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second Marquess of Normanby (1819–1890)

by G. C. Bolton

This article was published:

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second Marquess of Normanby, n.d.

second Marquess of Normanby, n.d.

State Library of Queensland, 195315

George Augustus Constantine Phipps, 2nd Marquess of Normanby (1819-1890), governor, was born on 23 July 1819 in London, only son of the 1st Marquess of Normanby and his wife Maria Lydell, daughter of Lord Ravensworth. Styled Earl of Mulgrave he served in the Scots Fusilier Guards in 1838-46, represented Scarborough in 1847-50 and 1852-57 in parliament, was comptroller in 1851-52 and treasurer in 1853-58 of the Queen's household, and lieutenant-governor of Nova Scotia in 1858 until succeeding as marquess in 1863. He had been a privy councillor from 1851, and was appointed G.C.M.G. in 1877 and G.C.B. in 1885. In Yorkshire on 17 August 1844 he had married Laura (d.1885), daughter of Captain Robert Russell, R.N.; they had four sons and three daughters.

Normanby was governor of Queensland in 1871-74, New Zealand in 1874-78 and Victoria in 1879-84. Despite his origins he saw himself as a career governor, possibly as his Yorkshire estates brought him no more than £7000 a year. In the colonies he was described as safe and sagacious, a moderate conservative who could be trusted to take the sting out of awkward situations and to blunt the energies of thrusting demagogues. His term in Queensland coincided mainly with A. H. Palmer's premiership which ended with narrow majorities but produced no major constitutional crises. Prosperity was returning and exploration renewed. The governor travelled widely and his titles were duly honoured in the naming of the Normanby and Mulgrave Rivers, electoral districts and various streets.

On transfer to Victoria in February 1879, Normanby found Graham Berry in power and the conservatives incensed at the preceding governor, Bowen, for allegedly favouring Berry in the controversy over the Legislative Council's powers. In 1880 Normanby granted dissolutions to Berry and his opponent Service, but neither election returned the outgoing ministry or brought political stability. Irritated at Berry's tactics in overthrowing the Service ministry in June, Normanby refused to authorize a third election after Berry requested it in 1881. Instead the O'Loghlen ministry was commissioned and survived until granted a dissolution in 1883 when it was ousted by the Service-Berry coalition. In all these manoeuvres Normanby was an experienced interpreter of current constitutional practice and kept the Colonial Office's approval although his impartiality tended to bear harder on reformers than on conservatives.

Normanby was a 'whip' of no common order: at full gallop he habitually drove his coach through the back gate of Government House with only an inch or so to spare. He rarely missed an important race meeting. He also enjoyed the hospitality of such pastoralists as Sir Samuel Wilson and W. J. Clarke whose baronetcy he recommended, but some called his own public entertaining 'plain and unassuming' while H. G. Turner wrote of his 'frigid parsimony'. Other landmarks of his governorship included the opening of the Melbourne International Exhibition in 1880 and the signing of Ned Kelly's death warrant.

His wife suffered from a heart disease and in January 1884 Normanby announced his resignation on the ground of her ill health and his own. In April they left for London where she died on 26 January 1885. 'Entirely altered', he visited Australia in 1887-88 and then settled at Brighton, Sussex. He died on 3 April 1890 and was buried in Yorkshire. Descendants of his third son live in Queensland.

Select Bibliography

  • H. G. Turner, A History of the Colony of Victoria, vol 2 (Lond, 1904)
  • J. Rutherford, Sir George Grey (Lond, 1961)
  • Graphic, 29 July 1871
  • Australasian Sketcher, 18 Jan 1879
  • Illustrated Australian News, 21 Mar 1879, 16 Apr 1880
  • Imperial Review (Melbourne), June 1880
  • Australasian, 19 Jan 1884, 31 Jan 1885
  • Argus (Melbourne), 5 Apr 1890.

Citation details

G. C. Bolton, 'Normanby, second Marquess of (1819–1890)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1974, accessed online 14 July 2024.

This article was published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 5, (Melbourne University Press), 1974

View the front pages for Volume 5

© Copyright Australian Dictionary of Biography, 2006-2024

second Marquess of Normanby, n.d.

second Marquess of Normanby, n.d.

State Library of Queensland, 195315

Life Summary [details]

Alternative Names
  • Phipps, George Augustus
  • Mulgrave, Earl of

23 July, 1819
London, Middlesex, England


3 April, 1890 (aged 70)

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.