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Sir Henry Wylie Norman (1826–1904)

by Paul D. Wilson

This article was published:

Sir Henry Wylie Norman (1826-1904), soldier, governor and agent-general, was born on 2 December 1826 in London, eldest son of James Norman, merchant, and his wife Charlotte, née Wylie. While his parents lived in Cuba and India, Henry was indifferently educated at three private schools under the supervision of his maternal grandparents.

Accompanying his mother to Calcutta in 1842, Norman joined the 1st (1844) then the 31st (1845) Bengal Native Infantry and rose in military rank while fighting in the Sikh wars, on the north-west frontier and against the Santal rebellion. His regiment remained loyal during the 1857 mutiny. Norman served with the Delhi Field Force and in the Cawnpore and Lucknow reliefs, being wounded and frequently mentioned in general orders and dispatches.

Returning to England in 1859, he won rapid promotion. In 1861 he returned to India as first military secretary to the governor-general, with special responsibility for army reorganization. He was aide-de-camp to the Queen in 1863-69. Promoted major general in 1869, he was a member of the Governor-General's Council until 1877 and of the Council of India in 1878-83.

A general from 1882, Sir Henry Norman succeeded Sir Anthony Musgrave as governor of Jamaica in December 1883, supervised a difficult period of constitutional change, then accepted the governorship of Queensland on 12 November 1888 when Sir Henry Blake's nomination proved unacceptable there. He arrived in Brisbane on 1 May 1889 to a magnificent welcome. Quickly perceiving the fragility of the colonial economy, Norman reported in late December 1892 that 'the solvency of Queensland depends on the solvency of the [Queensland National] Bank'. He travelled extensively, assessing separation moves by central and northern Queenslanders, and doubted the practicality and likelihood of Australian federation, commenting that 'no class of person seem to have a real interest one way or another'. Public-spirited and a strong supporter of colonial rights, Norman, unlike Musgrave, was generally liked and respected. However, Lee-Warner's claim that 'he changed the direction of a stormy wind of discontent into one of strong affection for himself and of good will towards his Sovereign' is much exaggerated. Declining the post of viceroy of India in September 1893, Norman left Queensland on 14 November 1895 for London where he acted for a year as agent-general for the colony. In 1902 he was promoted field marshal.

He had been appointed C.B. (1859), K.C.B. (1873), G.C.M.G. and G.C.B. (1887). At Peshawar on 14 April 1853 Norman had married Selina Eliza Davidson (d.1862), by whom he had three daughters. He married a widow Jemima Anne Temple, née Knowles, in September 1864, but she died next year. On 1 March 1870 he married Alice Claudine Sandys, who survived him with two sons and one daughter when he died at the Royal Hospital, Chelsea, London, on 26 October 1904. He was buried in Brompton cemetery with military honours. Tablets to his memory were placed in Delhi, at Chelsea and in St Paul's Cathedral, London.

Select Bibliography

  • W. Lee-Warner, Memoirs of Field Marshal Sir Henry Wylie Norman (Lond, 1908)
  • Dictionary of National Biography, supp 1901-11
  • Australian Journal of Politics and History, 6, no 2, Nov 1960, p 176
  • Queenslander, 8 Dec 1888
  • Brisbane Courier, 2 May 1889
  • Times (London), 27 Oct 1904
  • Governor's secret despatches to Secretary of State for the Colonies, GOV/37-38 (Queensland State Archives).

Citation details

Paul D. Wilson, 'Norman, Sir Henry Wylie (1826–1904)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1988, accessed online 24 June 2024.

This article was published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 11, (Melbourne University Press), 1988

View the front pages for Volume 11

© Copyright Australian Dictionary of Biography, 2006-2024

Life Summary [details]


2 December, 1826
London, Middlesex, England


26 October, 1904 (aged 77)
London, Middlesex, England

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