Australian Dictionary of Biography

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Jersey, seventh Earl of (1845–1915)

by Chris Cunneen

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

seventh Earl of Jersey (1845-1915), by H. Newman, 1891-93

seventh Earl of Jersey (1845-1915), by H. Newman, 1891-93

National Library of Australia, nla.pic-an23312162

Sir Victor Albert George Child-Villiers, 7th Earl of Jersey (1845-1915), governor, was born on 20 March 1845 at Berkeley Square, London, eldest son of George Augustus Frederick Villiers, 6th Earl, and his wife Julia, eldest daughter of Prime Minister Sir Robert Peel. An Eton schoolboy when in 1859 he succeeded to the earldom and great landholdings of about 20,000 acres (8094 ha), he matriculated at Balliol College, Oxford, in April 1864. Prodigality in his minority led to racing debts and he abandoned the turf. On 19 September 1872 at Marylebone he married Margaret Elizabeth, daughter of William Henry, 2nd Baron Leigh of Stoneleigh. A Conservative, Jersey was lord-in-waiting to the Queen in 1875-77 and paymaster-general in 1889-90. Selected as governor of New South Wales in July 1890, he was appointed G.C.M.G. He arrived in Sydney on 15 January 1891, reputedly bringing 'a large supply of drinking water' and 'a number of bathtubs'. His wife, delayed by a bout of typhoid fever, arrived in March.

The Argus reported that Jersey had a 'commanding presence, standing fully 6 ft. [183 cm] tall'; but to a Bulletin correspondent he was 'small and somewhat baggy'. His nose was large and aquiline, he had mutton-chop whiskers and red hair which he combed 'cranewise over his globe-shaped cerebrum'. Sir Henry Parkes found the new governor 'amiable and well-intentioned', but 'very much occupied with his own family'. Jersey 'did not excel as a public speaker', unlike his wife. A supporter of Federation, he was official host at the 1891 Australasian National Convention in Sydney. No major political difficulty disturbed his term.

To the vexation of the Colonial Office, Jersey prematurely tendered his resignation in November 1892 on the grounds of pressing business affairs. He wrote to the secretary of state: 'the duties and responsibilities of a governor can hardly be called serious nowadays being chiefly of a social character'. Lord Salisbury believed Jersey had found that there was 'less individual power to his office than he imagined'. Jersey left Sydney on 2 March 1893.

Next year he represented the United Kingdom at the colonial economic conference in Ottawa. He was appointed G.C.B. in 1900. In 1903-05 he acted as New South Wales agent-general in London: his close connexion with banking institutions (he was principal proprietor of Child's Bank) helped the State's loan negotiations. He revisited Australia in 1905. Deakin contemplated appointing Jersey first Australian high commissioner in London. An active Freemason, he was senior grand warden of England and provincial grand master of Oxfordshire.

Invalided by a stroke in 1909, Jersey died at his beautiful home, Osterley Park, Middlesex, on 31 May 1915, survived by his wife, two sons and three daughters. Lady Jersey, founding president (1901-14) of the Victoria League, an opponent of women's suffrage, and author of travel articles, children's plays, verse and Fifty-One Years of Victorian Life (1922), was appointed D.B.E. in 1927. She died at Middleton Park, Oxfordshire, on 22 May 1945, aged 95.

Select Bibliography

  • Dictionary of National Biography, 1912-21 and 1941-50
  • V. Powell, Margaret: Countess of Jersey (Lond, 1978)
  • A. W. Martin, Henry Parkes (Melb, 1980)
  • Argus (Melbourne), 28 July 1890
  • Bulletin, 27 Sept 1890, 17, 24 Jan, 14 Feb 1891
  • Times (London), 1 June 1915
  • Sydney Morning Herald, 2 June 1915
  • Hopetoun House MSS (AJCP, National Library of Australia)
  • Ripon papers (British Library).

Citation details

Chris Cunneen, 'Jersey, seventh Earl of (1845–1915)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/jersey-seventh-earl-of-6844/text11853, published in hardcopy 1983, accessed online 21 October 2014.

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

© Copyright Australian Dictionary of Biography, 2006-2014

seventh Earl of Jersey (1845-1915), by H. Newman, 1891-93

seventh Earl of Jersey (1845-1915), by H. Newman, 1891-93

National Library of Australia, nla.pic-an23312162

Life Summary [details]

Alternative Names
  • Villiers, Victor Albert George Child-
Birth

20 March 1845
London, England

Death

31 May 1915
London, England

Cultural Heritage
Occupation