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Elizabeth Henrietta Macquarie (1778–1835)

by Marjorie Barnard

This article was published:

Elizabeth Henrietta Macquarie (1778-1835), by unknown artist

Elizabeth Henrietta Macquarie (1778-1835), by unknown artist

State Library of New South Wales, Original : MIN 237

Elizabeth Henrietta Macquarie (1778-1835), was the youngest daughter of John Campbell of Airds, Scotland, and a relative of the earl of Breadalbane. Her sister married Maclaine of Lochbuy, a relation of the Macquaries.

Elizabeth's early life was probably like that of any other gently born Scotswoman without fortune. She grew up at Appin on her brother's estate. At 26 she met her distant cousin Colonel Lachlan Macquarie at the deathbed of Lochbuy. It was their first meeting as Macquarie had been seventeen years on military service in India. He was immediately attracted to his young kinswoman, who showed herself so helpful in trouble and had impeccable taste in gardens. The acquaintance ripened when he drove Elizabeth and Lochbuy's two sons to Edinburgh, a journey not without hardship. She would make, he told his diary, an admirable soldier's wife. Macquarie proposed to Elizabeth at her aunt's house in London in March 1805, making it clear to her that they could not marry until after his next tour of duty in India, probably in four years time, as he had made a solemn vow on the death of his first wife never to marry again in India or to take a wife to that country. Elizabeth accepted him and his conditions with 'notable candour'. Being posted to the command of the 73rd Regiment stationed in Perth, Macquarie returned much sooner than expected. The marriage took place at Holsworthy in Devon on 3 November 1807. The bride was 29, the groom 46. In September 1808 their first child, a daughter named Jane Jarvis after the first Mrs Macquarie, was born, but she died in December. In 1809 Macquarie was appointed governor of New South Wales. His wife accompanied him to the colony, although shortly before their departure she had a serious illness. She has left a vivacious journal of the seven months voyage.

They landed in Sydney on 31 December 1809. At Government House Elizabeth needed all her tact and sincerity. The colony was torn by factions and her husband's policy, especially with regard to emancipists, was controversial. Throughout she supported him loyally. She took a kindly interest in the welfare of women convicts and of the Aboriginals. She was intelligently interested in gardening and agriculture. With Elizabeth Macarthur she is said to have pioneered hay-making in the colony. She had brought from England a collection of books on architecture which were useful to her husband and his architect, Francis Greenway. She also planned the road running round the inside of the Government Domain to the point which, like the road, was named after her.

Elizabeth accompanied her husband on several arduous journeys. In 1811 they went to Van Diemen's Land whither on the journey she showed herself, in her husband's words, 'a most excellent brave sailor'. In 1815 she journeyed by coach with him over the newly-crossed Blue Mountains. In 1818 she accompanied him to the Hunter River by sea in a brig named after her, Elizabeth Henrietta. Her second child, a boy named Lachlan, was born on 28 March 1814 to his parents' great joy.

Macquarie resigned his governorship in 1820. After his successor, Governor Sir Thomas Brisbane, arrived on 7 November 1821 and assumed office on 1 December, the Macquaries paid farewell visits to many of their friends and made a final tour of the Illawarra in January 1822. They sailed for England on 15 February in the Surry.

The Macquaries now made their home at Jarvisfield, Macquarie's estate on Mull, which they reached in November 1823. The house had not been lived in for years and was poor, inadequate and far from weatherproof. Mrs Macquarie with her usual energy planned and supervised additions and repairs, but her husband was depressed and in poor health and when in 1824 he journeyed to London to finalize his colonial accounts she was overcome with foreboding. This was not groundless. She soon received a message that he was ill. Taking Lachlan, she hastened to London and was with him when he died on 1 July 1824. In a moving letter to her Australian friends Elizabeth recounted all the circumstances of his last days. This letter might serve as a portrait of a devoted wife.

The widow lived on at Jarvisfield. The government paid her a pension of £400 which at first she refused but was later persuaded by her friends to accept. She died on 11 March 1835. In 1836 she was posthumously granted 2000 acres (809 ha) in New South Wales. Like his father, Lachlan had entered the army, and served in the Scots Greys. He married Isabella Hamilton Dundas, third daughter of Colin Campbell of Fura, but was childless. Described as a 'dissolute drunkard', he died on 7 May 1845 as the result of a fall downstairs at Craignish Castle. A portrait of him dated 1823 in the collection of Mr E. A. Crome is on loan in the Mitchell Library, Sydney.

Select Bibliography

  • M. Barnard, Macquarie's World (Syd, 1941)
  • M. H. Ellis, Lachlan Macquarie (Syd, 1952)
  • E. Macquarie, ‘Letter’, Journal of the Royal Australian Historical Society, 16 (1930).

Citation details

Marjorie Barnard, 'Macquarie, Elizabeth Henrietta (1778–1835)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1967, accessed online 18 July 2024.

This article was published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 2, (Melbourne University Press), 1967

View the front pages for Volume 2

© Copyright Australian Dictionary of Biography, 2006-2024

Elizabeth Henrietta Macquarie (1778-1835), by unknown artist

Elizabeth Henrietta Macquarie (1778-1835), by unknown artist

State Library of New South Wales, Original : MIN 237

Life Summary [details]

Alternative Names
  • Campbell, Elizabeth Henrietta



11 March, 1835 (aged ~ 57)

Cultural Heritage

Includes subject's nationality; their parents' nationality; the countries in which they spent a significant part of their childhood, and their self-identity.