Australian Dictionary of Biography

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Carrington, Charles Robert (1843–1928)

by A. W. Martin

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 3, (MUP), 1969

Charles Robert Carrington (1843-1928), by unknown photographer, 1880-90

Charles Robert Carrington (1843-1928), by unknown photographer, 1880-90

Wollongong City Library and the Illawarra Historical Society, P03\P03997

Charles Robert Carrington (1843-1928), governor, was born on 16 May 1843 at Whitehall, Middlesex, England, son and heir of Robert John Smith, second Baron Carrington, and his second wife Charlotte Augusta Annabella, daughter of Peter Robert, Lord Willoughby D'Eresby. He was educated at Eton and Trinity College, Cambridge (B.A., 1864). He was Liberal member for High Wycombe in 1865-68, joined the Royal Horse Guards and became a captain in 1869 and was aide-de-camp to the Prince of Wales on a visit to India in 1875-76. In 1881 he became lieutenant-colonel of the Royal Buckinghamshire Infantry, and was a captain of the Gentlemen-at-Arms in 1881-85. On 17 May 1868 he succeeded his father as third Baron Carrington. On 15 July 1878 at the Chapel Royal, Whitehall, before 'no less than ten members of the Royal family' he married Cecilia Margaret, first daughter of Charles Harbord, fifth Baron Suffield, and his wife Cecilia Annetta, née Baring.

In 1885 Carrington was appointed governor of New South Wales where his term was to span much change and trouble. He arrived in Sydney on 11 December to find the colony in the grip of drought, economic recession and political crisis; he left in 1890 after the maritime strike had opened a phase of new industrial conflict. Throughout, Carrington proved an able and tactful governor. Privately his opinion of colonial politics was low: 'its factions, its personal changes, its waste of time and opportunity … are but humble imitations of the proceedings of London statesmen', but he betrayed this attitude only occasionally in his dispatches and never in his public utterances. He had a clear sense of the conventions which limited the role of the Queen's representative. Though somewhat impatient about attitudes to Chinese immigration and naval defence he refrained from interference and faithfully conveyed local opinion to England. But he firmly exercised those powers which he indisputably held: the granting of dissolutions of parliament and the approval of appointments to the Legislative Council. He could act subtly in more ambiguous areas: he quietly convinced Sir Henry Parkes in 1887 of the folly of seeking to change the colony's name to Australia; in 1890 after the Riot Act was read during the maritime strike, he nipped a serious political crisis in the bud by firmly persuading quarrelsome ministers to compose their differences. He developed an affectionate regard for Parkes, whose determination in 1889 to promote Federation arose largely from their conversations. Carrington's diplomatic work through the governors in Victoria and South Australia was crucial in paving the way for the Federation Conference of 1890.

The Carringtons fulfilled their social role with warmth and generosity. Government House 'at homes' became noted for their size, frequency and 'representative character', and for the 'polite and unaffected reception' with which the vice-regal couple charmed their guests. In the 1887 celebrations of Queen Victoria's jubilee, they banquetted a thousand poor boys of Sydney, who received medals struck for the occasion and were modestly told by Carrington of his own family's humble origins in eighteenth-century trade. Lady Carrington also established the Jubilee Fund to relieve distressed women and her management of it surprised contemporaries by 'a business capacity with which women are rarely credited'. For the 1888 centennial celebrations the governors of Fiji, New Zealand and all the Australian colonies were guests at Government House; Carrington dedicated Centennial Park, laid the foundation stones of the Trades Hall and of projected new Houses of Parliament, led a thanksgiving rally in the Exhibition Building and presided at a lavish state banquet. His wife also attended an entertainment for '2000 sailors of all nations'. In 1890 he declined the customary farewell gifts in terms so tactful that the Colonial Office confidentially sent copies of the relevant correspondence to all colonial governors as an object lesson. Sydney gave the couple an unprecedented farewell, with thousands lining the streets and showering flowers on their carriage. In a parting speech Carrington declared they were 'guests who found their welcome at once an adoption, and whose farewell leaves half their hearts behind'.

In England Carrington's first speeches caused a sensation by his espousal of Australian nationalism rather than imperial federation, and his indictment of the 'old ball and cartridge blunders' by which Tory secretaries of state had offended colonial sensibilities. The attacks had the obvious bias of a Liberal returning to party activity but made good sense, countered the shallow anti-gubernatorial witticisms of the Bulletin, won wide approval and vindicated Carrington's intelligent attachment to New South Wales. As a Progressive he represented West Pancras on the London County Council in 1892-1907 and chaired the Welsh Land Commission in 1893. He served in Campbell-Bannerman's ministry as president of the Board of Agriculture in 1905-11, and was lord privy seal in 1911-12. He was president of the National Liberal Club and in 1896-1921 chairman of its general committee. An active Mason, he had served in Sydney as district grand master in 1888-90 and succeeded in uniting the four separated Grand Lodges.

In 1892-95 Carrington held the appointment of lord chamberlain. He was special envoy to France, Spain and Portugal in 1901 to make formal announcement of King Edward's coronation, and in 1910 under King George V he became lord great chamberlain. He was appointed P.C. in 1881, G.C.M.G. in 1885 and K.G. in 1906, created Earl Carrington and Viscount Wendover in 1895 and in 1896 adopted by licence the name of Wynn-Carrington. He was created marquess of Lincolnshire in 1912 and was lord lieutenant of Buckinghamshire in 1915-23. He died on 13 June 1928 survived by his wife and four of their five daughters; his only son had been killed in World War I. At his death, Carrington owned about 23,000 acres (9308 ha) of tenanted land, chiefly in Buckinghamshire. According to an obituarist in The Times, he had been 'all his life an advanced Liberal, even a Radical, in spite of old-fashioned prejudices … To all with whom he came in contact, gentle and simple alike, he showed the same genial and frank good nature'. His widow was told by a leading Liberal: 'it is no exaggeration to say that he was one of the most loved, respected and trusted men in the party; through thick and thin a devoted supporter'.

Select Bibliography

  • Sir H. Parkes' Federation Scheme: Extracts from Lord Carrington's Diary (Syd, 1889)
  • Speech at the Colston Banquet by Lord Carrington, Delivered at Bristol (Lond, 1891)
  • F. Adams, The Australians (Lond, 1893)
  • B. Nairn, ‘A Note on the Colonial Treasurer's Resignation’, Historical Studies, vol 13, no 49, Oct 1967, pp 94-96
  • G. A. King, ‘A Governor and a Chimney Sweep: Story of a Coat-of-Arms at Paddington’, Australian Genealogist, vol 6, part 3, Feb 1950, pp 33-34
  • ‘The Honourable Lady Carrington’, Sydney Quarterly Magazine, Sept 1890, pp 248-51
  • ‘Lord Carrington on Australia’, Times (London), 27 Jan 1891, p 10
  • ‘Obituary: Lord Lincolnshire’, Times (London), 14 June 1928, p 21.

Related Entries in NCB Sites

Citation details

A. W. Martin, 'Carrington, Charles Robert (1843–1928)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/carrington-charles-robert-3169/text4745, published first in hardcopy 1969, accessed online 26 July 2016.

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 3, (MUP), 1969

© Copyright Australian Dictionary of Biography, 2006-2016

Charles Robert Carrington (1843-1928), by unknown photographer, 1880-90

Charles Robert Carrington (1843-1928), by unknown photographer, 1880-90

Wollongong City Library and the Illawarra Historical Society, P03\P03997

Life Summary [details]

Alternative Names
  • Marquess of Lincolnshire
  • Carrington, Lord
  • Carrington, third Baron
  • Lincolnshire, Marquess of
  • Carrington, Earl
  • Wendover, Viscount
  • Wynn-Carrington, Charles Robert
Birth

16 May 1843
London, Middlesex, England

Death

13 June 1928
England

Cultural Heritage
Occupation