This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 11, (MUP), 1988
Sir Francis Alexander Newdigate Newdegate (1862-1936), governor, was born on 31 December 1862 at Chelsea, London, only son of Lieutenant-Colonel Francis William Newdigate and his first wife Charlotte Elizabeth Agnes Sophia, née Woodford. He took the surname of Newdegate in 1902 in the terms of his uncle's will. Educated at Eton and at Leipzig and Hanover, Germany, then the Royal Military College, Sandhurst, he was commissioned in the Grenadier Guards in 1883 and travelled in India and the colonies, including Australia, in 1885-87. On 13 October 1888, in St Paul's Church, Knightsbridge, London, he married the Hon. Elizabeth Sophia Lucia Bagot.
A Conservative member of the House of Commons for Nuneaton in 1892-1906, and Tamworth in 1909-17, Newdegate was appointed K.C.M.G. in 1917 and G.C.M.G. in 1925. He became governor of Tasmania on 30 March 1917. He found Tasmanians parochial, but soon identified with them and enjoyed a successful and politically uneventful term of office. He and his wife supported service organizations' war work.
In February 1920 he arrived in Western Australia to succeed Sir William Grey Ellison Macartney as governor. Until he was sworn in on 9 April, Newdegate was in the unusual position of acting as administrator under the lieutenant-governor, Sir Edward Stone. Newdegate's term as governor was again calm. He travelled widely and supported the group settlement scheme initiated by Premier Sir James Mitchell. Newdegate launched the North-West air mail service, being a passenger on its first flight. He welcomed the Prince of Wales on his visit in 1920 and published an enthusiastic paper on Western Australia's potential in the Empire Review (London) in 1925. From 1921 Newdegate had been honorary colonel of the 11th Battalion, Australian Imperial Force.
A keen sportsman and art collector, he was respected, and worked well with various premiers. In 1921 he reacted rashly to Archbishop Clune's speeches about 'British tyranny' in Ireland. Newdegate feared Clune's influence with Roman Catholics; he sent a secret cipher telegram, which he had shown to the premier, to the secretary of state for the colonies, alleging that Clune had been 'traducing the British Government', and suggesting that the Pope be induced to detain him in Rome or that he be prevented from landing in Perth. The secretary of state thought that Newdegate had gone 'somewhat out of his way', and advised him that it was a Commonwealth matter.
On 16 June 1924 Newdegate left Western Australia for home and his estates. Survived by his wife and two daughters, he died on 2 January 1936 at Arbury Hall, Nuneaton, Warwickshire. In World War I there had been an Australian hospital at Harefield Park, Uxbridge, owned by Newdegate. He had paid for the cost of burying soldiers in the village churchyard, gave additional land as it was required, and erected a memorial obelisk in the Australian plot. He was buried there himself. The town of Newdegate in south-west Western Australia commemorates him.
C. Coggin and T. Reynolds, 'Newdegate, Sir Francis Alexander Newdigate (1862–1936)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/newdegate-sir-francis-alexander-newdigate-7824/text13581, published in hardcopy 1988, accessed online 1 October 2014.
This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 11, (MUP), 1988