Vere Ponsonby, 9th Earl of Bessborough: Wikis


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Rangkronen-Fig. 20.png
Captain The Right Honourable
 The Earl of Bessborough
 PC, GCMG, BA Cantab, LLD(hc) Alb, LLD(hc) Tor, LLD(hc) Ott, LLD(hc) McGill

In office
4 April 1931 – 2 November 1935
Monarch George V
Prime Minister R. B. Bennett
William Lyon Mackenzie King
Preceded by Freeman Freeman-Thomas, Marquess of Willingdon
Succeeded by John Buchan, Baron Tweedsmuir

Born 27 October 1880(1880-10-27)
London, England
Died 10 March 1956 (aged 75)
London, England
Spouse(s) Roberte Ponsonby, Countess of Bessborough
Profession Businessman
Religion Anglican

Captain Vere Brabazon Ponsonby, 9th Earl of Bessborough PC GCMG (27 October 1880 – 10 March 1956) was a British businessman and politician who, between 1931 and 1935 served as the Governor General of Canada. He was born and educated in England, obtaining a degree in law from the University of Cambridge, and then entered the political field wherein he served as a member of the London County Council before being elected to the British House of Commons in 1910. Upon the death of his grandfather ten years later, Ponsonby became the Earl of Bessborough, and took his place in the House of Lords until 1931.

On the recommendation of then Canadian Prime Minister Richard Bennett, Ponsonby was appointed by George V, the king of Canada, as the Canadian viceroy, succeeding in that role Freeman Freeman-Thomas, Earl of Willingdon.[1] Ponsonby strongly promoted the new communication technologies, and offered support to the Canadian populace during the Great Depression. After the end of his viceregal tenure, Ponsonby returned to the United Kingdom, where he continued to practice business and also work with the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, before his death in March 1956.


Early life, education, and career

Stansted House, near Chichester, England, was purchased by Ponsonby in 1924.

Ponsonby was born in London, United Kingdom, the first son and third child of Edward and Blanche Ponsonby (who was herself the daughter of John Josiah Guest, Baronet, the great-uncle of Winston Churchill). They enrolled Vere at Harrow School, from where he graduated and then attended Trinity College at the University of Cambridge.[2] By 1903 he had started a career in law, and, upon the death of his grandfather in 1906, Ponsonby, as the then eldest son of the Earl of Bessborough, used the courtesy title of Viscount Duncannon. Six years later, on 25 June, Ponsonby married Roberte de Neuflize, with whom he had four children: Frederick, born 29 March 1913; Desmond, born 4 August 1915; Moyra Blanche Madeleine, born 2 March 1918; and George, born 14 August 1931. Desmond, however, did not live past the age of ten, dying on 8 April 1925 from a riding accident,[1] and George, who was born in Canada and given the middle name St. Lawrence (after the river),[1] would also predecease his father on 16 May 1951.

Prior to his marriage, Ponsonby had entered the realm of politics, holding a seat on the London County Council between 1907 and 1910, before being elected on 10 February 1910 to the British House of Commons as the Member of Parliament (MP) for Cheltenham. He lost that seat in the election of 19 December that same year, but re-entered the commons in 1913 as the MP for Dover, and remained as such until 1920, when, after the death of his father on 1 December, Ponsonby succeeded to the Earldom of Bessborough, in the Irish peerage. Ponsonby thus was barred from sitting in the commons, and instead took up his seat in the House of Lords.

After World War I, the Earl pursued a successful business career, holding directorships in several large commercial firms, including acting as head of both the São Paulo Railway and the Margarine Union, as well as deputy chairman of De Beers Consolidated Mines.[3]

Governor generalship

It was announced in early 1931 from the Prime Minister's office that George V had, by commission under the royal sign-manual and signet, approved the recommendation of his Canadian prime minister, Richard Bennett, to appoint Ponsonby as his representative; this came as somewhat of a surprise, as Ponsonby was the only businessman to have ever been appointed governor general. He would also be the last of Canada's governors general appointed by the King of the United Kingdom, as the Statute of Westminster came into effect on 11 December 1931, ending the British government's ability to legislate for Canada, except with the Canadian government's expressed consent.

Ponsonby travelled to Canada and was sworn in as governor general on 4 April 1931, right in the midst of the Great Depression. In his ensuing travels as viceroy, Ponsonby witnessed the struggles of Canadians during this period, and praised their tenacity; in Shawbridge, Quebec, he stated in a speech: "There is nothing more encouraging and cheering than the calm steady way Canadians have pursued their daily tasks during the difficult period with a supreme faith in the destiny of their country."[1] As a sign of his sympathy with the majority of the populace, Ponsonby gave up 10% of his salary.[3]

The day-to-day functions of state continued, however, despite the economic situation. Indeed, Canada was gaining international stature, and Ponsonby acted as host to the leaders who, in July 1932, converged on Ottawa for the Imperial Economic Conference, and he presided over the opening of the Welland Canal the same year. The Governor General also received a number of foreign dignitaries, including Prince Takamatsu and his wife, Princess Takamatsu, King Rama VII of Siam and his consort, Queen Ramphaiphanni, and Winston Churchill. There were also a number of techological firsts that took place during Ponsonby's tenure: his installation ceremony was the first to be broadcast by radio; in 1932, from the Governor General's study at Rideau Hall, Ponsonby inaugurated the first trans-Canada telephone line by calling each of the lieutenant governors; and as Governor-in-Council, he created the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. Ponsonby was also the first Canadian viceroy to fly the standard dedicated to that office, created in 1931.[1]

The Earl's tenure as governor general coincided with the celebrations in May 1935 for the Silver Jubilee of the King's reign, part of which included Ponsonby launching the King's Jubilee Cancer Fund with a radio broadcast from Rideau Hall, and also initiated a campaign to increase the membership of the Scouts. But, the most prominent mark that Ponsonby left on Canada was the Dominion Drama Festival,[4] which was developed with the assistance of future governor general Vincent Massey and Henry C. Osborne, was first held in April 1933, and awarded the Bessborough Trophy to the best amateur theatrical company in the country.[1]

Post-viceregal life

After Canada, Ponsonby returned to the UK, and to the business world, and on 2 June 1937, was created 1st Earl of Bessborough in the peerage of the United Kingdom for his viceregal services.[5] His activities were not all business related, however; during the Second World War, Ponsonby helped in the establishment of a department in the British Foreign Office dedicated to the welfare of the French refugees in the United Kingdom.

In 1956, the Earl returned once more to Canada – staying at Rideau Hall as a guest of the then governor general, the aforementioned Vincent Massey – before he died the following year at the manor he had purchased in 1924, Stansted House.[1]

Titles, styles, and honours



Viceregal styles of
Vere Ponsonby, 9th Earl of Bessborough
Crest of the Governor-General of Canada.svg
Reference style His Excellency The Right Honourable
Son Excellence le très honorable
Spoken style Your Excellency
Votre Excellence
Alternative style Sir
United Kingdom United Kingdom
  • 27 October 1880 – 1903: Mister Vere Ponsonby
  • 1903 – 1906: Vere Ponsonby, Esquire
  • 1906 – 1 December 1920: Viscount Duncannon
  • 1 December 1920 – 4 April 1931: The Right Honourable The Earl of Bessborough
  • 4 April 1931 – 11 December 1931: His Excellency The Right Honourable The Earl of Bessborough, Governor General and Commander-in-Chief of the Militia and Naval and Air Forces of Canada
  • 11 December 1931 – 10 March 1956: The Right Honourable The Earl of Bessborough
Canada Canada
  • 4 April 1931 – 2 November 1935: His Excellency The Right Honourable The Earl of Bessborough, Governor General and Commander-in-Chief of the Militia and Naval and Air Forces of Canada[N 1]

Ponsonby's style and title as governor general of Canada was, in full, and in English: His Excellency The Right Honourable Sir Vere Brabazon Ponsonby, Earl of Bessborough, Viscount Duncannon, Baron Bessborough, Baron Ponsonby of Sysonby, Baron Duncannon, Knight Grand Cross of the Most Distinguished Order of Saint Michael and Saint George, Governor General and Commander-in-Chief of the Militia and Naval and Air Forces of Canada, Captain of the Militia of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, and in French: Son Excellence le très honorable Sir Vere Brabazon Ponsonby, comte de Bessborough, vicomte Duncannon, baron Bessborough, baron Ponsonby de Sysonby, baron Duncannon, chevalier grand-croix de le très distingué ordre de Saint-Michel et Saint-George, gouverneur générale et commandant en chef de la milice et les forces navales et aérienne du Canada, capitaine de la milice du Royaume-Uni de Grande-Bretagne et d'Irlande du Norde. It should be noted that, for Ponsonby, Commander-in-Chief was strictly a title, and not a position that he held; the actual commander-in-chief (who can also be, and is, called such) is perpetually the monarch of Canada.[6]



Honorary military appointments

Honorary degrees

Honorific eponyms

  • Canada Canada: Bessborough Trophy (renamed Calvert Trophy)

See also


  1. ^ The Statute of Westminster came into effect on 11 December 1931, thereby ending the ability of the sovereign of the United Kingdom to legislate for Canada, including the conferring of titles. Thereafter, the Governor General was titled via letters patent from the monarch acting solely in his capacity as sovereign of Canada, on the advice of Canadian ministers of the Crown.


  1. ^ a b c d e f g Office of the Governor General of Canada. "Governor General > Former Governors General > The Earl of Bessborough". Queen's Printer for Canada. Retrieved 7 April 2009.  
  2. ^ Ponsonby, the Hon. Vere Brabazon in Venn, J. & J. A., Alumni Cantabrigienses, Cambridge University Press, 10 vols, 1922–1958.
  3. ^ a b Hillmer, Norman, "Biography > Governors General of Canada > Bessborough, Vere Brabazon", in Marsh, James H., The Canadian Encyclopedia, Toronto: Historica Foundation of Canada,, retrieved 31 March 2009  
  4. ^ Kalbfleisch, John (29 March 2009). "Shipping heiress kept theatre alive in Montreal". Montreal Gazette (Canwest). Retrieved 29 March 2009.  
  5. ^ London Gazette: (Supplement) no. 34405, p. 3663, 8 June 1937. Retrieved on 29 March 2009.
  6. ^ Victoria (29 March 1867), Constitution Act, 1867, III.15, Westminster: Queen's Printer,, retrieved 15 January 2009  
  7. ^ London Gazette: no. 33690, p. 1124, 17 February 1931. Retrieved on 29 March 2009.
  8. ^ London Gazette: no. 33700, p. 1877, 20 March 1931. Retrieved on 29 March 2009.
  9. ^ London Gazette: no. 34064, p. 4057, 26 June 1934. Retrieved on 29 March 2009.
  10. ^ "University of Alberta Senate > Honorary Degrees > Past Honorary Degree Recipients > P". University of Alberta. Retrieved 28 April 2009.  
  11. ^ "Clear Water Academy > Our School > Facilities". Clear Water Academy. Retrieved 31 March 2009.  

External links

Parliament of the United Kingdom
Preceded by
John Edward Sears
Member of Parliament for Cheltenham
Jan 1910 – Dec 1910
Succeeded by
Richard Mathias
Preceded by
George Wyndham
Member of Parliament for Dover
1913 – 1920
Succeeded by
Sir Thomas Andrew Polson
Peerage of Ireland
Preceded by
Edward Ponsonby
Earl of Bessborough
1937 – 1956
Succeeded by
Frederick Ponsonby
Peerage of the United Kingdom
New creation Earl of Bessborough
1920 – 1956
Succeeded by
Frederick Ponsonby


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