George Bowen

For other people named George Bowen, see George Bowen (disambiguation).
The Right Honourable
Sir George Bowen
1st Governor of Queensland
In office
10 December 1859  4 January 1868
Monarch Victoria
Succeeded by Samuel Blackall
5th Governor of New Zealand
In office
5 February 1868  19 March 1873
Monarch Victoria
Premier Edward Stafford
William Fox
George Waterhouse
Preceded by Sir George Grey
Succeeded by Sir James Fergusson
5th Governor of Victoria
In office
30 July 1873  22 February 1879
Monarch Victoria
Preceded by Sir John Manners-Sutton
Succeeded by George Phipps, 2nd Marquess of Normanby
13th Governor of Mauritius
In office
Monarch Victoria
9th Governor of Hong Kong
In office
30 March 1883  6 October 1887
Monarch Victoria
Preceded by Sir John Pope Hennessy
Succeeded by Sir George William Des Vœux
Personal details
Born (1821-11-02)2 November 1821
Taughboyne, County Donegal, Ireland, UK
Died 21 February 1899(1899-02-21) (aged 77)
Brighton, Sussex, England, UK
Nationality British
Spouse(s) Contessa Diamantina Roma
Florence Bowen
Alma mater Brasenose College, Oxford
Profession colonial administrator
Religion Church of England

Sir George Ferguson Bowen, GCMG (2 November 1821 – 21 February 1899) was a British author and colonial administrator whose appointments included postings to the Ionian Islands, Queensland, New Zealand, Victoria, Mauritius and Hong Kong.[1]

Early life

Bowen was born the eldest son of the Rev. Edward Bowen,[2] rector of Taughboyne in County Donegal.[1] Bowen was educated at Charterhouse School and Trinity College, Oxford. Bowen, twice President of the Oxford Union, was awarded a first class Bachelor of Arts degree in classics in 1844,[2] and was elected a fellow of Brasenose College. Bowen was called to the bar by Lincoln's Inn in 1844 and obtained his Master of Arts three years later.[3] In 1846 Bowen had some naval training, serving for sixteen days on HMS Victory.[1] In 1847 Bowen was appointed president of the Ionian University located in Corfu, a post he held until 1851.[1][3]

Service in the Ionian Islands

Bowen became the chief secretary to the government of the Ionian Islands in 1854.[2] While in that post, he married the Contessa Diamantina di Roma on 28 April 1856. Diamantina was the daughter of Conte Giorgio-Candiano Roma and his wife Contessa Orsola, née di Balsamo. The Roma family were local aristocracy; her father being the President of the Ionian Senate, titular head of the Islands, from 1850 to 1856. He was appointed a Companion of the Order of St Michael and St George (CMG) in 1855 and was advanced to Knight Commander (KCMG) in the following year.[3]

Governor of Queensland

In 1859, Bowen was appointed the first Governor of Queensland, a colony that had just been separated from New South Wales. Bowen's influence in Queensland was greater than that of the governors in other Australian colonies in a large part due to Robert Herbert, who accompanied Bowen from England, and later became colonial secretary and then first Premier of Queensland in 1860–66.[1] Bowen was interested in the exploration of Queensland and in the establishment of a volunteer force, but incurred some unpopularity by refusing to sanction the issue of inconvertible paper money during the financial crisis of 1866. But overall, he was quite popular in Queensland, so that the citizens requested an extension of his five-year term as governor, resulting in his staying for further two years.[4]

Governor of New Zealand

The flag of New Zealand as designed by Markham in 1869, approved by Bowen.

In 1867 Bowen was made Governor of New Zealand, where he was successful in reconciling the Māori reaction to the British rule, and saw the end of the New Zealand wars. Bowen also instituted the New Zealand Cross for colonial soldiers, one of the rarest bravery awards in the world and equivalent to the Victoria Cross (he was reprimanded for exceeding his authority).

In 1869, Albert Hastings Markham, first lieutenant of HMS Blanche submitted a design to Bowen for a national ensign for New Zealand. His proposal, incorporating the Southern Cross, was approved and remains in use to this day.[5]

Governor of Victoria

In March 1873 Bowen was transferred to Victoria (Australia) as Governor of Victoria,[1] where he embarked on an endeavour to reduce the expenses of the colony. A political crisis while Bowen took leave in England from January 1875 to January 1876, when acting governor, Sir William Stawell, showed 'too little flexibility in the exercise of his temporary powers'.[1] One of the main issues was the conflict between the Victorian Legislative Council and the Victorian Legislative Assembly; the Council was blocking legislation for its reform and for payment of members.[1] Backed by advice from the Colonial Office, Bowen consented to Premier Graham Berry's plan to break the deadlock by wholesale dismissal of public servants on the so-called 'Black Wednesday'.[1] In May 1878 Bowen said that "my reluctant consent, purely on constitutional grounds, to these dismissals … has damaged my further reputation and my career to a degree that I shall never recover. It will never be forgotten either in England or in the Colony". However several others including Hugh Childers and William Ewart Gladstone approved of Bowen's actions.[1]

Governor of Mauritius

Bowen arrived on Mauritius on 4 April 1879 and served as 13th Governor of the colony until 9 December 1880.[6]

Governor of Hong Kong

On 30 March 1883, Bowen was made Governor of Hong Kong. During his tenure, his administration established the Hong Kong Observatory, which also served as the meteorological institute of the territory. He founded the first college in Hong Kong, and ordered the construction of the Typhoon Shelter in Causeway Bay, and a government hospital. He retired in 1887, due to ill health.[7]


Bowen returned to England after his time in Hong Kong and was appointed chief of a Royal Commission sent to Malta in December 1887 to help to draft the new constitution for the island. All recommendations made by the commission were adopted. Afterwards, Bowen was sworn of the Privy Council.

Personal life

Sir George Bowen

Bowen was married twice.

His first wife was Contessa Diamantina di Roma, only daughter of Count Candiano di Roma. They had the following children:

Diamantina died in London in 1893 aged about 60 years old.[8]

George married his second wife, Letitia Florence White, in late 1896 at Chelsea, London.[8] Florence was the daughter of Dr Thomas Luby, a mathematician, and was the widow of Henry White, whom she married in 1878.[8]

George Ferguson Bowen died on 21 February 1899 in Brighton in Sussex, aged 77 years old.[8] He died from bronchitis after a short illness of 2 days. He was buried on 25 February 1899 in Kensal Green cemetery in London.


The following were named after George Bowen:

His wife Diamantina appears to have been more popular than George in Queensland, as there are many Queensland places named after her.


Literary works

See also


  1. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 R. B. Joyce, 'Bowen, Sir George Ferguson (1821–1899)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, Vol. 3, Melbourne University Press, 1969, pp 203–207. Retrieved 18 April 2010
  2. 1 2 3 Death of Sir George Bowen, Wanganui Herald, Volume XXXIII, Issue 9676, 23 February 1899, Page 2
  3. 1 2 3 Dod (1860), p. 127
  4. "The Late Lady Bowen", Brisbane Courier, Monday 27 November 1893
  5. "Rear-Admiral Sir Albert Hastings Markham, Norfolk Museums and Archeology Service". Archived from the original on 2 June 2008. Retrieved 2008-11-18.
  6. "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 9 June 2009. Retrieved 23 January 2013.
  7. Chisholm 1911.
  8. 1 2 3 4
  9. "Bowen, George Ferguson (BWN886GF)". A Cambridge Alumni Database. University of Cambridge.


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George Bowen
Government offices
New office Governor of Queensland
Succeeded by
Sir Samuel Blackall
Preceded by
Sir George Grey
Governor of New Zealand
Succeeded by
Sir James Fergusson
Preceded by
Sir John Manners-Sutton
Governor of Victoria
Succeeded by
The Marquess of Normanby
Preceded by
Sir Arthur Purves Phayre
Governor of Mauritius
Succeeded by
Sir Frederick Napier Broome
Preceded by
William H. Marsh (Administrator)
9th Governor of Hong Kong
Succeeded by
William H. Marsh (Administrator)
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