William Onslow, 4th Earl of Onslow

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The Right Honourable
The Earl of Onslow
The Earl of Onslow as a freemason
11th Governor of New Zealand
In office
2 May 1889 February 1892
Monarch Victoria
Preceded by Sir William Jervois
Succeeded by The Earl of Glasgow
President of the Board of Agriculture
In office
19 May 1903 12 March 1905
Monarch Edward VII
Prime Minister Arthur Balfour
Preceded by Robert William Hanbury
Succeeded by Hon. Ailwyn Fellowes
Personal details
Born7 March 1853 (1853-03-07)
Old Alresford, Hampshire
Died23 October 1911 (1911-10-24) (aged 58)
Hendon, Middlesex
Nationality British
Political party Conservative
Spouse(s) Hon. Florence Gardner (d. 1934)
Alma mater Exeter College, Oxford
William Hillier Onslow, 4th Earl of Onslow in front of a map of New Zealand Onslow, 4th Earl of.jpg
William Hillier Onslow, 4th Earl of Onslow in front of a map of New Zealand

William Hillier Onslow, 4th Earl of Onslow GCMG PC DL (7 March 1853 23 October 1911) was a British Conservative politician. He held several governmental positions between 1880 and 1905 and was also Governor of New Zealand between 1889 and 1892.

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

Her Majesty's Most Honourable Privy Council, usually known simply as the Privy Council of the United Kingdom or just 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.

Conservative Party (UK) Political party in the United Kingdom

The Conservative Party, officially the Conservative and Unionist Party, is a centre-right political party in the United Kingdom. The governing party since 2010, it is the largest in the House of Commons, with 313 Members of Parliament, and also has 249 members of the House of Lords, 18 members of the European Parliament, 31 Members of the Scottish Parliament, 12 members of the Welsh Assembly, eight members of the London Assembly and 8,916 local councillors.

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 Prime Minister of New Zealand, appoints a governor-general to carry out her constitutional and ceremonial duties within the Realm of New Zealand.


Background and education

Born at Old Alresford, Hampshire, Onslow was the only son of George Augustus Cranley Onslow, son of the Hon. Thomas Cranley Onslow, second son of Thomas Onslow, 2nd Earl of Onslow. His mother was Mary Harriet Anne Loftus. In 1870, at the age of 17, he succeeded his great-uncle in the earldom of Onslow. He was educated at Eton and Exeter College, Oxford. [1]

Old Alresford village in the United Kingdom

Old Alresford is a village and civil parish in Hampshire, England. It is 1 km north of the town of New Alresford, 12 km north-east of the city of Winchester, and 20 km south-west of the town of Alton.

Hampshire County of England

Hampshire is a county on the southern coast of England. The county town is the city of Winchester. Its two largest cities, Southampton and Portsmouth, are administered separately as unitary authorities; the rest of the county is governed by Hampshire County Council.

Thomas Onslow, 2nd Earl of Onslow was an English nobleman and courtier who succeeded to his title in 1814. Originally the Honourable Tom Onslow, he was styled Viscount Cranley from 1801 to 1814. He died in 1827 at his seat, Clandon Park in Surrey.

Political career, 1880–1889

Onslow briefly served as a Lord-in-waiting (government whip in the House of Lords) under the Earl of Beaconsfield (Benjamin Disraeli) between February and April 1880 and held the same position under Lord Salisbury between 1886 and 1887, and later served under Salisbury as Under-Secretary of State for the Colonies between 1887 and 1888 (in which post he was vice president of the first Colonial Conference in April 1887) and as Parliamentary Secretary to the Board of Trade between 1888 and 1889. [2]

Lords-in-waiting are peers who hold office in the Royal Household of the Sovereign of the United Kingdom.

Benjamin Disraeli British Conservative Prime Minister

Benjamin Disraeli, 1st Earl of Beaconsfield,, was a British statesman of the Conservative Party who twice served as Prime Minister of the United Kingdom. He played a central role in the creation of the modern Conservative Party, defining its policies and its broad outreach. Disraeli is remembered for his influential voice in world affairs, his political battles with the Liberal Party leader William Ewart Gladstone, and his one-nation conservatism or "Tory democracy". He made the Conservatives the party most identified with the glory and power of the British Empire. He is the only British prime minister to have been of Jewish birth. He was also a novelist, publishing works of fiction even as prime minister.

Robert Gascoyne-Cecil, 3rd Marquess of Salisbury British politician

Robert Arthur Talbot Gascoyne-Cecil, 3rd Marquess of Salisbury,, styled Lord Robert Cecil before 1865, Viscount Cranborne from June 1865 until April 1868, and Lord Salisbury until his death, was a British statesman, serving as Prime Minister three times for a total of over thirteen years. A member of the Conservative Party, he was the last Prime Minister to head his full administration from the House of Lords.

Governor of New Zealand, 1889–1892

In November 1888 Onslow was appointed Governor of New Zealand. [3] As a result of the economic downturn in the late 1880s, he had sought a salaried position as a colonial governor. At 35, he was the youngest governor of New Zealand since George Grey was appointed in 1845 and the first since Robert FitzRoy in 1843 to have no previous experience in a vice-regal position. The New Zealand government had recently cut allowances for the governor, and Onslow was able to obtain the position mainly as it was no longer attractive to more senior colonial administrators. [2]

George Grey Premier of New Zealand (1877–1879)

Sir George Grey, KCB 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.

Robert FitzRoy Royal Navy officer and scientist

Vice-Admiral Robert FitzRoy FRS was an English officer of the Royal Navy and a scientist. He achieved lasting fame as the captain of HMS Beagle during Charles Darwin's famous voyage, FitzRoy's second expedition to Tierra del Fuego and the Southern Cone.

He assumed the office on 2 May 1889. Shortly after his arrival in Wellington, there was an outbreak of typhoid fever in the town. Onslow's twelve-year-old son and heir, Viscount Cranley, caught the disease and was at one time seen to be in danger of his life. After this Onslow and his family avoided the capital as much as they could - which did not endear them to the New Zealand people. According to the Dictionary of New Zealand Biography , Onslow did not "have the flair or flamboyance which helped some later governors win popular support". [2]

Wellington Capital city of New Zealand

Wellington is the capital city and second most populous urban area of New Zealand, with 418,500 residents. It is located at the south-western tip of the North Island, between Cook Strait and the Remutaka Range. Wellington is the major population centre of the southern North Island, and is the administrative centre of the Wellington Region, which also includes the Kapiti Coast and Wairarapa. Its latitude is 41°17′S, making it the world's southernmost capital of a sovereign state. Wellington features a temperate maritime climate, and is the world's windiest city by average wind speed.

Typhoid fever A bacterial infectious disorder contracted by consumption of food or drink contaminated with Salmonella typhi. This disorder is common in developing countries and can be treated with antibiotics.

Typhoid fever, also known simply as typhoid, is a bacterial infection due to specific type of Salmonella that causes symptoms. Symptoms may vary from mild to severe and usually begin six to thirty days after exposure. Often there is a gradual onset of a high fever over several days. This is commonly accompanied by weakness, abdominal pain, constipation, headaches, and mild vomiting. Some people develop a skin rash with rose colored spots. In severe cases people may experience confusion. Without treatment, symptoms may last weeks or months. Diarrhea is uncommon. Other people may carry the bacterium without being affected; however, they are still able to spread the disease to others. Typhoid fever is a type of enteric fever, along with paratyphoid fever.

Richard Onslow, 5th Earl of Onslow British noble, diplomat and politician

Richard William Alan Onslow, 5th Earl of Onslow, styled Viscount Cranley until 1911, was a British peer, diplomat, parliamentary secretary and government minister.

In 1890 Onslow became embroiled in controversy over appointments to the Legislative Council (the upper house of the New Zealand parliament), which were made by the governor on the advice of his ministers. Up until then Prime Minister Harry Atkinson had not made any recommendations on appointments. However, this year Atkinson's conservative supporters became more and more concerned that the Liberals under John Ballance would gain power. Atkinson was put under pressure to assure that there was a conservative majority in the Council. Onslow, as a Conservative, is considered to have been sympathetic to the idea, especially as he was used to the system in Britain, where it was acceptable practice for an outgoing British government to nominate new members of the House of Lords. He informed Atkinson that a "little list" of nominations for the Legislative Council could be agreed upon and used "if things go wrong with you in the House or Country". [2]

New Zealand Legislative Council Upper House of the Parliament of New Zealand (1841 - 1951)

The Legislative Council of New Zealand existed from 1841 until 1951. When New Zealand became a colony in 1841 the Legislative Council was established as the country's first legislature; it was reconstituted as the upper house of a bicameral legislature when New Zealand became self-governing in 1852.

Prime Minister of New Zealand head of the New Zealand government

The Prime Minister of New Zealand is the head of government of New Zealand. The incumbent Prime Minister, Jacinda Ardern, leader of the New Zealand Labour Party, took office on 26 October 2017.

Harry Atkinson Prime Minister of New Zealand

Sir Harry Albert Atkinson served as the tenth Premier of New Zealand on four separate occasions in the late 19th century, and was Colonial Treasurer for a total of ten years. He was responsible for guiding the country during a time of economic depression, and was known as a cautious and prudent manager of government finances, though distrusted for some radical policies such as his 1882 National Insurance (welfare) scheme and leasehold land schemes. He also participated in the formation of voluntary military units to fight in the New Zealand Wars, and was noted for his strong belief in the need for seizure of Māori land.

Atkinson lost ground in the election of December 1890, although it was unclear if the Liberals under Ballance would get enough support to form an administration. Rumours of the "little list" began to spread and Onslow was made aware that, even if it was common practice for an outgoing government in Britain to nominate members for the House of Lords, this was not the case in New Zealand. However, despite public opposition Onslow followed Atkinson's recommendations and nominated six people to the council (although the number was reduced from eleven). He justified his decision to the Colonial Office in London on the basis that he could find no Royal instruction or colonial precedent for refusing Atkinson's nomination and referred to "the constant practice in England". Onslow's actions even further damaged the reputation of the council. Several independent members were pressurised into supporting Ballance, who was able to form an administration. [2]

In 1891 Ballance asked Onslow to nominate 18 representatives to the council in order to counterbalance Atkinson's nominations of the previous year. Onslow said he was unwilling to alter the composition of the council and replace the conservative majority with a liberal one, stating that in his view an upper house of parliament should always be conservative in its nature. He agreed to nominate eight representatives, a compromise Ballance declined. The matter was finally deferred to Onslow's successor, the Earl of Glasgow. Onslow resigned in February 1892 and returned to England. [2]

Political career, 1892–1911

When the Conservatives returned to power in 1895 under Lord Salisbury, Onslow was made Under-Secretary of State for India, a post he retained until 1900, and was then once again Under-Secretary of State for the Colonies between 1900 and 1903 (from 1902 to 1903 under the premiership of Arthur Balfour). [1] In 1903 he entered Balfour's cabinet as President of the Board of Agriculture and was sworn of the Privy Council the same year. [4] He remained at the Board of Agriculture until the government fell in 1905. From 1905 to 1911 he was Lord Chairman of Committees of the House of Lords. He was also President of the Royal Statistical Society from 1905 to 1906. [5] His death was considered a loss to the [RSPB].


Lord Onslow married the Hon Florence Coulston Gardner, daughter of Alan Gardner, 3rd Baron Gardner, in 1875. They had two sons and two daughters: [6]

Lord Onslow died at Hendon, Middlesex, in October 1911, aged 58. He was succeeded in the earldom by his elder son, Richard. The Dowager Countess of Onslow died in August 1934. [1]

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  1. 1 2 3 thepeerage.com William Hillier Onslow, 4th Earl of Onslow
  2. 1 2 3 4 5 6 Galbreath, Ross. "Onslow, William Hillier 1853–1911". Dictionary of New Zealand Biography . Ministry for Culture and Heritage . Retrieved 7 April 2011.
  3. "No. 25878". The London Gazette . 27 November 1888. p. 6740.
  4. "No. 27555". The London Gazette . 22 May 1903. p. 3239.
  5. "Royal Statistical Society Presidents". Royal Statistical Society. Archived from the original on 13 October 2008. Retrieved 6 August 2010.
  6. The Peerage, entry for 4th Earl of Onslow
  7. Onslow, Muriel (1924). Huia Onslow: A Memoir. London: Edward Arnold.
Political offices
Preceded by
The Earl of Dunmore
The Earl of Roden
The Viscount Hawarden
The Lord Bagot
The Lord de Ros
The Lord Elphinstone
The Lord Henniker
with The Earl of Dunmore
The Viscount Hawarden
The Lord Bagot
The Lord de Ros
The Lord Elphinstone
The Lord Henniker

Succeeded by
The Lord Methuen
The Earl of Zetland
The Earl of Listowel
The Lord Ribblesdale
The Lord Sudeley
The Lord Wrottesley
Viscount Enfield
Preceded by
The Lord Methuen
The Lord Thurlow
The Lord Camoys
The Lord Houghton
The Lord Kensington
The Lord Hothfield
with The Earl of Limerick
The Lord Henniker
The Earl of Hopetoun
The Lord Elphinstone
The Lord de Ros
The Earl Waldegrave

Succeeded by
The Earl of Limerick
The Lord Henniker
The Earl of Hopetoun
The Lord Elphinstone
The Lord de Ros
The Earl Waldegrave
The Lord Balfour of Burleigh
Preceded by
The Earl of Dunraven and Mount-Earl
Under-Secretary of State for the Colonies
Succeeded by
Baron Henry de Worms
Preceded by
Baron Henry de Worms
Parliamentary Secretary to the Board of Trade
Succeeded by
The Lord Balfour of Burleigh
Preceded by
The Lord Reay
Under-Secretary of State for India
Succeeded by
The Earl of Hardwicke
Preceded by
The Earl of Selborne
Under-Secretary of State for the Colonies
Succeeded by
The Duke of Marlborough
Preceded by
Robert William Hanbury
President of the Board of Agriculture
Succeeded by
Hon. Ailwyn Fellowes
Preceded by
The Earl of Morley
Lord Chairman of Committees of the House of Lords
Succeeded by
The Earl of Donoughmore
Government offices
Preceded by
Sir William Jervois
Governor of New Zealand
Succeeded by
The Earl of Glasgow
Peerage of the United Kingdom
Preceded by
Arthur Onslow
Earl of Onslow
Succeeded by
Richard William Alan Onslow