Governor-General of Ceylon

Governor-general of Ceylon

Coat of Arms of the Dominion of Ceylon
Style Excellency
Residence Queen's House
Appointer Monarch of Ceylon
Precursor Governor of British Ceylon
Formation 4 February 1948
First holder Henry Monck-Mason Moore
Final holder William Gopallawa
Abolished 22 May 1972
Succession President of Sri Lanka
Salary £8,000 a year

The governor-general of Ceylon was the representative of the Ceylonese monarch and head of state, who held the title of King or Queen of Ceylon (as of 1952, Queen Elizabeth II) from 1948 when the country became independent as a Dominion until it became the republic of Sri Lanka in 1972.[1]


The monarch, on the advice of the Prime Minister, appointed a governor-general to be his/her representative in Ceylon. Neither the monarch nor the Governor-General had any real authority in conducting the administration of the country (however, both possessed reserve powers under the constitution which would allow them full control of the nation's governance whenever in their opinion a case of emergency requiring such action arises). Real legislative and executive responsibilities rested with the elected representatives of the people. During several periods when a state of emergency was declared the Governor-General used his reserved powers.

The governor-general represented the monarch on ceremonial occasions such as the opening of Parliament, the presentation of honours and military parades. Under the Constitution, he was given authority to act in some matters, for example in appointing and disciplining officers of the civil service, in proroguing Parliament and so on, but only in a few cases was he empowered to act entirely on his own discretion. When the Monarch was present in Ceylon on official visits, the post of Governor-General ceased to exist during the said period. On the absence of the governor-general, the Chief Justice of Ceylon became acting Governor-General.


There were four governors-general who represented the Ceylonese monarch.

Sir Henry Monck-Mason Moore became the last Governor of Ceylon and first governor-general when the Ceylon Order in Council, the first constitution of independent Ceylon came into effect. He was followed by Lord Soulbury, thereafter by Sir Oliver Goonetilleke the first Ceylonese to be appointed to the post. When William Gopallawa was appointed as Governor-General in 1962, he discarded the ceremonial uniform of office.

When Ceylon became a republic in 1972 the post was replaced by the office of President of Sri Lanka.


The official residence and office of the governor-general was the Queen's House (currently the President's House) in Colombo. Other Governor-General residences include:

Governors-general of Ceylon

Portrait Name Birth Death Governor-General From Governor-General Until Sovereign
Sir Henry Monck-Mason Moore, GCMG, KStJ 188719644 February 19486 July 1949George VI
Herwald Ramsbotham, 1st Viscount Soulbury, GCMG, GCVO, OBE, MC, PC 6 March 188730 January 19716 July 194917 July 1954George VI
Elizabeth II
Sir Oliver Ernest Goonetilleke, GCMG, KCVO, KBE 20 October 189217 December 197817 July 19542 March 1962Elizabeth II
William Gopallawa, MBE17 September 189731 January 19812 March 196222 May 1972Elizabeth II
Acting Governors-general
Portrait Name Birth Death Governor-General From Governor-General Until Sovereign
Justice Arthur Wijewardena
21 March 18871964195?195?Elizabeth II
Justice C. Nagalingam, KC
25 October 189325 October 195819541954Elizabeth II

Flag of the governor-general

Flag used from 1948 to 1953
Flag used from 1953 to 1972

See also


  1. V "Ceylon Constitution Order in Council 1946" Check |url= value (help). Tamilnation. Retrieved 9 November 2012.
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