Anne Kerr, Lady Kerr

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Anne Kerr, Lady Kerr (1914 – 16 September 1997) was the second wife of Sir John Kerr, Governor-General of Australia 1974-77. They were married during his term of office, six months after his first wife died.


Anne Dorothy Taggart was born in 1914. She was known as Nancy to her friends. She was an honours graduate from the University of Sydney. In 1935 she was awarded a French Government travelling scholarship and gained her Master of Arts from the Sorbonne, Paris. She appeared as an official French-English interpreter at more than 30 international conferences over ten years, including Colombo Plan meetings. On one occasion she interpreted for Jawaharlal Nehru at a United Nations human rights seminar in New Delhi. She was also fluent in German.

In 1941 she married Hugh Walker Robson QC, a barrister, who was appointed to the bench in 1970. He was Judge of the New South Wales District Court and Chairman of the Court of Quarter Sessions. They had a son and a daughter. At one time he had made a bid for Liberal Party preselection for the federal seat of Warringah.

After the end of World War II, she acted as an interpreter for the Department of External Affairs for visiting French delegations.

In 1966 she was the first Australian to become a member of the International Association of Conference Interpreters.

Her marriage to Robson was dissolved in early 1975. It was reported that "strings had been pulled" to ensure her quick divorce from Robson and an avoidance of publicity. On 29 April 1975, in the Scots Kirk, Mosman, she married the Governor-General, Sir John Kerr, becoming the second Lady Kerr;[1] Sir John was a widower, his first wife Alison Kerr, Lady Kerr having died aged 59 on 9 September 1974, two months after he took up the post at Yarralumla.[2]

As Lady Kerr, she forged a formidable reputation for snobbery:[3][4] in private, Gough Whitlam called her 'Fancy Nancy'.[5][6] He once corrected her French on a menu, which led Margaret Whitlam to later say, only half jokingly, that he had sealed his fate by it.[7] She insisted on being addressed 'Her Excellency',[8] and reinstated the requirement for women to curtsy to her, which Lady (Alison) Kerr had dispensed with.[9] A memorandum by Sir Paul Hasluck, which recorded a conversation with the Queen's Private Secretary Sir Martin Charteris, alleged the Palace's disillusionment with the couple, and belief that "the Kerrs, and especially Lady Kerr, were ‘very greedy’ ".[10]

She was privy to her husband's thoughts and anxieties as the 1975 constitutional crisis developed, but in his autobiography Matters for Judgement (1978) Sir John Kerr strongly denied she had either dissuaded him from warning the Prime Minister Gough Whitlam that he was going to dismiss him, or that she herself had a political axe to grind. The Kerrs moved to England in 1977 after the widespread public criticism of his acceptance of the ambassadorship to UNESCO, a post he was forced to relinquish before taking it up.

Her memoirs, Lanterns Over Pinchgut, describe her extensive international experience.

Lady Kerr died in 1997 after a long battle with cancer. She was survived by her two children and four grandchildren.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Sir John Kerr remarries secretly", The Age, 30 April 1975. Retrieved 19 April 2014
  2. ^ Legislative Council of New South Wales, 17 September 1974, Death of Her Excellency Lady Kerr, Wife of the Governor-General: Address of Condolence, p. 1014. Retrieved 19 April 2014
  3. ^ White, Patrick Flaws in the Glass. Jonathan Cape, 1981, pp.227-233
  4. ^ Miller, Harry M "Confessions Of A Not-So-Secret Agent", Hachette Australia, 2009
  5. ^ Eastley, Tony Dismissal still angers Gough, A.M., ABC Radio National;
  6. ^ Mitchell, Susan Margaret & Gough: The love story that shaped a nation, Hachette Australia, 2014
  7. ^ "Gough Whitlam dead: The ride of a lifetime". The Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved 2016-04-20. 
  8. ^ Haupt, Robert White Cuts A Swathe Through High Society, The Age, 13 October 1981
  9. ^ Gough Whitlam, The Truth of the Matter, p. 229.
  10. ^ Queen and palace wanted John Kerr gone as governor-general The Australian, 4 November 2015;