Robert Wynyard

Robert Wynyard.

Sir Robert Henry Wynyard (24 December 1802 6 January 1864) was a New Zealand colonial administrator, serving at various times as Lieutenant Governor of New Ulster Province, Administrator of the Government, and was the first Superintendent of Auckland Province.

Early life

He was born in Windsor Castle to William Wynyard, Colonel of the 5th Regiment of Foot and Equerry to King George III. Robert was educated in Dunmow, Essex and joined the British Army as an ensign in the 85th (Duke of York's Own Light Infantry) Regiment, transferring in 1826 to the 58th (Rutlandshire) Regiment of Foot.

He served in Ireland from 1828 to 1841 on the staff of the adjutant general, and was promoted to major in 1841. He returned to England in 1842 and was appointed Lieutenant-colonel in command of the 58th Regiment. When the regiment was posted to Sydney, Australia in 1844 Wynyard was sent on to New Zealand with 200 men to take part in the Flagstaff War against Hone Heke and Kawiti. Wynyard was one of the party who stormed Ruapekapeka on 11 January 1846 and in recognition of his services he was created CB later that year. In December 1846 Wynyard returned to New Zealand to command the forces there until 1858 and was promoted to the rank of colonel in 1854.

Lieutenant Governor of New Ulster

From 26 April 1851 to 7 March 1853, Sir Robert Henry Wynyard was Lieutenant-Governor of New Ulster, a province of New Zealand encompassing much of the North Island. During his term of office he persuaded the local chiefs Ngati Tama-te-ra and Ngati Raupunga to allow gold mining in the province. The office was abolished when New Zealand was divided into several smaller provinces under the 1852 Constitution Act.

Superintendent of Auckland Province

Wynyard was Superintendent of the new Auckland Province from 12 July 1853 to 5 January 1855.

Administrator of Government

Wynyard served for two periods (3 January 1854 to 6 September 1855 and 3 October 1861 to December 1861) as Administrator of the Government, in each case between the recall of one Governor and the arrival of the next.

Wynyard opened the 1st New Zealand Parliament on 24 May 1854.[1] He was quickly confronted by the demands of the new Parliament that responsible government be granted immediately; on 2 June the House of Representatives passed a resolution, sponsored by Edward Gibbon Wakefield, to that effect. Wynyard refused, stating that the Colonial Office made no mention of responsible government in its dispatches. The appointed Executive Council advised Wynyard against implementing responsible government, and in the meantime he sent a dispatch to London requesting clarification. Wynyard then offered to add some elected members of parliament to the Executive Council, and appointed James FitzGerald, Henry Sewell and Frederick Weld to the council. The compromise worked for a few weeks, but on 1 August Parliament demanded complete power to appoint ministers. Wynyard refused, and all three MPs resigned from the council. In response, Wynyard prorogued Parliament for two weeks. On 31 August he appointed Thomas Forsaith, Jerningham Wakefield and James Macandrew to the Executive Council, but when Parliament met again it moved a motion of no confidence in the members.

Parliament met on 8 August 1855, by which time Wynyard had received instructions from the Colonial Office to introduce responsible government. Fortunately for Wynyard, the new Governor, Sir Thomas Gore Browne, arrived on 6 September 1855 and relieved Wynyard of his duties. He resumed his military career and belonged to the 58th Regiment.[2] On 28 January 1858, Wynyard was appointed to the New Zealand Legislative Council.[3] He resigned on 3 November of that year, as the 58th Regiment was recalled to England.[2][3]

Wynyard's second term as Administrator in 1861 was much less eventful. Filling in between Gore Browne and Sir George Grey, he governed New Zealand for a short period with the advice of responsible Ministers, under Premier William Fox.

Acting Governor of Cape Colony

He acted for Sir George Grey as Governor of Cape Colony twice, from 1859 to 1860 and from 1861 to 1862.

Later life

Wynyard served as Colonel of the 98th Regiment of Foot from 1863 until his death. He died in Bath, England, in 1864. He had married in Malta in 1826 Anne Catherine McDonell, daughter of Hugh McDonell, the British consul general at Algiers. They had four sons.


  1. Gavin McLean (2006), The Governors, Otago University Press, p. 50
  2. 1 2 Rogers, Frank. "Wynyard, Robert Henry - Biography". Dictionary of New Zealand Biography. Ministry for Culture and Heritage. Retrieved 9 February 2012.
  3. 1 2 Scholefield, Guy (1950) [First ed. published 1913]. New Zealand Parliamentary Record, 1840–1949 (3rd ed.). Wellington: Govt. Printer. p. 88.
Political offices
New office Superintendent of Auckland Province
Succeeded by
William Brown
Government offices
Preceded by
George Grey
Governor of the Cape Colony, acting
Succeeded by
Sir Philip Wodehouse
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