Robert Herbert

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The Honourable
Sir Robert Herbert
GCB
Queensland State Archives 2954 Portrait of The Honourable Sir Robert George Wyndham Herbert Premier of Queensland c 1862.png
1st Premier of Queensland
In office
10 December 1859 – 1 February 1866
Succeeded by Arthur Macalister
In office
20 July 1866 – 7 August 1866
Preceded by Arthur Macalister
Succeeded by Arthur Macalister
Personal details
Born (1831-06-12)12 June 1831
Brighton, Sussex, England, United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland
Died 6 May 1905(1905-05-06) (aged 73)
Ickleton, Cambridgeshire England, United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland
Nationality British
Australian
Religion Anglican

Sir Robert George Wyndham Herbert, GCB (12 June 1831 – 6 May 1905), was the first Premier of Queensland, Australia.[1]

Early years[edit]

Born in Brighton, England on 12 June 1831,[2] Herbert was the only son of the Hon. Algernon Herbert, a younger son of the first Earl of Carnarvon. He was educated at Eton and Balliol College, Oxford. He won a Balliol scholarship in 1849 and subsequently the Hertford and Ireland scholarships. He took a first class in classical moderations, won the Latin verse prize in 1852, and obtained second-class final honours in the classical school. He was elected Fellow of All Souls in 1854 and was Eldon law scholar. In 1855 he was private secretary to William Ewart Gladstone and was called to the bar of the Inner Temple in 1858.[3][4]

Queensland colony[edit]

When Queensland was formed into a separate colony Sir George Ferguson Bowen was appointed the first governor. He arrived at Brisbane on 10 December 1859 and brought Herbert with him as his private secretary. On the day of the governor's arrival, Herbert was gazetted as colonial secretary with Ratcliffe Pring as attorney-general. These with the governor formed an executive council to which additions were made afterwards. At the election held early in 1860 Herbert was returned unopposed for one of the Leichhardt seats in the Legislative Assembly of Queensland and became the first Premier of Queensland. He showed himself to be a good leader and held office from December 1859 to February 1866.[3]

During his time as Premier four land acts were passed, and the education question was also the subject of early measures. The governor, in writing to the secretary of state, stated that the Queensland parliament "had passed a greater number of really useful measures than any other parliament in any of the Australian colonies". Certainly the first Queensland government was in marked contrast to those of the other colonies, each of which averaged half a dozen ministries in the same period. Herbert, however, fell into some disfavour when financial difficulties arose. He resigned in February 1866 and was succeeded by Arthur Macalister who was premier until 20 July 1866. Herbert was anxious to return to England on account of private business, but at the request of the governor formed a ministry which lasted less than three weeks and was merged in the second Macalister ministry. Herbert then left for England, having gained much experience which was to be very useful to him in later years.[3]

Career in England[edit]

A few months after Herbert's arrival in England he was appointed Assistant-Secretary to the Board of Trade, in 1870 was made Assistant Under-Secretary for the Colonies, and in 1871 became Permanent Under-Secretary of State for the Colonies. He held this position for 21 years with great distinction. His attitude was generally conciliatory and he was tactful in dealing with men who came in contact with him. In 1882 he was created K.C.B. and in 1892 G.C.B. In the same year he was appointed chancellor of the Order of St Michael and St George. He left the colonial office in 1892, but afterwards took up his duties again for a few months at the special request of Joseph Chamberlain. In 1893-6 he was agent-general for Tasmania, and did active work in connection with the formation of the British Empire League. In December 1903 he was chairman of the tariff commission.[4]

Later years[edit]

In later years, Robert Herbert suffered from heart trouble. Believing his health would benefit from a sea voyage, he went for a cruise in the Mediterranean Sea. He met his sister in Marseilles, France where his health worsened and he returned immediately to England. He was taken in an ambulance railway car on the Great Eastern Railway to his residence at Ickleton, Cambridgeshire, where he died on 6 May 1905.[4]

Personal life[edit]

Robert Herbert met his companion, John Bramston, in the early 1850s at Balliol College, Oxford University, England. The pair shared rooms at Oxford, and also in London.[1] When Herbert was Premier of Queensland, and Bramston his Attorney-General, the two created a farm on what is now the site of the Royal Brisbane and Women's Hospital. They named the farmhouse in which they both lived "Herston", a combination of their names. It also became the name of the modern-day Brisbane suburb of Herston, in the same location.

Herston House, 1800s

Robert Herbert never married, and some historians conclude that he was likely gay.[citation needed] In 1864, Herbert offered an explanation as to why he had not married: "It does not seem to me reasonable to tell a man who is happy and content, to marry a woman who may turn out a great disappointment."[1]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c Aldrich, Robert; Wotherspoon, Garry (2001). Who's Who in Contemporary Gay and Lesbian History: From World War II to the Present Day. Routledge. p. 207. ISBN 0-415-15982-2. Retrieved 2008-09-26. 
  2. ^ "DEATH OF SIR ROBERT HERBERT.". The Queenslander (Brisbane, Qld. : 1866 - 1939) (Brisbane, Qld.: National Library of Australia). 13 May 1905. p. 32. Retrieved 29 October 2013. 
  3. ^ a b c Serle, Percival (2006) [1949]. Dictionary of Australian Biography. Sydney: Project Gutenberg of Australia. OCLC 74490966. 
  4. ^ a b c "Death Of Sir Robert Herbert". The Times. 8 May 1905. p. 6. 
Parliament of Queensland
New division Member for Leichhardt
1860 – 1863
With: Royds
Succeeded by
Gordon Sandeman
Preceded by
Henry Challinor
Member for West Moreton
1863 – 1866
With: Cribb, Bell
Succeeded by
Joseph Fleming
Political offices
New title Premier of Queensland
1859 – 1866
Succeeded by
Arthur Macalister
Preceded by
Arthur Macalister
Premier of Queensland
1866 – 1866
Succeeded by
Robert Mackenzie
Government offices
Preceded by
Sir Frederic Rogers
Permanent Under-Secretary of State for the Colonies
1871 – 1892
Succeeded by
Sir Robert Henry Meade
Diplomatic posts
Preceded by
Sir Edward Braddon
Agent-General for Tasmania
1893–1896
Succeeded by
Sir Andrew Clarke
Honorary titles
Preceded by
Samuel Faudel-Phillips
High Sheriff of the County of London
1899 – 1900
Succeeded by
John Verity