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In the early colonial period, Governors were administrators. They evolved into vice-regal heads of state. Mainly career administrators, retired naval or military men, English aristocrats, political dabblers, or, lately, lawyers, only comparatively recently have they been Australians. Well-connected Englishmen, it was thought, would preserve links to the throne, and wealthy men helped pay their own way. Although mainly figureheads, individual governors (and their wives) have been influential, and admired. The Governor of Victoria remains the constitutional head of Victoria's government.

Sir Richard Bourke, Governor of New South Wales, visited the Port Phillip District in 1837, and directed the laying out of the city grid and selection of street names. Superintendent (1839-51) and subsequently Lieutenant-Governor (1851-54), Charles Joseph La Trobe was widely travelled and a cultivated former teacher. He and his Swiss wife, Sophie, were popular with the social elite but attracted opposition on the issues of convicts and Separation. Sir Charles Hotham handled the Eureka miners' rebellion poorly and died prematurely in 1855. Career administrator Sir Henry Barkly (1856-63) adapted to become a colonial constitutional 'sovereign' but Sir Charles Darling (1863-66), Sir George Bowen (1873-79) and Sir John Henry Thomas Manners-Sutton (1866-73) were all tested in constitutional conflicts between the two houses of the Parliament of Victoria.

Governors held court at Government House. The Marquess of Normanby (1879-84) was considered parsimonious, Sir Henry Loch (1884-89) popular, and the wealthy Earl of Hopetoun (1889-95) a generous entertainer. Hopetoun and the seafaring enthusiast Lord Brassey (1895-1900) supported Federation and Hopetoun was Australia's first Governor-General (1901-02). From 1901 to 1927, when Melbourne was the federal capital, two vice-regal residents seemed excessive. Some Victorian Governors did not serve their full terms. Others found a role. Lord Somers (1926-31) was a leader of the Boy Scouts and involved in Freemasonry, as, notably, were the Earl of Stradbroke (1921-26) and Sir Dallas Brooks (1949-63). Sir Winston Dugan (1939-49) was energetic, outspoken, a traveller, popular and a political 'fixer'. The lawyer Sir Henry Winneke (1974-82) was the first Australian. Sir Brian Murray's (1982-85) forced resignation revealed the job's political sensitivities while Dr Davis McCaughey ('the people's Governor', 1986-92) opened Government House to the public and declined the traditional Rolls Royce, perhaps offering a republican role model. Subsequent Governors have included Richard McGarvie (1992-97), Sir James Gobbo (1997-2000) and John Landy (2001- ).

Governors of Victoria
Charles La Trobe (Superintendent and Lieutenant Governor)3 October 1839 to 5 May 1854
Captain Sir Charles Hotham, R.N., K.C.B.22 May 1855 to 31 December 1855
Sir Henry Barkly, K.C.B.26 December 1856 to 10 September 1863
Sir Charles Henry Darling, K.C.B.11 September 1863 to 7 May 1866
The Hon. Sir John Henry Thomas Manners-Sutton, K.C.B. (subsequently, the Right Hon.Viscount Canterbury, K.C.B.)15 August 1866 to 2 March 1873
Sir George Ferguson Bowen, G.C.M.G.30 July 1873 to 22 February 1879
The Most Hon. George Augustus Constantine Phipps, Marquess of Normanby, P.C., G.C.M.G.29 April 1879 to 18 April 1884
Sir Henry Brougham Loch, G.C.M.G., K.C.B.15 July 1884 to 15 November 1889
The Right Hon. John Adrian Louis Hope, the Earl of Hopetoun, G.C.M.G.28 November 1889 to 12 July 1895
The Right Hon. Baron Brassey, K.C.B.25 October 1895 to 31 March 1900
Sir George Sydenham Clarke, K.C.M.G., F.R.S.10 December 1901 to 24 November 1903
Major-General The Hon. Sir Reginald Arthur James Talbot, K.C.B. 25 April 1904 to 6 July 1908
Sir Thomas David Gibson Carmichael, Bt. K.C.M.G.27 July 1908 to 19 May 1911
Sir John Michael Fleetwood Fuller, Bt. K.C.M.G.24 May 1911 to 24 November 1913
The Hon. Sir Arthur Lyulph Stanley, K.C.M.G.23 February 1914 to 30 January 1920
Col.The Right Hon. George Edward John Mowbray, Earl of Stradbroke, K.C.M.G., C.B., C.V.O., C.B.E. Aide-de-Camp to His Majesty the King24 February 1921 to 7 April 1926
Lt. Col.The Right Hon. Arthur Herbert Tennyson, Baron Somers, K.C.M.G., D.S.O., M.C.28 June 1926 to 23 June 1931
Capt.The Right Hon William Charles Arcedeckne, Baron Huntingfield, K.C.M.G.14 May 1934 to 4 April 1939
Major-General Sir Winston Joseph Dugan, G.C.M.G., C.B., D.S.O.17 July 1939 to 20 February 1949
General Sir Reginald Alexander Dallas Brooks, K.C.B., K.C.M.G., K.C.V.O., D.S.O., K.St.J.18 October 1949 to 7 May 1963
Major-General Sir Rohan Delacombe, K.C.M.G., K.C.V.O., O.B.E., K.B.E., C.B., K. St.J.8 May 1963 to 31 May 1974
The Hon. Sir Henry Winneke, K.C.M.G., K.C.V.O., O.B.E., K.St.J., Q.C.3 June 1974 to 28 February 1982
Rear-Admiral Sir Brian Murray, K.C.M.G., K.St.J., A.O.1 March 1982 to 3 October 1985
The Reverend Dr John Davis McCaughey, A.C.18 February 1986 to 31 March 1992
The Hon. Richard Elgin McGarvie, A.C.23 April 1992 to 23 April 1997
The Hon. Sir James A. Gobbo, A.C., Q.C.24 April 1997 to 31 December 2000
John Landy, M.B.E.1 January 2001 -
Professor David de Kretser7 April 2006 -

David Dunstan

McCaughey, David, Naomi Perkins, and Angas Trumble, Victoria's colonial governors: 1839-1900, Melbourne University Press at the Miegunyah Press, Melbourne, 1993. Details