Royal Reels: Gambling


The On Her Majesty’s Service cover was addressed to His Excellency, The Earl of Ranfurly K.C.M.G., Government House, Wellington, New Zealand. There was a Department of Agriculture Frank Stamp, Victoria and an overlying partially illegible MELBOURNE/ 30 ( )/ ( )/ 7 postmark. The frank stamp was introduced in 1886 and Ranfurly was Governor of N.Z. from 1897 – 1904 (Figure 1).

The reverse had no postmarks but there was a particularly fine blue insignia of the Department of Agriculture, Victoria on the flap (Figure 2).

Uchter John Mark Knox, the fifth Earl of Ranfurly was born in Guernsey in 1856 and he succeeded to the title on the death of his older brother in 1875. His title was one of the Irish peerage, and he was educated at Harrow and Cambridge University. From 1895-97 he was Lord-in-waiting to Queen Victoria and he visited New Zealand in 1888, before being appointed to the position of the fifteenth Governor of New Zealand (1897-1904). He was an ardent imperialist, and his mixture of empire loyalty and admiration for New Zealand appealed to many New Zealanders. In his position of Governor he kept himself busy touring extensively through New Zealand and in the Pacific Islands, as well he took an active part in local affairs.

Governor Ranfurly was often involved in government discussions with the Maori about land policy and other matters, usually in a ceremonial role. Other features of his time in New Zealand included his role in annexation of the Cook Islands and Niue in 1900, hosting the royal tour of the Duke of Cornwall (the future King George V) in 1901, publication of a roll of honour for New Zealand war veterans of the Boer War, and the establishment of a veterans’ home in Auckland, the presentation of the Ranfurly shield for rugby, and support for empire history in New Zealand schools. Ranfurly’s own account of his time in the colony was in the form of a three-volume typescript, the first 2 volumes gave a very detailed account of his many activities and the third volume contained selected speeches and addresses.

Ranfurly published 2 articles after he left the colony: New Zealand and its dependencies in the Proceedings of the Royal Colonial Institute, 1905 pp.320-346, and The world’s most advanced government published in Cosmopolitan magazine, March 1905, pp. 524-530.

In 1880 he married Constance Elizabeth Caulfield, the daughter of James Alfred Caulfield, seventh Viscount Charlemont, and they had three children. A water colourist painter she exhibited at the Wellington Art Exhibition in 1897. During her time in Wellington she was noted for her beauty and social accomplishments. She was a popular hostess, a conversationalist and sh enjoyed music and outdoor activities. She was a supporter of the local arts in New Zealand.

What interested me most about Earl Ranfurly was a long article in The Argus (Melbourne) 29 October1888, p. 12 entitled ‘The Irrigation Settlement at Midura. An Interview with Lord Ranfurly’ from which I will quote selectively: “The name of Mildura, the scene of the interesting experiment which is being carried on by the Chaffey Brothers on the Victorian bank of the River Murray is destined to be become known throughout the English speaking world…..Mildura is being transformed into a busy and highly productive settlement. Already emigrants have been attracted (from England, America and the Continent of Europe)…Among the more recent additions to the owners of the soil in the irrigation colony is a Lord Ranfurly – a peer of the United Kingdom, and an Irish earl, the fifth Earl Ranfurly….(he) is only 32 years of age in the very prime of young manhood, of good physique and robust constitution….he is the guest of His Excellency the Governor, but he has spent several months at Mildura, superintending and assisting in the work of planting a large portion of the estate which he has acquired there…. (his) first visit to Mildura was undertaken at the request of some friends in England who wrote him to give them his personal observations (on the irrigation with the idea of planting fruit trees).”

The long interview with Ranfurly ends as follows: “Lord Ranfurly believes that the effect of the object lesson which is being taught by the Chaffey Brothers at Mildura not only to this colony, but to agriculturists and others in England, in America and elsewhere, will, in all probability have great and far-reaching consequences”.

Earl Ranfurly died in 1933 at the age of 77 years, his wife predeceased him in 1932. A picture of Earl Ranfurly during his tenure as Governor of New Zealand is seen in Figure 3.

Categories: Governors