About the Book

Was Governor FitzRoy the man popular history would have us believe?

Sir Charles Augustus FitzRoy’s tenure as Governor of New South Wales and Governor-General of Australia, 1846 – 1855, was plagued by rumour. Mention FitzRoy and he is either not remembered at all, remembered as the Governor who caused his wife’s death or as a shameless womaniser. Are these damning comments justified?

It was the time of Wentworth, Parkes and Lang, giant political figures in New South Wales’ early history. FitzRoy’s administration oversaw matters such as settlement of the contentious crown land issue and squatters' rights, education, discovery of gold, and introduction of the railway.

A man of the British Empire, he served firstly his King, then a young Queen Victoria as the Crown's Vice-Regal representative at Prince Edward Island, the Leeward Islands and finally, New South Wales.

This biography portrays FitzRoy in a light not previously considered, from a personal, family-oriented aspect, stretching from childhood to the battlefields of Waterloo. Going beyond the rumours set in motion in 1847, it reveals a worldly diplomat, a Governor who encouraged those around him to act on their beliefs.

FitzRoy’s ancestors

Photo: House of Grafton Coat of Arms – Hand coloured by heraldic artist Roland Symons

FitzRoy is the surname given to members of the House of Grafton, a line born out of wedlock to King Charles II.

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His youth

Photo 1: Shipley Hall, Derbyshire; courtesy of Derbyshire County Council, Countryside Service.

Born in Derbyshire, FitzRoy’s mother died when he was just fourteen months old.  His father remarried a few years later and it wasn’t long before he had siblings, George, Frances and Robert, to play with.

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Lady Mary Lennox

Photo: Goodwood House, Sussex

Lady Mary Lennox was born here, at Goodwood House, the first of the Duke and Duchess of Richmond’s fourteen children.  She travelled to Ireland with her family when the Duke served as Lord Lieutenant of Ireland becoming used to the diplomatic way of life.

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Marriage and family

Photo: Marriage Certificate

Mary and Charles Augustus married in 1820 a year after the Duke of Richmond’s death.  Their marriage produced four children, Augustus Charles, Mary Caroline, George Henry and Arthur George.

Diplomatic career – Prince Edward Island

Photo: Government House, Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island; courtesy of The Honourable H Frank Lewis, Lieutenant-Governlor of PEI

After years of seeking employment as the Crown’s Vice-Regal representative FitzRoy’s diplomatic career commenced in 1837 when he was appointed Lieutenant-Governor of Prince Edward Island. It was a difficult time for him as his administration handled the question of escheat.


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Antigua

Photo: Government House, St John’s, Antigua; Antigua: The National Archives UK CO1069-415-6. 1970

After four years on PEI FitzRoy was appointed Governor of the Leeward Islands in the Caribbean.  Administration here was more domestic; it was mother nature and the climate that had the upper hand, culminating in a devastating earthquake.

New South Wales

Photo: Government House, Sydney

Sir Charles Augustus’ final appointment was as tenth Governor of New South Wales, becoming Australia’s first Governor-General in 1850.

It was a challenging time for him as he administered a colony in the grip of dissatisfaction with squatters’ rights and crown land issues. During his tenure

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Retirement

Photo: Memorial plaque, St Mary the Virgin Church, Grafton Regis, England; by kind permission of Lord Charles FitzRoy

Governor-General FitzRoy’s administration ended in 1855 and he returned to England. During his homeward journey he made the acquaintance of Margaret Hawkey, a young wealthy widow whom he married soon after their arrival in London.

Sir Charles Augustus FitzRoy died on 16 February, 1858.