William Des Vœux
Sir George William Des Vœux GCMG (22 September 1834 – 15 December 1909) was a British colonial governor who served as Governor of Fiji (1880–1885), Governor of Newfoundland (1886–1887), and Governor of Hong Kong (1887–1891).
Des Vœux was born on 22 September 1834 in Baden-Baden, Germany. He was of French descent – his ancestor Marin de Bacquencourt Des Vœux settled in Portarlington, Ireland, in the early 18th century, having come from Picardy in northern France. Des Vœux attended a public school in London before starting his studies at Charterhouse School and Balliol College, Oxford, but left without a degree in 1856 after his father gave him the choice of finishing his degree and become a clergyman or seeking his fortune in the colonies. Des Vœux then moved to Canada, where he finished his BA at the University of Toronto and became a barrister in Upper Canada in 1861.
Des Vœux became stipendiary magistrate and superintendent of rivers and creeks in British Guiana from 1863 to 1869, where he championed native causes. He reorganised and codified old French system of law when he was the Administrator and Colonial Secretary of St. Lucia between 1869 and 1880. Afterwards, Des Vœux was appointed Governor of Fiji and High Commissioner Western Pacific from 1880 to 1885. He was appointed Governor of Newfoundland from 1886–1887.
Based on his experience in British Guiana where he witnessed many instances of cruel and unjust treatment of indentured servants by plantation owners and managers, des Vœux wrote a 10,000-word report in 1869 to Lord Granville, the Secretary of State for the Colonies in which he detailed many abuses. When the contents of the report were published, there was a great outcry and a commission of inquiry was appointed, the Commission of Inquiry into the Treatment of Immigrants. Des Vœux gave testimony before the commission in Georgetown and its report led to many improvements in the workers' treatment.
Governor of Hong Kong
In 1887, Des Vœux was appointed as the tenth Governor of Hong Kong, a position he held until 1891. This would be the last post Des Vœux would hold in the Colonial Services. During his tenure, in 1888, the Peak Tram began operation, providing relatively affordable transportation for people living on The Peak, an area he segregated, together with effectively all the elevated areas of Hong Kong Island, from crowded Chinese-style tenements by the enactment, in November of that year, of the European District Reservation Ordinance. A year before he left office, the newly established Hong Kong Electric Company began providing electricity to Hong Kong Island.
After Des Vœux's time as Governor of Hong Kong ended, he entered retirement. He was created a Knight Grand Cross of the Order of St Michael and St George in 1893. In 1903, he published his memoirs called My colonial service in British Guiana, St. Lucia, Trinidad, Fiji, Australia, Newfoundland and Hong Kong, with interludes.
Des Vœux married Marion Denison Pender (1856–1955), daughter of John Pender, in 1875. They had five sons and three daughters, with three sons deceased. Des Vœux died in London on 15 December 1909.
- Companion of the Order of St Michael and St George, 1877
- Knight Commander of the Order of St Michael and St George, 1883
- Knight Grand Cross of the Order of St Michael and St George, 1893
- Mennell, Philip (1892). " Des Vœux, Sir George William". The Dictionary of Australasian Biography. London: Hutchinson & Co. Wikisource
- "Sir George William Des Voeux, 1886–1887: Government House". Memorial University of Newfoundland. Retrieved 30 December 2009.
- "Des Vœux, Sir George William". Dictionary of Canadian Biography. Retrieved 26 August 2012.
- Shiona M Airlie, Dictionary of Hong Kong Biography, 2012, p. 123
- Thurn, Everard im (1912). "Des Vœux, William". In Lee, Sidney. Dictionary of National Biography, 1912 supplement. London: Smith, Elder & Co.
- Stephanie Williams, Running the Show: The Extraordinary Stories of the Men who Governed the British Empire, Viking 2011, ISBN 978-0670918041.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to William Des Vœux.|
|Wikisource has original works written by or about:|
William Des Vœux
- Des Voeux, George William (1903). My Colonial Service in British Guiana, St. Lucia, Trinidad, Fiji, Australia, Newfoundland, and Hong Kong with Interludes. Vol. 1 / Vol. 2. London: John Murray.
James Mayer Grant
| Administrator of Saint Lucia
Arthur Elibank Havelock
Sir Arthur Hamilton Gordon
| Governor of Fiji
Sir Charles Bullen Hugh Mitchell
| High Commissioner for the Western Pacific|
Sir John Hawley Glover
| Governor of Newfoundland
Sir Henry Arthur Blake
Major-General William Cameron, Acting Administrator
| Governor of Hong Kong
Major-General Digby Barker, Acting Administrator