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A Governor-General (in Canada always, and frequently in India prior to the abolition of the last monarchy, Governor General) is most generally a governor of high rank, or a principal governor ranking above "ordinary" governors <ref>"Governor General" definition on (retrieved February 14th, 2006)</ref>. The most common contemporary usage of the term is to refer to the royally-appointed territorial governor of a region, or royal representative in a country. The term is thus sometimes taken to be the same as viceroy or royal governor. Today the term Governor[-]General is most likely to be used in the context of the former British Empire or a former British colony that is now a Commonwealth Realm.


[edit] Current usages

Today the title Governor[-]General is used in the Commonwealth Realms—those Commonwealth countries which share the same monarch, currently Queen Elizabeth II, as the head of state, excluding the United Kingdom.

In its modern usage, the term "Governor[-]General" originated in those British colonies which became self-governing Dominions, as they were at one time styled, of the British Empire; (examples are Australia, Canada and New Zealand). With the exception of New Zealand, each of these federated colonies' previously constituent colonies already had a Governor, and the Crown's representative to the federated "Dominion" was therefore given the superior title Governor-General. New Zealand was granted Dominion status in 1907, but as it never was a federal state there was no pressing need to change the gubernatorial title. Finally on 28 June 1917 the Earl of Liverpool was appointed the first Governor-General of New Zealand. Another non-federal state, Newfoundland, was a dominion for 16 years with the Kings's representative retaining the title of Governor throughout this time.

Since the 1950s, the title Governor[-]General was given to all representatives of the Sovereign in independent Commonwealth Realms. In these cases, the former colonial Governor was promoted (sometimes for the same incumbent) to the title of Governor[-]General upon independence, as the nature of the office became a universal 'constitutional figurehead' position, no longer a symbol of colonial rule.

In these countries the Governor[-]General acts as the Monarch's representative, performing most of the ceremonial and constitutional functions of a Head of state.

[edit] British colonialism and the Governor[-]General

Lord Tweedsmuir was Governor General of Canada from 1935 to 1940. The uniform worn here was the customary ceremonial dress for Commonwealth Governors General until recently.

Until the 1920s, Governors[-]General were British, appointed on the advice of the British Government, acted as agents of the British Government in each Dominion, as well as being representatives of the monarch. As such they notionally held the prerogative powers of the monarch, and also held the executive power of the country to which they were assigned. The Governor-General could be instructed by the Colonial Secretary on the exercise of some of his functions and duties, such as the use or withholding of the Royal Assent from legislation; history shows many examples of governors-general using their prerogative and executive powers. The monarch could overrule a governor[-]general, though this was cumbersome due to the often large distances from London.

The Governor[-]General was also the head of the armed forces in his or her territory.

Because of the Governor[-]General's control of the military in the territory, the post was as much a military appointment as a civil one. Indeed, right up until modern times, the Governor[-]General's official attire was the court dress, Windsor uniform or other military uniform.

In some colonies, the title of the royal representative was never Governor[-]General. The King's representative in New Zealand, for instance, was simply titled Governor (earlier, even Lieutenant-Governor, as in Canadian provinces, still lower in rank) until after the country became a dominion.

[edit] Modern Commonwealth

[edit] In Commonwealth Realms

Following the Imperial Conference, and subsequent issuing of the Balfour Declaration in 1926, the role and responsibilities of the Governor-General began to shift, reflecting the increased independence of the Dominions. As the Sovereign came to be regarded as Monarch of each Realm separately, and advised only by the ministers of each country in regard to said country's national affiars (as opposed to a singular British Monarch over all the Dominions, advised only by the Imperial Parliament), so too did the Governor[-]General become a direct representative of the national monarch only, who no longer answered to the British Government. These concepts were entrenched in legislation with the enactment of the Statute of Westminster in 1931, and governmental relations with the United Kingdom were placed in the hands of a British High commissioner in each country.

Australian Governor-General Sir John Kerr
Kerr controversially dismissed the Australian Prime Minister in 1975.

Today in former colonies which are now Commonwealth realms, the Governor[-]General may exercise almost all the reserve powers of the Monarch. Except in rare cases, the Governor[-]General only acts in accordance with constitutional convention and upon the advice of the national Prime Minister. In particular, see the history of the Governor-General of Australia. The Governor[-]General is still the local representative of the Sovereign as Head of state and performs the same duties as they did historically, though their role is almost purely ceremonial. Rare and controversial exceptions occurred in 1926, when Canadian Governor General Lord Byng refused Prime Minister Mackenzie King's request for a dissolution of parliament, and in 1975, when the Governor-General of Australia, Sir John Kerr, dismissed the Prime Minister, Gough Whitlam.<ref>Letter from the Queen's Private Secretary to the Speaker of the House of Representatives of Australia of 17 November 1975, at The Whitlam Dismissal, retrieved February 15, 2006.</ref>

In principle, the crown could overrule a Governor[-]General, but this has not happened in modern times.

The Governor[-]General is usually a person with a distinguished record of public service, often a retired politician, judge or military commander; but some countries have also appointed prominent figures from sport, academia, the clergy, philanthrophy or the news media to the office. The Governor[-]General is formally appointed by the Monarch, generally following the specific request of the Prime Minister of the country concerned; Papua New Guinea and the Solomon Islands are the only realms that elect their Governors-General in some form: selection by a parliamentary vote.

Traditionally, the Governor[-]General's official attire was the court dress, Windsor uniform or other military uniform, but this practice been abandoned in most jurisdictions in modern times. In South Africa, the Governors-General of the Union nominated by the Afrikaner Nationalist government chose not to wear the uniform. Most Governors[-]General continue to wear ceremonial medals on their clothing during special occasions, however.

The Governor[-]General's official residence is usually called Government House. The Governor-General of the Irish Free State resided in the then Viceregal Lodge in Phoenix Park, Dublin, but the government of Éamon de Valera sought to downgrade the office, and the last Governor-General, Domhnall Ua Buachalla, did not reside there. The office was abolished in 1936.

In most Commonwealth realms, the flag of the Governor[-]General has been the standard pattern of a blue flag with the Royal Crest (lion standing on a crown) above a scroll with the name of the jurisdiction. In Canada, however, this was replaced with a lion (with a crown) clasping a maple leaf. In the Solomon Islands, the scroll is replaced with a two-headed frigate bird motif, while in Fiji, the former Governor-General's flag featured a whale's tooth.

Governors[-]General are accorded the style of His/Her Excellency. This style is also extended to their spouses, whether female or male (for an example of the latter case, see Jean-Daniel Lafond).

In former colonies which are now Commonwealth republics, the Governor[-]General and Monarch have been replaced by an elected (sometimes non-executive) head of state.

[edit] Appointment

Tim Healy
First Governor-General of the Irish Free State

Until the 1920s, the Governors[-]General were British, and appointed on the advice of the British Government.

Following the changes to the structure of the Commonwealth in the late 1920s, in 1929, the Australian Prime Minister James Scullin established the right of a Dominion Prime Minister to advise the Monarch directly on the appointment of a Governor-General, by insisting that his choice (Sir Isaac Isaacs, an Australian) prevail over the recommendation of the British Government. The convention was gradually established throughout the Commonwealth that the Governor[-]General is a citizen of the country concerned, and is appointed on the advice of the government of that country, with no input from the British government. Over the decades since 1931, and as each former Dominion has patriated its constitution from the UK, the convention has become law — no government of any Realm can advise the Monarch on any matters pertaining to another Realm, including the appointment of a governor[-]general; today a country's governor[-]general is appointed by the Sovereign based only on the advice of the prime minister of the country concerned.

[edit] Commonwealth Countries with Governors General

Commonwealth Realm From
Canada 1867 Website
Australia 1901 Website
New Zealand 1917 Website
Jamaica 1962 Website
Barbados 1966 Website
Bahamas 1973 Website
Grenada 1974
Papua New Guinea 1975
Solomon Islands 1978
Tuvalu 1978
Saint Lucia 1979 Website
Saint Vincent and the Grenadines 1979
Antigua and Barbuda 1981
Belize 1981
Saint Kitts and Nevis 1983
Clicking on the country above will take you the relevant Governor-General article.

[edit] Other attributes

Different realms have different constitutional arrangements governing who acts in place of the Governor-General following his or her death, resignation, or incapacity.

  • In Australia, the government of the day nominates a person as "Administrator of the Commonwealth" to perform the necessary official functions, pending a decision and consultation with the Sovereign about a permanent replacement as Governor-General. By convention, the Administrator has usually been the senior Governor of the Australian states, but there is nothing to prevent a different person from being appointed.
  • Many Caribbean countries have a specific office of "Deputy Governor-General".

[edit] Former British colonies

The title has been used in many British colonial entities that either no longer exist or are now independent countries.

[edit] In the Americas

  • The Federation of the West Indies (Antigua, Barbados, Cayman Islands, Dominica, Grenada, Jamaica, Montserrat, St. Christopher-Nevis-Anguilla, St. Lucia, St. Vincent, and Turks and Caicos Islands), less commonly referred to as British Caribbean Federation, had a single governor-general during its short existence, 3 January 195831 May 1962: Governor-General Patrick George Thomas Buchan-Hepburn, Baron Hailes (b. 1901–d. 1974).

[edit] In Asia


[edit] In Africa

[edit] Former Commonwealth realms

Most Commonwealth countries that are now republics, with the President as head of state, were originally Commonwealth realms, with Governors[-]General. Some became parliamentary republics, like India, where the presidency is a ceremonial post, similar that of the British monarch, while others, like Ghana, adopted a presidential system like the United States. Australia held a referendum on becoming a parliamentary republic in 1999, but this was rejected.

The current governments of Barbados and Jamaica have announced plans to hold referenda on becoming republics, in each case with a non-executive President replacing the Queen as head of state, as occurred in Trinidad and Tobago in 1976. It is not known whether these plans will proceed, however, nor whether the referenda would approve the changes.

[edit] In Africa

Zambia and the Seychelles became republics within the Commonwealth on independence.

[edit] In the Americas

[edit] In Asia

[edit] In Europe

Cyprus became a republic on independence.

[edit] In Oceania

[edit] Other colonial and similar usages

[edit] French

The equivalent word in French is gouverneur général

[edit] Netherlands

From 1691 to 1948 the Dutch appointed a Gouverneur-generaal ("Governor-General") to govern the Netherlands East Indies, now Indonesia.

While in the Caribbean, various other titles were used, Curaçao had three Governors-General between 1816 and 1820:

  • 1816–1819 Albert Kikkert
  • 1819–1820 Petrus Bernardus van Starkenborgh
  • 1820 Isaäk Johannes Rammelman Elsevier

[edit] Spanish

[edit] Portuguese

The equivalent word in portuguese is Governador-Geral

  • From 1837 until 1975 Portugal appointed a governor-general to govern the colony of Angola. In other colonies the title of Governador (Governor) prevailed, with the exception of Mozambique and the overseas province of Estado da Índia.

[edit] U.S.

[edit] Other Western usages

[edit] Asian counterparts

[edit] See also

[edit] Sources and references

(incomplete) <references />

es:Gobernador General eo:Guberniestro ĝenerala fr:Gouverneur général ka:გენერალ-გუბერნატორი ja:総督 ru:Генерал-губернатор simple:Governor General



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