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Graphic: An Encyclopaedia of New Zealand 1966.


This information was published in 1966 in An Encyclopaedia of New Zealand, edited by A. H. McLintock. It has not been corrected and will not be updated.

Up-to-date information can be found elsewhere in Te Ara.


ROBINSON, Sir Hercules George Robert, Bt., First Baron Rosmead, P.C., G.C.M.G., Kt.


Tenth Governor of New Zealand.

Sir Hercules Robinson was born on 19 December 1824, second of the six sons of Admiral Hercules Robinson of Rosmead, Westmeath, Ireland; and Frances Elizabeth, daughter of Henry Widman Wood, of Rosmead. He was educated at Sandhurst and commissioned in the Royal Irish Fusiliers, but in 1846 accepted appointment under the Public Works Commissioners for Ireland and rendered notable service during the Irish famine (1848). He became President of Monserrat (1854–55), and Lieutenant Governor of St. Christophers (1855–59), before being appointed Governor of Hong Kong (1859–65). He was there during the China War (1860–61) and negotiated the cession of Kowloon.

He served on a commission to investigate public finances in Straits Settlements (1863), and from 1865 to 1872 was Governor of Ceylon, where he organised railway, cable, and telegraph extensions. He became Governor of New South Wales (1872–79), where his personal firmness did much to teach local politicians that affairs of state came before personal interests. While there, he negotiated at Suva (1874) for the cession of Fiji. He succeeded Normanby as Governor of New Zealand on 17 April 1879 in the last months of the Grey Ministry. Native troubles were pending, but Robinson had not fully mastered the problem before (September 1880) he was appointed Governor of Cape Colony and British High Commissioner for South Africa. There he displayed “rare tact and sagacity” in negotiating peace after the first Boer War (1881), and in handling the Bechuanaland troubles (1881–85) which culminated in the annexation of that territory. His term was twice extended until his retirement on 1 May 1889. He was created Baronet (1891). When, however, British-Boer relations deteriorated, Robinson was brought from retirement to resume the Governorship of South Africa on 30 May 1895. There, his tactful management of the situation consequent upon Jameson's Raid prevented war, and earned for him a Peerage (11 August 1896). Ill health forced his retirement on 23 April 1897, and he returned to London, where he died at 42 Prince's Gardens on 28 October 1897.

On 24 April 1846 Robinson married Nea Arthur Ada Rose D'Amour, sixth daughter of Arthur Annesley Rath, Viscount Valentia, by whom he had one son and three daughters.

His connection with 11 British colonies reveal the Imperial authorities' high appreciation of his ability, while his seven Governorships might appear to parallel, or even exceed, the labours of his classical namesake. A younger brother, Sir W. C. F. Robinson, was also a successful colonial Governor.

by Bernard John Foster, M.A., Research Officer, Department of Internal Affairs, Wellington.

  • Rulers & Statesmen of New Zealand, Gisborne, W. (1897)
  • The Times (London), 29 Oct 1897 (Obit).


Bernard John Foster, M.A., Research Officer, Department of Internal Affairs, Wellington.