Governor General and Viceroy of India

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Flag of the Governor General of India (1885–1947) with the Star of India in the center

The Governor-General and Viceroy of India ( English : Viceroy and Governor-General of India ) was the head of the British administration in India .


The office was established in 1773, with the title of Governor-General of the Presidency of Fort William . The officer had direct control only of Fort William, but he also directed other officers of the British East India Company in India.

In 1858, India came under the direct control of the British Crown with the Government of India Act 1858 . The title Governor General referred to his relationship with the British Provinces of India ( Punjab , Bengal , Bombay , Madras , the United Provinces, etc.). Much of British India , however, was not directly ruled by the government; rather, the area consisted of hundreds of nominally sovereign princely states whose relationship was not with the British government but directly with the British monarch. In order to express the position of the Governor General as the representative of the British monarch to the feudal rulers of the principalities, he was given the title Viceroy of India . The title was not given up until India became independent in 1947. The office of governor general continued until India adopted a republican constitution in 1950 .

Until 1858, the governor general was elected by the board of directors of the British East India Company, to which he was responsible. He was then appointed by the British monarch ( Sovereign ) after consulting the British government. The Secretary of State for India, a member of the Cabinet, was responsible for guiding him in the exercise of his duties. After 1947 the monarch continued to appoint the governor-general, but now after consulting the Indian government instead of the British government.

The governor general's term of office was usually five years, but they could be recalled earlier. After the term of office was up, a temporary governor general was sometimes appointed until the new incumbent was elected. The temporary governors-general were elected from among the provincial governors.


Originally, most of India was ruled by the British East India Company, which nominally acted as the representative of the Mughal Emperor. In 1773, due to the prevailing corruption in the company, the British government was induced to take partial control of the administration of India. The Regulating Act was passed for this purpose. A governor general and advisory body were appointed to direct the praesidium of Fort William, Bengal. The first governor general and the council body were named in the Regulating Act. The successors were to be chosen by the board of directors of the East India Company. The act stipulated a five-year term, with the monarch having the power to remove any of them prior to the end of the term.

The Charter Act of 1833 replaced the Governor General and Council of Fort William with the Governor General and Council of India. The board of directors of the East India Company retained the right to vote for the governor-general, but the elected had to be confirmed by the monarch.

After the Sepoy Uprising , the East India Company was disbanded and India came under the direct control of the British monarch. The Government of India Act of 1858 transferred the power of appointment of the Governor General to the monarch. The governor general had the right to propose the deputy governors in India, who in turn had to be confirmed by the monarch.

India and Pakistan gained independence in 1947, but governors-generals continued to be appointed for each of the two nations pending permanent constitutions. Louis Mountbatten remained the Governor General of India for some time after India gained independence, but otherwise the two nations were ruled by native Governors General. India became a secular republic in 1950 and Pakistan became an Islamic republic in 1956.

Official powers

The Governor General originally only had power over the Presidency of Fort William in Calcutta (now Kolkata , Bengal). However, the Regulating Act gave him additional powers over foreign policy and defense. The other governing bodies of the East India Company in Madras, Bombay and Bencoolen did not have the right to declare war or make peace with an Indian prince without first obtaining the consent of the Governor General and the Council of Fort William.

The Governor General's powers over foreign policy were expanded by the India Act of 1784. The act stipulated that the other governors of the East India Company were not allowed to declare war, make peace or conclude treaties with Indian princes unless they had received express instructions from the Governor General or the Board of Directors of the East India Company.

While this gave the Governor General control of foreign policy in India, he was not specifically the head of British India. He received this status only with the Charter Act of 1833, which gave him the supervision, direction and control of the entire civil and military government of all British India. The Act also conferred legislative powers on the Governor General and the Council.

After 1858, the governor general took over the powers of the chief administrator of India and the representative of the British monarch. India was divided into numerous provinces, each headed by a governor, deputy governor or chief inspector ( chief commissioner ). Governors were appointed by the British Government, to which they were directly responsible. However, deputy governors and chief inspectors were appointed by the governor general and were subordinate to him. The governor general also oversaw the most powerful princely rulers: the Nizam of Hyderabad , the Maharaja of Mysore , the Maharaja of Kashmir, and the Gaekwad (Gaekwar) Maharaja of Baroda . The remaining princely rulers were either supervised by the Rajputana Authority or the Central India Authority, each headed by representatives of the Governor General, or by provincial authorities.

After India gained independence, the office of governor-general was only ceremonial. Real power passed to the elected Indian politicians. After India became a republic, the President of India took over the ceremonial functions of Governor General.

Council body

The Governor General was always by a Council body ( Council ) consider in the exercise of legislative and executive powers. While he was entitled to many powers, he was always called " Governor-General in Council ".

The Regulating Act of 1773 provided for the election of four councils by the board of directors of the East India Company. The governor general had a vote in the body like the councils. In the event of a tie in the Council, however, his vote was decisive. The decision of the council was binding on the governor general.

In 1784 the council was reduced to three members. The governor general still had a normal vote and a decisive vote. In 1786 the powers of the governor general were expanded. From then on, the decisions of the council no longer had any binding effect on him.

The Charter Act of 1833 made further changes to the structure of the council. This act was the first law to distinguish between the executive and legislative powers of the governor general. According to this act, four members of the council were to be elected by the board of directors of the East India Company. The first three members should always be present, while the fourth member was only allowed to be present and vote when it came to planned legislation.

From 1858 the board of directors of the East India Company no longer had the authority to appoint members of the council. Instead, the member, limited to legislative deliberations, was appointed by the British monarch, and the other three members by the Secretary of State for India.

The Indian Councils Act of 1861 changed the composition of the council on several points. Three members have now been appointed by the Secretary of State for India and two by the monarch. This act also provided that the governor-general was allowed to appoint six to twelve councilors. The five persons appointed by the Secretary of State for India and the monarch directed the authorities of the executive branch. The councils appointed by the governor general debated and voted on the legislation.

In 1869 the crown was given permission to designate all five councils to preside over the executive. The number of councils appointed by the Governor General for legislative purposes increased to 10 to 16 in 1892 and to 60 from 1909.

In 1919 two legislative chambers for India ( Indian Legislature ) took over the legislative functions of the council of the governor general. They consisted of a State Council and a Legislative Assembly. The governor general, however, retained significant influence over the legislation. He could spend money on ecclesiastical, political and defense purposes without the consent of the legislature, and for any purpose during an emergency. He had the right to veto any bill introduced and could even end any further debate about it. If he proposed a law but only got a majority in one of the two chambers, he could still declare the law to have been passed. A note was then added that the law had been passed with objections from one Chamber. The legislative chambers had no powers over foreign policy and defense. The President of the Council of State was appointed by the Governor General. The Legislative Assembly elected its President. However, this had to be confirmed by the Governor General.

Salutation and title

The Governor General was entitled to be addressed as "Excellency" and had the right of precedence over all other government representatives in India. Neither the title "Governor General" nor the title "Viceroy" was used while the British monarch was in India. These titles were widely used, although they were never officially created by the UK government.

When the Order of the Star of India was founded in 1861, the Governor General became the ex officio (ex officio) Grand Master. The Governor General has also been ex officio Grand Master of the Order of the Indian Empire since its founding in 1877 .

Most of the governors general were members of the British upper house ( peers ) and belonged to the nobility. Those who were not, however, were at least lower nobility, such as the Baronet Sir John Shore, Sir John Laird Mair Lawrence, or Lord William Bentinck. The latter carried the courtesy title of Lord , since he was the son of a duke. Only the first and last Governor General - Warren Hastings and C. Rajagopalachari - as well as some temporary Governors General, had no special titles at all.


The Governor General of Fort William lived in the Belvedere House in Calcutta until the early 19th century . Then he moved to the newly built Government House . From 1854, the Deputy Governor of Bengal took his office there. Today the National Library of India resides in the Belvedere House.

Governor General Richard Wellesley, who allegedly once said that India should be ruled from a palace, not a manor, had the magnificent Government House built between 1799 and 1803. It served as the official residence of the Governor General until the capital was relocated from Calcutta to Delhi in 1912 . After that, the post of Deputy Governor of Bengal was upgraded to real governor, and he moved from Belvedere House to Government House. Nowadays the building serves as the official residence of the governor of the Indian state of West Bengal. The name Raj Bhavan is Hindi for "government building".

After the capital was moved from Calcutta to Delhi, the viceroy lived in the newly built palace designed by Sir Edwin Lutyens . Although construction began in 1912, it could not be completed until 1929. The house was not officially inaugurated until 1931 - the year the planned capital New Delhi was completed. The final cost was more than £ 877,000, which is about £ 35,000,000 by today's standards. It cost more than double the originally planned amount. Today this is the official residence of the President of India, in Hindi: Rashtrapati Bhavan .

In the summer, the government of India withdrew to the Viceroy's country house in Darjiling to escape the heat. After moving to Delhi, Shimla became the summer residence.

List of Governors General and Viceroys of India

Governors General of Fort William (1773–1833)

Official Term of office
Warren Hastings 1773-1785
John Macpherson 1785–1786 (temporarily)
Charles Cornwallis, 1st Marquess Cornwallis 1786-1793
Sir John Shore , 1st Baronet 1793-1798
Sir Alured Clarke 1798 (temporarily)
Richard Wellesley 1798-1805
Charles Cornwallis 1805
Sir George Hilario Barlow 1805–1807 (temporarily)
Gilbert Elliot-Murray-Kynynmound 1807-1813
Francis Rawdon-Hastings 1813-1823
John Adam 1823 (temporarily)
William Pitt Amherst 1823-1828
William Butterworth Bayley 1828 (temporarily)
The Lord William Bentinck 1828-1833

Governors General of India (1833-1858)

Official Term of office
The Lord William Bentinck 1833-1835
Sir Charles Metcalfe , 2nd Baronet 1835–1836 (temporarily)
George Eden 1836-1842
Edward Law 1842-1844
William Wilberforce Bird 1844 (temporarily)
Henry Hardinge 1844-1848
James Andrew Broun-Ramsay, 1st Marquess of Dalhousie 1848-1856
Charles John Canning 1856-1858

Governors General and Viceroys of India (1858–1947)

George Curzon around 1900
George Nathaniel Curzon with his wife Mary Curzon on the elephant "Lakshman Prasad" in Delhi on December 29, 1902.
Official Term of office
Charles John Canning, 1st Earl Canning 1858-1862
James Bruce, 8th Earl of Elgin 1862-1863
Sir Robert Napier 1863 (temporarily)
Sir William Denison 1863–1864 (temporarily)
Sir John Laird Mair Lawrence 1864-1869
Richard Bourke, 6th Earl of Mayo 1869-1872
Sir John Strachey 1872 (temporarily)
Francis Napier, 10th Baron Napier 1872 (temporarily)
Thomas George Baring, 1st Earl of Northbrook 1872-1876
Robert Bulwer-Lytton, 2nd Baron Lytton 1876-1880
George Robinson, 1st Marquess of Ripon 1880-1884
Frederick Hamilton-Temple-Blackwood, 1st Marquess of Dufferin and Ava 1884-1888
Henry Petty-FitzMaurice, 5th Marquess of Lansdowne 1888-1894
Victor Alexander Bruce, 9th Earl of Elgin 1894-1899
George Curzon, 1st Baron Curzon 1899-1904
Arthur Russell 1904 (temporarily)
George Curzon, 1st Baron Curzon 1904-1905
Gilbert Elliot-Murray-Kynynmound, 4th Earl of Minto 1905-1910
Charles Hardinge 1910-1916
Frederic Thesiger, 3rd Baron Chelmsford 1916-1921
Rufus Isaacs, 1st Earl of Reading 1921-1925
Victor Bulwer-Lytton, 2nd Earl of Lytton 1925–1926 (temporarily)
Edward Frederick Lindley Wood, 1st Baron Irwin 1926-1931
George Joachim Goschen, 2nd Viscount Goschen 1929 (during Lord Irwin's absence on leave)
Freeman Freeman-Thomas, 1st Earl of Willingdon 1931-1936
Victor Alexander John Hope, 2nd Marquess of Linlithgow 1936-1943
Archibald Wavell, 1st Viscount Wavell 1943-1947
Louis Mountbatten 1947

Governors General of India (1947–1950)

Official Term of office
Louis Mountbatten, 1st Earl Mountbatten of Burma 1947-1948
C. Rajagopalachari 1948-1950


  • Association of Commonwealth Archivists and Record Managers. (1999). "Government Buildings - India."
  • "British Empire." (1911). Encyclopædia Britannica, 11th ed. London: Cambridge University Press.
  • James, L. (1997). Raj: The Making and Unmaking of British India. London: Little, Brown & Company.
  • Keith, AB (Ed.). (1922). Speeches and Documents on Indian Policy, 1750-1921. London: Oxford University Press.
  • "Viceroy." (1911). Encyclopædia Britannica, 11th ed. London: Cambridge University Press.

See also

Web links

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