Royal Reels: Gambling


This ‘On Her Majesty’s Service’ cover was addressed to His Excellency Sir Henry Barkly KCB, Government House, Mauritius and it has a small black MELBOURNE/ 6V/ OC 23/ 65, VICTORIA duplex postmark, as well as the faint blue GOVERNOR OF VICTORIA frank stamp. There is also a manuscript ‘Sir Charles Darling’ (Figure 1).

A second cover with manuscript ‘On Her Majesty’s Service’ sent ‘pr Elizabeth’ was sent to His Excellency Sir Henry Barkly, Governor of Mauritius, postmarked with a small black duplex MELBOURNE/ 2T/ MY 11/ 69, VICTORIA as well as a blue frank stamp COMMR. OF CROWN LANDS & SURVEY and there is a manuscript ‘Ferd Von Mueller’ (Figure 2).

The sender of the 2 letters were both eminent men in the colony of Victoria, but this paper will focus on Henry Barkly. Henry Barkly was born on 24 February 1815, son of Aeneas Barkly of Monteagle, Rossshire, Scotland, sometime a West Indian merchant. Henry was trained for commerce, began a business career and represented Leominster in the House of Commons in 1845-48. He was then appointed governor and commander-in-chief of British Guiana and in 1853 of Jamaica. Constitutional, social and economic problems made his tasks most exacting in both colonies, but his success won him the approval of the Colonial Office and a K.C.B.

In November 1856 Barkly was appointed governor of Victoria, with the highest salary in the empire because the Colonial Office considered the post particularly difficult. He arrived in Melbourne on Christmas Eve. Although displeased to find that the governor’s participation in policy-making was not welcome under the newly-granted responsible government, he soon adjusted to his new functions as a constitutional ‘sovereign’. In the colony’s politics he recognized one vital task: to secure stable government without the benefit of clear party division. He suffered a personal tragedy when his wife Elizabeth Helen, née Timins whom he married in 1840, died on 17 April 1857, a few days after the birth of their second son.

Personally and socially Barkly was reticent, and some civil servants thought him cold and unapproachable, but he was well known for his support of philanthropic and intellectual movements: founder and president of the Royal Society of Victoria, and he helped found the National Gallery and National Observatory. Barkly performed well, his judgments and actions were much valued by the Colonial Office and it was in no sense a criticism of him that he was moved to the Governorship of Mauritius in 1863. After a full term at Mauritius he was Governor of the Cape of Good Hope in August 1870, as well as High Commissioner of South Africa, and he was awarded the G.C.M.G. in March 1874. Though excellent as a constitutional governor, Barkly was no statesman, and his recall in March 1877 was overdue.

This ignominious end to Barkly’s colonial career was partly compensated by his nomination in 1879 to the Royal Commission on Colonial Defence. He was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society in 1864 and the Royal Geographical Society in 1870. In retirement, he devoted himself to scientific pursuits, committee work for the London Library, and he died in London on 20 October 1898. His picture is shown in Figure 3.

This paper was largely acquired from the on-line Australian Dictionary of Biography.

Categories: Governors