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Brabazon Ponsonby, Earl of Bessborough
the first Governor-General of Canada to not officially represent the British government
Vere Brabazon Ponsonby was born in London on October 27, 1880. He trained as a lawyer at Harrow and Trinity College, Cambridge, and began his law career in 1903. He married Roberte de Neuflize on June 25, 1912, with whom he had four children.
Ponsonby served in the London County Council from 1907 to 1910, and was a member of Parliament for the Conservative Party in 1910 and 1913-1920. Upon the death of his father in 1920, he became 9th Earl of Bessborough in Ireland and entered the House of Lords.
In the 1920's, Ponsonby headed the Sao Paulo Railway and the Margarine Union, and also served as deputy chairman of De Beers Consolidated Mines.
On April 4, 1931, Ponsonby was inaugurated Governor General and Commander-in-Chief in and over Canada. He was the first to be appointed under the terms of a Letter Patent signed by King George V, confirming that the Governor General would no longer represent the British government.
Ponsonby's inauguration was the first to be broadcast nationally by radio. As Governor General, he inaugurated the first trans-Canadian phone system (1932) and saw the creation of the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. He also had a direct telephone link established between his office and that of Prime Minister R.B. Bennett. In 1932, he opened the Imperial Economic Conference in the House of Commons, Ottawa's first major international gathering.
Holding office during the Great Depression, Ponsonby asked for, and received, a reduction of 10 per cent in his salary.
After his term expired on November 2, 1935, Ponsonby returned to his earlier business pursuits in England. For his service in Canada, he was created 1st Earl of Bessborough in the United Kingdom on June 2, 1937. During World War II, he helped establish a department within the Foreign Office that looked after the welfare of French refugees in Britain.
The First Earl of Bessborough died in Stansted on March 10, 1956.
This page was last updated on March 10, 2017.