Skip to main content
Browse the 1966 Encyclopaedia of New Zealand
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.


ONSLOW, Sir William Hillier, Bt., Fourth Earl, P.C., G.C.M.G.


Thirteenth Governor of New Zealand.

A new biography of Onslow, William Hillier appears in the Dictionary of New Zealand Biography on this site.

Lord Onslow was born at Bletsoe, Bedfordshire, the only son of George Augustus Onslow (1813–55), nephew of the Third Earl, and of Mary Harriet Ann, eldest daughter of Lieutenant-General William Loftus of Kilbride, County Wicklow. He was educated at Eton, and Exeter College, Oxford, succeeding his great-uncle as Fourth Earl in 1874. On 3 February 1885 he married Hon. Florence Coulston, eldest daughter of Alan Legge, Third Lord Gardner. He served, successively, as Lord-in-Waiting to Queen Victoria, Under-Secretary of State for Colonies, Vice-President of the Colonial Conference (1887), and Parliamentary Secretary to the Board of Trade.

Onslow was appointed to succeed Sir William Jervois as Governor of New Zealand on 24 November 1888, and assumed his duties on 2 May 1889. On the defeat of the Atkinson Ministry in 1891, he appointed a number of Legislative Councillors on their advice. This was contested by the incoming Ballance Ministry, but Onslow defended the legality of his action, and the ensuing constitutional difficulty added considerable interest to his term of office. He resigned the Governorship in February 1892, and returned to England where he served as Under-Secretary of State for India (1895–1900), for Colonies (1900–03), and President of the Board of Agriculture, with Cabinet rank (1903–05). He was Chairman of Committees and Deputy Speaker of the House of Lords (1906–11) and died at his son's house in Hampstead on 23 October 1911.

In spite of constitutional differences, Lord Onslow maintained excellent relations with his Ministers, and his interest and influence remained ever at the service of New Zealand Ministers visiting London.

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

  • Seddon Papers (MSS), National Archives.


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