Royal Reels: Gambling


The Victorian Governor’s frank stamp description is quoted in its entirety from G. Kellow’s “The Stamps of Victoria 1990, page 379: “The early history of this frank stamp is confusing. It was not part of the original allocation, and in fact the 1864 Act specified that the Governor’s signature was sufficient endorsement to allow the mail to be carried free. This was changed by legislation coming into force on 1 January 1884, which authorised the use of a frank stamp by the Governor. However, a frank stamp for the Governor had been prepared by the Post Office in 1865. The 1884 Amendment may have been enacted to correct an oversight when it was realised that the Governor’s frank stamp, which had been in use for some years, was not provided for by the 1864 Act. Seven dies exist of the hand stamped frank, which is found in blue, red, mauve, and violet.” (Figure 1).

The present cover was described in the auction catalogue as follows: Frankstamp ‘GOVERNOR OF VICTORIA’ 32 mm die (Lion facing the front) in red on 1881 Melbourne Club envelope to Governor of Western Australia, apparently carried by hand to Adelaide where SA 2d affixed & tied by GPO cds. A most unusual usage. Estimate AUD 1,000. Additional information was obtained from the front in that there were 2 strikes of the G.P.O. ADELAIDE/ 52/ FE 18/ 81 and a black manuscript O.H.M.S. The reverse was not shown, but presumably some insignia &/or script showed that the envelope had markings of the Melbourne Club. The addressee was written in full as His Excellency, Sir William F. C. Robinson, K.C.M.G., Government House, Perth, Western Australia (Figure 2).

Presumably the fine cover script was written by a secretary, and the one internet site that gave the full name of the addressee suggested that the order of the initials had been transposed, for Robinson’s full name (given at a W.A. government site) was Sir William Cleaver Francis Robinson, and the royal award definitely should have read K.C.M.G. He had been the Governor of the Falkland Islands and of Prince Edward Island, Canada before his appointment to Western Australia. He was born in 1835 and died in 1897, in his 63rd year. During his time in Canada he had helped the cause of Canadian Union.

Robinson had 3 terms as Governor of W.A., in 1875-77, 1880-83 and 1890-95. He was a professional colonial administrator and served at crucial times in the colony’s political development. A keen singer and a composer of operettas, Robinson was a popular Governor despite his clear adherence to the instructions of his Colonial Office superiors. Between his second and third W.A. terms, he held the Governorships of South Australia and briefly of Victoria, before returning for his third term. He retired in 1895 after serving 40 years almost wholly in the service of the British empire. His photo is shown in Figure 3.

George Augustus Constantine Phipps, second Marquis of Normanby (23 July 1819-3 April, 1890) succeeded to his title when his father, a career diplomat and politician, died in 1863. Sir George was a liberal politician in the United Kingdom from 1847-58 and comptroller of the Royal Household as well as a Privy Councillor in 1851. He became the Governor of Nova Scotia, Canada in 1858-63, of Queensland in 1871-74, New Zealand 1874-79 and Victoria in 1879-84. His additional positions (dates not known) were Governor of Jamaica, Lord Lieutenant of Ireland, Colonial and Home Secretary in the U.K. After the Governorship of Victoria, he returned to England to take his seat in the House of Lords as a Liberal-Unionist. His picture is shown in Figure 4.

These two men both gave long service to the British Empire in many far-flung colonies, and it would have been interesting to have been privy to the contents of the letter sent in the cover.

Categories: Governors