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Portrait thought to be Nicholson

Francis Nicholson (12 November 1655 – 5 March 1727 or 1728) was a British military officer and was colonial governor or acting governor of New York, Virginia, Maryland, Nova Scotia, Placentia and South Carolina.

Nicholson was born in the village of Downholme, Yorkshire, England. He became a page for the Marquis of Winchester. In 1678 he was made an ensign and he fought in Flanders. He rose to the rank of captain and became an assistant to Sir Edmund Andros, governor of New England, with whom he sailed to the American colonies.

Nicholson served as lieutenant-governor of New York from 1687 to 1689 and as Governor from 1689 to 1690. Nicholson then served as lieutenant-governor of Virginia from 1690 to 1692. While in Virginia, he was instrumental in the creation of the College of William and Mary and named as one of its original trustees. He served as governor of Maryland from 1694 to 1699, and played a leading role in moving the state capital from St. Mary's to Anne Arundel, which was renamed Annapolis in honor of then-Princess Anne. Nicholson returned to Virginia in 1699 as governor, a position he held until 1705. During this term, Nicholson oversaw the transfer of Virginia's capital from Jamestown to Middle Plantation, which was renamed Williamsburg.

During Queen Anne's War, Nicholson was part of the military force that lost Nova Scotia to the French. He placed the blame on his commander, Samuel Vetch, and petitioned Queen Anne of Great Britain to have him lead an expedition to recapture the lost colony. Nicholson succeeded, leading the forces that captured Port Royal, Nova Scotia on October 2, 1710. Nicholson published an account of the expedition in his 1711 "Journal of an Expedition for the Reduction of Port Royal." The victorious Nicholson returned to England, taking five Iroquois chiefs with him, to petition Queen Anne to approve an expedition to capture New France. The resulting naval expedition was led by Admiral Hovenden Walker. Nicholson led an associated land expedition against Quebec. When news arrived of Walker's failure, Nicholson called off his land expedition.

Nicholson was appointed governor of Nova Scotia and Placentia as well as auditor of colonial accounts, serving from October 12, 1712 through August, 1717. Having been knighted in 1720, Nicholson next served as the governor of South Carolina from 1721 to 1725 when he returned to England.

In England, Nicholson was promoted to lieutenant-general. He lobbied for a proposal that the colonies be united in order to provide for their common defense, mainly from the French and Indians. He thought the colonies should be united under a single viceroy and share a standing army. The plan was recommended to the legislatures of the colonies. Virginia opposed the measure.

Nicholson died in London on March 5, 1728, and was buried in the parish of St George, Hanover Square.


Government offices
Preceded by
Thomas Lawrence
Colonial Governor of Maryland
Succeeded by
Nathaniel Blakiston
Preceded by
Edmund Andros
Colonial Governor of Virginia
Succeeded by
Edward Nott
Preceded by
James Moore II
Colonial Governor of South Carolina
formally until death

Succeeded by
Arthur Middleton


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