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fifth Baron Huntingfield (1883–1969)

by Paul H. De Serville

This article was published:

Lord Huntingfield, by Broothorn Studios, 1938

Lord Huntingfield, by Broothorn Studios, 1938

National Library of Australia, 23458782

fifth Baron Huntingfield (1883-1969), governor, was born on 3 January 1883 at Lake Clarendon station, Gatton, Queensland, eldest son of William Arcedeckne Vanneck, grazier, from Suffolk, England, and his Queensland-born wife Mary, née Armstrong. Educated at The Downs School, Toowoomba, and in 1898-1900 at Wellington College, Berkshire, Vanneck joined the 13th Hussars, stationed in India, in 1906. On 21 December 1912 at St George's Church, London, he married Margaret Eleanor, daughter of Judge Ernest Crosby of New York. Invalided home to England from India in 1914, he spent the war years with a reserve regiment at Aldershot, Hampshire, resigning from the army in 1921 with the rank of captain.

In 1915 Vanneck succeeded his uncle as Baron Huntingfield, an Irish title. He was elected to the House of Commons in 1923 as Conservative member for the Eye Division, East Suffolk. Parliamentary private secretary to the under secretary of state for the Home Department (1926-27) and to the president of the Board of Trade (1927-28), Huntingfield did not stand at the 1929 election because of ill health.

Following the departure of Lord Somers in 1931, the vice-regal post had been left vacant in Victoria because of the Depression, the chief justice, Sir William Irvine having discharged the duties of lieutenant-governor. With the centenary of settlement approaching in 1934, the Argyle ministry decided to secure a British governor who could afford to preside over the celebrations. The Labor Party preferred a native-born candidate, and even some United Australia Party and Country Party supporters considered the prospective appointment an untimely luxury. Loyalists were delighted. When Huntingfield's appointment was announced in December 1933, much was made of his Australian childhood: he was the first native-born State governor.

A good shot and sportsman, fluent in French and German, articulate, worldly and agreeable in personality, Huntingfield was a suitable choice for a State devastated by the Depression, perplexed by events in Europe and Asia and provincial in outlook. He arrived in Melbourne in May 1934 accompanied by his wife and younger children.

Centennial celebrations and the visit of the Duke of Gloucester in October-December initially concealed disharmonies which surfaced in March 1935 with the fall of the Argyle ministry. Huntingfield's delay in commissioning the Country Party leader Albert Dunstan to form a minority government was criticized by Labor. However Huntingfield and his wife carried out their duties with a disarming mixture of dignity and friendliness. Thomas Tunnecliffe, an erstwhile critic, conceded Huntingfield would have made 'an excellent democratic politician'.

His interest in agricultural, industrial and technical matters was balanced by his wife's work for women and children. In the old vice-regal tradition, they made extensive tours of towns and shires. Lady Huntingfield's social work was later acknowledged by the establishment of a scholarship in her name at the University of Melbourne. As war threatened Huntingfield advocated national and Imperial unity, drew attention to freedoms taken for granted and involved himself in the Royal Australian Air Force. During the absence of Lord Gowrie, he acted as governor-general for six months in 1938. At the expiry of his term in March 1939 Huntingfield returned to England having done much 'to promote affectionate good feeling in uniting England and Australia'. He was the last British peer to act as governor of the State.

Appointed governor of Southern Rhodesia in 1941, Huntingfield did not proceed because of ill health. His wife died in 1943 and on 24 May 1944 at St Faith's Chapel, Westminster Abbey, he married Muriel Mary Georgiana Newton, née Duke, widow of the 1st Baron Eltisley. She died in 1953. Huntingfield died on 20 November 1969 at Hove, Sussex, survived by two daughters and two sons, the elder of whom, Gerard Charles Arcedeckne, succeeded to the barony.

Select Bibliography

  • A. A. Calwell, Be Just and Fear Not (Melb, 1972)
  • Argus (Melbourne), 30, 31 May, 1, 3, 5 June, 12, 19, 27 July, 17 Nov 1933, 15, 29, 30 Mar, 1, 2 Apr 1935, 17 Mar 1938
  • Herald (Melbourne), 23 Jan 1934
  • Age (Melbourne), 15, 29, 30 Mar, 1, 2, Apr 1935
  • Times (London), 9 Oct 1941, 6 Jan 1942, 21 Nov 1969
  • biography newclippings file (National Library of Australia).

Citation details

Paul H. De Serville, 'Huntingfield, fifth Baron (1883–1969)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1983, accessed online 17 June 2024.

This article was published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 9, (Melbourne University Press), 1983

View the front pages for Volume 9

© Copyright Australian Dictionary of Biography, 2006-2024

Lord Huntingfield, by Broothorn Studios, 1938

Lord Huntingfield, by Broothorn Studios, 1938

National Library of Australia, 23458782

Life Summary [details]

Alternative Names
  • Vanneck, William Charles Arcedeckne

3 January, 1883
Gatton, Queensland, Australia


20 November, 1969 (aged 86)
Hove, Sussex, England

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