William Onslow, 4th Earl of Onslow

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The Right Honourable
The Earl of Onslow
GCMG, PC
4thEarlOfOnslow.jpg
The Earl of Onslow as a freemason
11th Governor of New Zealand
In office
2 May 1889 – February 1892
Monarch Victoria
Preceded by Sir William Jervois
Succeeded by The Earl of Glasgow
President of the Board of Agriculture
In office
19 May 1903 – 12 March 1905
Monarch Edward VII
Prime Minister Arthur Balfour
Preceded by Robert William Hanbury
Succeeded by Hon. Ailwyn Fellowes
Personal details
Born 7 March 1853 (1853-03-07)
Old Alresford, Hampshire
Died 23 October 1911 (1911-10-24)
Hendon, Middlesex
Nationality British
Political party Conservative
Spouse(s) Hon. Florence Gardner
(d. 1934)
Alma mater Exeter College, Oxford
William Hillier Onslow, 4th Earl of Onslow in front of a map of New Zealand

William Hillier Onslow, 4th Earl of Onslow GCMG, PC (7 March 1853 – 23 October 1911) was a British Conservative politician. He held several governmental positions between 1880 and 1905 and was also Governor of New Zealand between 1889 and 1892.

Background and education[edit]

Born at Old Alresford, Hampshire, Onslow was the only son of George Augustus Cranley Onslow, son of the Hon. Thomas Cranley Onslow, second son of Thomas Onslow, 2nd Earl of Onslow. His mother was Mary Harriet Anne Loftus. In 1870, at the age of 17, he succeeded his great-uncle in the earldom of Onslow. He was educated at Eton and Exeter College, Oxford.[1]

Political career, 1880-1889[edit]

Onslow briefly served as a Lord-in-Waiting (government whip in the House of Lords) under the Earl of Beaconsfield between February and April 1880 and held the same position under Lord Salisbury between 1886 and 1887, and later served under Salisbury as Under-Secretary of State for the Colonies between 1887 and 1888 (in which post he was vice president of the first Colonial Conference in April 1887) and as Parliamentary Secretary to the Board of Trade between 1888 and 1889.[2]

Governor of New Zealand, 1889-1892[edit]

In November 1888 Onslow was appointed Governor of New Zealand,.[3] As a result of the economic downturn in the late 1880s, he had sought a salaried position as a colonial governor. At 35, he was the youngest governor of New Zealand since George Grey was appointed in 1845 and the first since Robert FitzRoy in 1843 to have no previous experience in a vice-regal position. The New Zealand government had recently cut allowances for the governor, and Onslow was able to obtain the position mainly as it was no longer attractive to more senior colonial administrators.[2]

He assumed the office on 2 May 1889. Shortly after his arrival in Wellington, there was an outbreak of typhoid fever in the town. Onslow's twelve-year-old son and heir, Viscount Cranley, caught the disease and was at one time seen to be in danger of his life. After this Onslow and his family avoided the capital as much as they could - which did not endear them to the New Zealand people. According to the Dictionary of New Zealand Biography, Onslow did not "have the flair or flamboyance which helped some later governors win popular support".[2]

In 1890 Onslow became embroiled in controversy over appointments to the Legislative Council (the upper house of the New Zealand parliament), which were made by the governor on the advice of his ministers. Up until then Prime Minister Harry Atkinson had not made any recommendations on appointements. However, this year Atkinson's conservative supporters became more and more concerned that the Liberals under John Ballance would gain power. Atkinson was put under pressure to assure that there was a conservative majority in the Council. Onslow, as a Conservative, is considered to have been sympathetic to the idea, especially as he was used to the system in Britain, where it was acceptable practice for an outgoing British government to nominate new members of the House of Lords. He informed Atkinson that a "little list" of nominations for the Legislative Council could be agreed upon and used "if things go wrong with you in the House or Country".[2]

Atkinson lost ground in the election of December 1890, although it was unclear if the Liberals under Ballance would get enough support to form an administration. Rumours of the "little list" began to spread and Onslow was made aware that, even if it was common practice for an outgoing government in Britain to nominate members for the House of Lords, this was not the case in New Zealand. However, despite public opposition Onslow followed Atkinson's recommendations and nominated six people to the council (although the number was reduced from eleven). He justified his decision to the Colonial Office in London on the basis that he could find no Royal instruction or colonial precedent for refusing Atkinson's nomination and referred to "the constant practice in England". Onslow's actions even further damaged the reputation of the council. Several independent members were pressurised into supporting Ballance, who was able to form an administration.[2]

In 1891 Ballance asked Onslow to nominate 18 representatives to the council in order to counterbalance Atkinson's nominations of the previous year. Onslow said he was unwilling to alter the composition of the council and replace the conservative majority with a liberal one, stating that in his view an upper house of parliament should always be conservative in its nature. He agreed to nominate eight representatives, a compromise Ballance declined. The matter was finally deferred to Onslow's successor, the Earl of Glasgow. Onslow resigned in February 1892 and returned to England.[2]

Political career, 1892-1911[edit]

When the Conservatives returned to power in 1895 under Lord Salisbury, Onslow was made Under-Secretary of State for India, a post he retained until 1900, and was then once again Under-Secretary of State for the Colonies between 1900 and 1903 (from 1902 to 1903 under the premiership of Arthur Balfour).[1] In 1903 he entered Balfour's cabinet as President of the Board of Agriculture and was sworn of the Privy Council the same year.[4] He remained at the Board of Agriculture until the government fell in 1905. From 1905 to 1911 he was Lord Chairman of Committees of the House of Lords. He was also President of the Royal Statistical Society from 1905 to 1906.[5]

Family[edit]

Lord Onslow married the Hon. Florence Coulston Gardner, daughter of Alan Gardner, 3rd Baron Gardner, in 1875. They had two sons and two daughters. Lord Onslow died at Hendon, Middlesex, in October 1911, aged 58. He was succeeded in the earldom by his eldest son, Richard, Viscount Cranley. The Countess of Onslow died in August 1934.[1]

References[edit]

External links[edit]

Political offices
Preceded by
The Earl of Dunmore
The Earl of Roden
The Viscount Hawarden
The Lord Bagot
The Lord de Ros
The Lord Elphinstone
The Lord Henniker
Lord-in-Waiting
with The Earl of Dunmore
The Viscount Hawarden
The Lord Bagot
The Lord de Ros
The Lord Elphinstone
The Lord Henniker

1880
Succeeded by
The Lord Methuen
The Earl of Zetland
The Earl of Listowel
The Lord Ribblesdale
The Lord Sudeley
The Lord Wrottesley
Viscount Enfield
Preceded by
The Lord Methuen
The Lord Thurlow
The Lord Camoys
The Lord Houghton
The Lord Kensington
The Lord Hothfield
Lord-in-Waiting
with The Earl of Limerick
The Lord Henniker
The Earl of Hopetoun
The Lord Elphinstone
The Lord de Ros
The Earl Waldegrave

1886–1887
Succeeded by
The Earl of Limerick
The Lord Henniker
The Earl of Hopetoun
The Lord Elphinstone
The Lord de Ros
The Earl Waldegrave
The Lord Balfour of Burleigh
Preceded by
The Earl of Dunraven and Mount-Earl
Under-Secretary of State for the Colonies
1887–1888
Succeeded by
Baron Henry de Worms
Preceded by
Baron Henry de Worms
Parliamentary Secretary to the Board of Trade
1888–1889
Succeeded by
The Lord Balfour of Burleigh
Preceded by
The Lord Reay
Under-Secretary of State for India
1895–1900
Succeeded by
The Earl of Hardwicke
Preceded by
The Earl of Selborne
Under-Secretary of State for the Colonies
1900–1903
Succeeded by
The Duke of Marlborough
Preceded by
Robert William Hanbury
President of the Board of Agriculture
1903–1905
Succeeded by
Hon. Ailwyn Fellowes
Preceded by
The Earl of Morley
Lord Chairman of Committees of the House of Lords
1905–1911
Succeeded by
The Earl of Donoughmore
Government offices
Preceded by
Sir William Jervois
Governor of New Zealand
1889–1892
Succeeded by
The Earl of Glasgow
Peerage of the United Kingdom
Preceded by
Arthur Onslow
Earl of Onslow
1870–1911
Succeeded by
Richard William Alan Onslow