been knighted by the monarch but not as a member of one of the organised orders of chivalry; it is a part of the British honours system. Knights Bachelor are the most ancient sort of British knight, but Knights Bachelor rank below knights of chivalric orders.

<i>Coolie</i> labourers from Asia

The word coolie, meaning a labourer, has a variety of other implications and is sometimes regarded as offensive or a pejorative, depending upon the historical and geographical context. It is similar, in many respects, to the Spanish term peón, although both terms are used in some countries, with slightly differing implications.

During his tenure, Robinson secured the control of the Kowloon Peninsula from the Imperial Chinese Government, thus expanding the size of the territory. Up to this point, the Colony of Hong Kong only consisted of Hong Kong Island. Also, Robinson ordered the construction of the Pokfulam Reservoir, which would provide a steady supply of water for Hong Kong people for years to come. Robinson was also credited with establishing Towngas, the territory's premier gas provider (a position it still holds today), for lighting the streets.

Kowloon Peninsula peninsula that forms the southern part of the main landmass in the territory of Hong Kong

The Kowloon Peninsula is a peninsula that forms the southern part of the main landmass in the territory of Hong Kong. The Kowloon Peninsula and the area of New Kowloon are collectively known as Kowloon.

Hong Kong Island second largest island in Hong Kong

Hong Kong Island is an island in the southern part of Hong Kong. It has a population of 1,289,500 and its population density is 16,390/km², as of 2008. The island had a population of about 3,000 inhabitants scattered in a dozen fishing villages when it was occupied by the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland in the First Opium War (1839-1842). In 1842, the island was formally ceded in perpetuity to the UK under the Treaty of Nanking and the City of Victoria was then established on the island by the British Force in honour of Queen Victoria.

During Robertson's administration, HSBC, along with Standard Chartered, were established in Hong Kong. Both were given the responsibility to print banknotes on the behalf of the Government, a responsibility both banks still hold today.

Service in Ceylon and New South Wales

On 6 March 1865, Robinson was appointed Governor of Ceylon. [10] On 30 June 1869, he was appointed Knight Commander of the Order of St Michael and St George (KCMG). [11]

From 4 March 1872 to 24 February 1879, he served as the Governor of New South Wales. [12] Before his arrival in the colony, the Australian Town and Country Journal apprised its readers of Robinson's "high reputation for administrative ability" and provided biographical details. [13] He attended the official opening of Sydney's grand new General Post Office on 1 September 1874. [14]

During this governorship, Robinson was involved in the successful efforts to annexe the Fiji Islands to the British Empire, and his services were rewarded on 28 January 1875 by promotion to Knight Grand Cross of the Order of St Michael and St George (GCMG). [15] He temporarily served as Governor of Fiji from 10 October 1874 to June 1875, while concurrently Governor of New South Wales. On 24 February 1879, Robinson was transferred to New Zealand, [16] and on 21 August 1880, in the wake of the Anglo-Zulu War, he succeeded Sir Henry Bartle Frere as High Commissioner for Southern Africa (George Cumine Strahan was also appointed as interim administrator to act until Robinson could arrive from New Zealand). [17]

Service in South Africa

Robinson arrived in South Africa shortly before the disaster of Majuba, and was one of the commissioners for negotiating a peace and determining the future status of Transvaal. [18] The job was known to be personally distasteful to him, for it left him with the task of conciliating, on the one hand, a Dutch party elated with victory, and on the other hand a British party almost ready to despair of the British connection.

In 1883, Robinson was called home to advise the government on the terms of the new convention concluded with the Transvaal Boers, and was appointed a member of the Privy Council. On 27 February 1884 Robinson signed the London Convention for the British government, with Paul Kruger, the new state president of the South African Republic, S.J. du Toit and N.J. Smit signing for the South African Republic.

On his return to South Africa, Robinson he found that a critical situation had arisen in Bechuanaland (today's Botswana), where Boer commandos had seized large tracts of territory and proclaimed the republics of Stellaland and Goshen. The commandos refused to retire within the limits of the Transvaal as defined by the new convention, and Robinson, aware of the necessity of preserving this country – the main road to the north – for the British Empire, determined on vigorous action.

John Mackenzie [19] [20] and later Cecil Rhodes were sent to secure the peaceful submission of the Boers, but without immediate result, partly owing to the attitude of the Cape ministry. Robinson's declaration that the advice of his ministers to patch up a settlement with the filibustering Boers was equivalent to a condonation of crime, led to the expedition of Major General Sir Charles Warren and the annexation of Bechuanaland early in 1885.

The difficulties of Robinson's position were illustrated by the dispute which arose between him and Warren, who declared that the high commissioner's duties to the home government were at times in conflict with the action which, as governor of Cape Colony, he was bound to take on the advice of his ministers in the interests of the colony. Sir Hercules Robinson succeeded in winning the confidence of President Kruger by his fair-mindedness, while he seconded Rhodes' efforts to unite the British and Dutch parties in Cape Colony. His mind, however, was that of the administrator as distinguished from the statesman, and he was content to settle difficulties as they arose.

In 1886, Robinson investigated the charges brought against Sir John Pope Hennessy, Governor of Mauritius, [21] and decreed his suspension pending the decision of the home authorities, who eventually reinstated Hennessy. In 1887 Robinson was induced by Rhodes to give his consent to the conclusion of a treaty with Lobengula which secured British rights in Matabele and Mashona lands.

In May 1889, Robinson retired. In his farewell speech, he declared that there was no permanent place in South Africa for direct Imperial rule. This was interpreted to mean that South Africa must ultimately become independent – an idea repugnant to him. He explained in a letter to The Times in 1895 that he had referred to the "direct rule of Downing Street over the crown colonies, as contrasted with responsible colonial government."

Robinson was created a baronet on 6 February 1891. [22] Early in 1895, when he had entered his 71st year in below average health, he yielded to the entreaties of Lord Rosebery's cabinet, and went out again to South Africa, in succession to Sir Henry Loch. [23]

Second term as Governor of Cape Colony

His second term of office was not fortunate. The Jameson Raid produced a permanent estrangement between him and Cecil Rhodes, and he was out of sympathy with the new colonial secretary, Joseph Chamberlain, who had criticised his appointment, and now desired Robinson to take this opportunity of settling the whole question of the position of the Uitlanders in the Transvaal.

Robinson answered that the moment was inopportune and that he must be left to choose his own time. Alarmed at the imminent danger of war, he confined his efforts to inducing the Johannesburgers to lay down their arms on condition that the raiders' lives were spared, not knowing that these terms had already been granted to Jameson. He came home to confer with the government, and on 10 August 1896 was raised to the peerage as Baron Rosmead, of Rosmead in the County of Westmeath and of Tafelberg in South Africa. [24] The new Lord Rosmead returned to South Africa later in the year, but was compelled by ill-health, in April 1897, to quit his post.

Personal life

Robinson married the Honourable Nea Arthur Ada Rose D'Amour, fifth daughter of the ninth Viscount Valentia in 1846. Lady Robinson was described as "a majestic-looking woman", "fond of gaiety and society". [13]

Their daughter, Nora, (born in St Kitts in 1858) married Alexander Finlay in St James' Church, Sydney on 7 August 1878. This vice-regal wedding attracted great interest from the populace and press. A crowd of up to 10,000 onlookers was reported and the guest list included many of the most important people in the colony. [25] [26]

Robinson died in London on 28 October 1897, [27] and is buried in Brompton Cemetery, London. His son, Hercules Arthur Temple Robinson, succeeded to the title of Baron Rosmead. [27]


In Hong Kong, Robinson Road, Rosmead Road (善美道), and Robinson Island (鴨洲) were all named after him. There was a Robinson Road in the Kowloon Peninsula that was named after him. However, the name was changed to Nathan Road on 19 March 1909.

In Ceylon (now Sri Lanka), Rosmead Place in Colombo 7 was named after him.

In South Africa , there are two Rosmead Avenues in Cape Town, one in Claremont/Kenilworth and the other in Oranjezicht, a suburb of Cape Town proper. South Africa also includes two small towns named Rosmead, one near Kimberley in the Northern Cape and one near Middelburg in the Eastern Cape.

In Australia, a building in Crown Street, Sydney includes a couple of terraced houses named for Hercules Robinson. A monumental bust of Sir Hercules sits atop the facade. On Sydney's General Post Office at 1 Martin Place, on the Pitt Street side arches of the building, there are carvings of four of New South Wales governors including Sir Hercules.



See also

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  1. 1 2 3 4 Pine 1973, p. 239.
  2. O'Byrne, William Richard (1849). "Robinson, Hercules"  . A Naval Biographical Dictionary . John Murray via Wikisource.
  3. "No. 20190". The London Gazette . 27 January 1843. p. 291.
  4. "No. 20380". The London Gazette . 6 September 1844. p. 3077.
  5. "No. 21521". The London Gazette . 14 February 1854. p. 427.
  6. Tsang 2007, pp. 13–24.
  7. "No. 21621". The London Gazette . 7 November 1854. p. 3363.
  8. "No. 22275". The London Gazette . 17 June 1859. p. 2361.
  9. "No. 22280". The London Gazette . 28 June 1859. p. 2514.
  10. "No. 22946". The London Gazette . 7 March 1865. p. 1376.
  11. "No. 23512". The London Gazette . 1 July 1869. p. 3750.
  12. "No. 23837". The London Gazette . 5 March 1872. p. 1312.
  13. 1 2 "Sir Hercules Robinson". Australian Town and Country Journal . NSW. 3 February 1872. p. 9. Retrieved 5 September 2013 via National Library of Australia.
  14. "Opening of the New Post Office". The Sydney Morning Herald. 2 September 1874. p. 6. Retrieved 19 January 2016.
  15. "No. 24175". The London Gazette . 29 January 1875. p. 347.
  16. "No. 24684". The London Gazette . 25 February 1879. p. 932.
  17. "No. 24876". The London Gazette . 24 August 1880. p. 4623.
  18. "No. 24960". The London Gazette . 8 April 1881. p. 1734.
  19. "John Mackenzie". Encyclopædia Britannica . Retrieved 29 June 2016.
  20. Northcott, Cecil (September 1972). "John Mackenzie and Southern Africa". History Today . 22 (9). Retrieved 29 June 2016.
  21. "No. 25630". The London Gazette . 1 October 1886. p. 4784.
  22. "No. 26132". The London Gazette . 6 February 1891. p. 680.
  23. "No. 26614". The London Gazette . 9 April 1895. p. 2131.
  24. "No. 26767". The London Gazette . 11 August 1896. p. 4571.
  25. "Mr. and Mrs. Finlay". Australian Town and Country Journal . NSW. 17 August 1878. p. 17. Retrieved 10 November 2013.
  26. "Marriage of Mr A.K. Finlay and Miss Robinson". The Queanbeyan Age . NSW. 14 August 1878. p. 1. Retrieved 4 September 2013.
  27. 1 2 "No. 26935". The London Gazette . 4 February 1898. p. 696.


Further reading

Government offices
Preceded by
Administrator of Montserrat
Succeeded by
Edward Everard Rushworth
Preceded by
Edward Hay Drummond Hay
Lieutenant Governor of Saint Christopher
Succeeded by
Benjamin Pine
Preceded by
Acting William Caine
5th Governor of Hong Kong
Succeeded by
Acting Administrator William Mercer
Preceded by
Terence O'Brien
acting governor
Governor of Ceylon

Succeeded by
Preceded by
Governor of Ceylon
Succeeded by
Henry Turner Irving
acting governor
Preceded by
The Earl Belmore
Governor of New South Wales
Succeeded by
Lord Augustus Loftus
Preceded by
Governor of Fiji
Succeeded by
Sir Arthur Hamilton-Gordon
Preceded by
The Marquess of Normanby
Governor of New Zealand
Succeeded by
Sir Arthur Hamilton-Gordon
Preceded by
Sir Henry Bartle Frere
High Commissioner for Southern Africa
Governor of Cape Colony
Succeeded by
Sir Henry Brougham Loch
Preceded by
Sir Henry Brougham Loch
High Commissioner for Southern Africa
Governor of Cape Colony
Succeeded by
Sir Alfred Milner
Peerage of the United Kingdom
New creation Baron Rosmead
Succeeded by
Hercules Arthur Temple Robinson
Baronetage of the United Kingdom
New creation Robinson Baronet
Succeeded by
Hercules Arthur Temple Robinson