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Australian Dictionary of Biography

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Havelock, Sir Arthur Elibank (1844–1908)

by George B. Cartland

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 9, (MUP), 1983

Arthur Elibank Havelock (1844-1908), by Beatties Studios

Arthur Elibank Havelock (1844-1908), by Beatties Studios

La Trobe Picture Collection, State Library of Victoria, H22623

Sir Arthur Elibank Havelock (1844-1908), governor, was born on 7 May 1844 at Bath, Somerset, England, third son of Lieutenant-Colonel William Havelock of the 14th Light Dragoons and his wife Caroline Elizabeth, née Chaplin. Arthur was a nephew of Major General Sir Henry Havelock. He was educated at private schools in India and England and in 1860 entered the Royal Military Academy, Sandhurst. He was gazetted ensign in the 32nd Cornwall Light Infantry on 14 January 1862, was promoted lieutenant in 1866 and served as aide-de-camp to the governor of Mauritius in 1873. In 1874-75 he acted as chief civil commissioner of the Seychelles, later becoming colonial secretary and receiver-general of Fiji.

Havelock returned to England in 1876, retired from the army in March 1877 with the rank of captain and joined the colonial service. After two years in the West Indies he returned to the Seychelles as chief civil commissioner and was appointed C.M.G. in 1880. In 1881 he became governor of the West African settlements and consul-general in Liberia where he was engaged in the settlement of the colonial boundaries. Appointed governor of Trinidad and promoted K.C.M.G. in 1884, he became governor of Natal and Zululand in 1885. He returned to Europe in 1889 to join the international anti-slavery commission, was appointed governor of Ceylon the following year and in 1895 governor of Madras. He was promoted G.C.M.G. in 1895, G.C.I.E. in 1896 and G.C.S.I. in 1901 when he left Madras. Because of ill health he refused the governorships of the Straits Settlements and Victoria, but later accepted appointment as governor of Tasmania.

Sir Arthur arrived in Tasmania on 8 November 1901, but did not complete his term. He notified the premier, W. B. Propsting, on 6 January 1904 of his decision to retire and left the State on 16 April. He returned to England and settled at Torquay, Devon. He died at Bath on 25 June 1908, six months after the death of his wife Anne Grace, née Norris, whom he had married on 15 August 1871 at Kensington, London. He was survived by a daughter.

Havelock spent nearly thirty years in a variety of colonial posts and appears to have been a devoted and hard-working administrator. He demonstrated tact, firmness and a measure of diplomatic skill in the Liberian boundary situation. He also showed a humane feeling for the populations under his care, particularly in Ceylon, where he abolished the 'paddy' or rice tax, and again in Madras where his firm but sympathetic handling of affairs earned him high regard. But his years of executive responsibility in tropical climates undermined his health. This legacy cut short his service in Tasmania to a bare two and a half years and also probably accounts for the fact that he seems not to have made any significant mark as a constitutional governor there.

Select Bibliography

  • Dictionary of National Biography, 1901-1911
  • Cyclopedia of Tasmania (Hob, 1931)
  • Times (London), 26 June 1908.

Citation details

George B. Cartland, 'Havelock, Sir Arthur Elibank (1844–1908)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1983, accessed online 22 October 2020.

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 9, (MUP), 1983

View the front pages for Volume 9

© Copyright Australian Dictionary of Biography, 2006-2020

Arthur Elibank Havelock (1844-1908), by Beatties Studios

Arthur Elibank Havelock (1844-1908), by Beatties Studios

La Trobe Picture Collection, State Library of Victoria, H22623