Military Wiki
The Right Honourable Brigadier General
The Earl of Gowrie
10th Governor-General of Australia

In office
23 January 1936 – 30 January 1945
Monarch Edward VIII
George VI
Preceded by Sir Isaac Isaacs
Succeeded by HRH The Duke of Gloucester
27th Governor of New South Wales

In office
15 January 1935 – 23 January 1936
Monarch George V
Edward VIII
Lieutenant Sir Philip Street
Preceded by Sir Philip Game
Succeeded by Sir David Anderson
20th Governor of South Australia

In office
14 May 1928 – 26 April 1934
Monarch George V
Preceded by Sir George Bridges
Succeeded by Sir Winston Joseph Dugan
Personal details
Born (1872-07-06)6 July 1872
Windsor, Berkshire, England
Died 2 May 1955(1955-05-02) (aged 82)
Shipton Moyne, Gloucestershire, England
Military service
Allegiance UK
Service/branch Flag of the British Army.svg British Army
Years of service 1892–1928
Rank Brigadier General
Battles/wars Sudan Campaign
World War I
Awards Victoria Cross
Companion of the Order of the Bath
Distinguished Service Order & Bar
Mentioned in Despatches

Brigadier General Alexander Gore Arkwright Hore-Ruthven, 1st Earl of Gowrie VC, GCMG, CB, DSO & Bar, PC (/ˈhɔər ˈrɪvɛn/; 6 July 1872 – 2 May 1955) was a British soldier and colonial governor and the tenth Governor-General of Australia. Serving for 9 years and 7 days, he is the longest serving Governor-General in Australia's history. Prior to his appointment in Australia he was a British Army officer who was the recipient of the Victoria Cross, the highest and most prestigious award for gallantry in the face of the enemy that can be awarded to British and Commonwealth forces.

Early life and background

Alexander Hore-Ruthven was born on 6 July 1872 in Windsor, Berkshire, United Kingdom, as the second son of Walter Hore-Ruthven (1838–1921), the 9th Lord Ruthven of Freeland, and Lady Caroline Annesley Gore (1848–1914), the daughter of Philip Gore, 4th Earl of Arran. After attending Winton House School in Winchester (not Winchester College as is stated in some sources) as a boarder from 1884 to 1885, Hore-Ruthven spent most of his early education at Eton College, where he stayed until 1888, when he was withdrawn from Eton owing to eyesight problems and sent into business by his parents. He first worked in a tea merchant's office in Glasgow and then travelled to India to work on a Tea Plantation in Assam. Hore-Ruthven, however, soon succumbed to malaria and he returned to England in 1892. He then joined the army and later the Militia in 1892. After training at the United Services College he was posted as an officer into the 3rd Battalion of the Highland Light Infantry.

Military career

Arkwright after being awarded the Victoria Cross in 1898

In 1898, Hore-Ruthven joined the British Army. During the Sudan Campaign he was a captain in the 3rd Battalion of The Highland Light Infantry. He fought in the Sudan Campaign in 1898, where he was mentioned in despatches. During the action at Gedarif, Hore-Ruthven saw an Egyptian officer lying wounded within 50 yards of the advancing Dervishes, who were firing and charging. He picked up the wounded officer and carried him towards the 16th Egyptian Battalion; he had to drop his burden several times in order to fire upon the Dervishes and check their advance, but his action undoubtedly saved the officer's life; for his bravery, he was awarded the Victoria Cross on 28 February 1899.[1]

He fought in the Somaliland Campaign between 1903 and 1904.

In 1905, Hore-Ruthven became an aide-de-camp to Lord Dudley, then Lord Lieutenant of Ireland. In 1908, Dudley was appointed Governor-General of Australia, and Hore-Ruthven went with him as military secretary. In the same year he married Zara Pollok, with whom he had two sons, one of whom died in infancy. He left Australia in 1910 and returned to military service in India. During World War I, he served in France and at Gallipoli, where he was severely wounded, awarded the Distinguished Service Order (1916)[1] and Bar (1919),[1] and Mentioned in Despatches five times. He was also appointed a Commander of the Order of St Michael and St George (CMG) on 8 March 1918.[2] He finished the war as a brigadier-general, was created a Companion of the Order of the Bath (CB) in 1919[1] and commanded British forces in Germany between 1919 and 1920. After this he held various Army staff positions until 1928, when he was knighted as a Knight Commander of the Order of St Michael and St George (KCMG, 24 January 1928) and appointed Governor of South Australia (being sworn in on 14 May 1928).

Governor of South Australia

Hore-Ruthven arrived in Adelaide in May 1928. He took to his duties with enthusiasm, visiting many areas of the State in a de Havilland DH.60 Moth owned by his ADC, Captain Hugh Grosvenor.[3] Together with Lady Hore-Ruthven, he was a keen supporter of the Boy Scout and Girl Guide movements. She was also president of the South Australian Red Cross.[4]

In a 1930 Anzac Day speech, Hore-Ruthven criticised the union movement for exacerbating, through strike action, the hardship suffered by returned servicemen. He was censured by the United Trades and Labour Council in response.[4] He was on leave in London when the third Bodyline Test cricket match in Adelaide caused Anglo-Australian political tension in 1933, and played a significant part in smoothing relations through his meetings with the British Secretary of State for Dominion Affairs J.H. Thomas. During Hore-Ruthven's second term as governor, the Great Depression was causing severe hardship in South Australia. The Lionel Hill government, elected on a promise of bringing a "golden future", was heavily criticised when economic realities forced it to adopt austerity measures. Hore-Ruthven supported Premier Hill in the face of criticism from within the Labor party. His speeches frequently expressed the belief that a premier should "rise above party". Hill's firm resolve during the crisis was seen as largely the result of Hore-Ruthven's influence. His performance during the crisis was reportedly a critical factor in his subsequent selection as Governor of New South Wales.[4]

Governor of New South Wales

His term as Governor of South Australia ended in April 1934, and he returned to England. He was almost immediately appointed Governor of New South Wales, and at the suggestion of Prime Minister Joseph Lyons was also raised to the peerage as Baron Gowrie of Canberra in the Commonwealth of Australia and of Dirleton in the County of East Lothian. He arrived in Sydney on 21 February 1935. However he had already been approached by King George V regarding appointment as Governor General while in England. He was raised to Knight Grand Cross of the Order of St Michael and St George (GCMG) on 20 December 1935.[4]

Governor-General of Australia

With his military record and experience, Gowrie was seen as an obvious choice to succeed Sir Isaac Isaacs when he retired as Governor-General in 1936. In accordance with established practice Prime Minister Joseph Lyons was offered several alternatives, but Lyons had no intention of recommending another Australian to the post. At the time, non-Labor Prime Ministers always appointed British Governors-General. In accordance with Australian constitutional practice, he was formally appointed by King George V, who died on 20 January 1936, three days before Gowrie was due to be sworn in as Governor-General. Thus he came to office during the reign of King Edward VIII.

Gowrie signing the declaration of War against Japan with Prime Minister John Curtin looking on.

In office, Gowrie was a popular if unobtrusive figure in Australia. The days when Governors-General exercised significant power, or even participated in negotiations between the Australian and British governments, had now passed, but Gowrie set a precedent in 1938 when he toured the Netherlands East Indies at the invitation of the colonial administration. This was the first time that a Governor-General had represented Australia abroad.

In April 1939 Lyons died suddenly and Gowrie commissioned Sir Earle Page, the leader of the Country Party, as Prime Minister until the United Australia Party could choose a new leader: this was the only circumstance in which the Governor-General still had some personal discretion.

Gowrie's political skills were tested again after the 1940 election, which left the UAP Prime Minister, Robert Menzies, dependent on the votes of two independent members to stay in power. When the UAP forced Menzies out as leader, it was so bereft of leadership that Country Party leader Arthur Fadden was named Prime Minister, even though the UAP was the senior coalition partner. However, the independents were so outraged at how Menzies had been treated that they joined Labor in voting against Fadden's budget and brought the government down. Gowrie was reluctant to call an election for a Parliament just over a year old, especially given the international situation. However, he didn't see another alternative if Labor leader John Curtin didn't have enough support to govern. He therefore summoned the two independents to Yarralumla and made them promise that if he commissioned Curtin as Prime Minister, they would support him and end the instability in government. The independents agreed, and Gowrie duly appointed Curtin.

During World War II Gowrie saw it as his duty to support the government and the British Empire, and also the troops. In 1943 he undertook a four-week tour of inspection of Allied Defence Forces in northern Australia and New Guinea. Shortly before undertaking this tour, Gowrie and his wife had learned that their son, Patrick, had been killed in Libya the previous year.

He officially opened the Australian War Memorial on 11 November 1941.

Gowrie's term ended in September 1944 after which he returned to Britain, where he was created Viscount Ruthven of Canberra, of Dirleton in the County of East Lothian, and Earl of Gowrie and appointed Deputy Constable and Lieutenant-Governor of Windsor Castle. In 1948 he was elected president of the Marylebone Cricket Club. He died in May 1955 at his home in Gloucestershire.

He was the only Governor-General of Australia to be advised by five different Prime Ministers (Lyons, Page, Menzies, Fadden and Curtin), although two (Page and Fadden) were short-term appointments.


He was a freemason. He was initiated to the craft on 15 March 1893 in the St Andrew's Military Lodge No. 668 at the age of 21. While in Sudan he became a member of the Sir Reginald Wingate Lodge No. 2954 and was appointed its Secretary. When he was appointed Governor of South Australia, Mellis Napier proposed him to become Grand Master of the state's Grand Lodge. Because he was not eligible to become Grand Master if he wasn't first a Worshipful Master, he became a member of the United Service Lodge No. 27. On 25 April 1929 he was appointed Senior Warden and on 25 April 1930, Worshipful Master. On 15 April 1930, ten days before being installed Worshipful Master, he was installed Grand Master of the Grand Lodge of South Australia. He was appointed Grand Master of the Grand Lodge of New South Wales almost immediately after he was appointed the state's Governor and continued to serve as Grand Master when he was appointed Governor-General of Australia. Gowrie Lodge No. 651 was named in his honour and was concecrated by himself. When this Lodge was merged with the Lodge Leinster Marine No. 2, the Lodge Gowrie of Canberra No. 715 was founded and still exists.[5]


Viceregal styles of
The Lord Gowrie
Royal Coat of Arms of the United Kingdom.svg
Reference style His Excellency
Spoken style Your Excellency
Alternative style Sir
  • 1872–1898: The Honourable Alexander Gore Arkwright Hore-Ruthven
  • 1898–1899: Second Lieutenant (Temp. Captain) The Hon Alexander Gore Arkwright Hore-Ruthven
  • 1899–1901: Second Lieutenant The Hon Alexander Gore Arkwright Hore-Ruthven, VC
  • 1901–1908: Lieutenant The Hon Alexander Gore Arkwright Hore-Ruthven, VC
  • 1908–1910: Captain The Hon Alexander Gore Arkwright Hore-Ruthven, VC
  • 1910–1916: Major The Hon Alexander Gore Arkwright-Hore-Ruthven, VC
  • 1916–1918: Colonel The Hon Alexander Gore Arkwright-Hore-Ruthven, VC, DSO
  • 1918–1919: Colonel The Hon Alexander Gore Arkwright-Hore-Ruthven, VC, CMG, DSO
  • 1919–1928: Brigadier General The Hon Alexander Gore Arkwright-Hore-Ruthven, VC, CB, CMG, DSO & Bar
  • 1928–1935: Brigadier General The Hon Sir Alexander Gore Arkwright-Hore-Ruthven, VC, KCMG, CB, DSO & Bar
  • 1935–1937: Brigadier General The Rt Hon The Lord Gowrie, VC, GCMG, CB, DSO & Bar
  • 1937–1945: His Excellency Brigadier General The Rt Hon The Lord Gowrie, VC, GCMG, CB, DSO & Bar, PC
  • 1945–1955: Brigadier General The Rt Hon The Earl of Gowrie, VC, GCMG, CB, DSO & Bar, PC

Hore-Ruthven's orders, medals and decorations on display in the Ashcroft Gallery at the Imperial War Museum

Victoria Cross (UK) ribbon.png Ord.St.Michele-Giorgio.png Order of the Bath UK ribbon.png DSO with Bar.png

Order of St John (UK) ribbon.png Queens Sudan Medal BAR.svg Africa General Service Medal BAR.svg 1914 Star BAR.svg

British War Medal BAR.svg Victory Medal MID ribbon bar.svg 1939-45 Star.jpg Pacific Star.gif

Defence Medal ribbon.png War Medal 1939–1945 (UK) ribbon.png 100x30px King George V Coronation Medal ribbon.png

GeorgeVSilverJubileum-ribbon.png GeorgeVICoronationRibbon.png UK Queen EII Coronation Medal ribbon.svg Order of the Osmanie lenta.png

BEL Croix de Guerre WW1 ribbon.svg CroixdeGuerreFR-BronzeStar.png Khedives Sudan Medal 1897.png DNK Order of Danebrog Commander BAR.png

Victoria Cross (UK) ribbon.png Victoria Cross (VC) 1899
Ord.St.Michele-Giorgio.png Knight Grand Cross of the Order of St Michael and St George (GCMG) 1935
Knight Commander of the Order of St Michael and St George (KCMG) 1928
Companion of the Order of St Michael and St George (CMG) 1918
Order of the Bath UK ribbon.png Companion of the Order of the Bath (CB) 1919
DSO with Bar.png Companion & Bar of the Distinguished Service Order (DSO & Bar) 1916, 1919
Order of St John (UK) ribbon.png Knight of Grace of the Venerable Order of St John of Jerusalem
Queens Sudan Medal BAR.svg Queen's Sudan Medal
Africa General Service Medal BAR.svg Africa General Service Medal with two Clasps
1914 Star BAR.svg 1914 Star with Clasp
British War Medal BAR.svg British War Medal
Victory Medal MID ribbon bar.svg Victory Medal with MID Palm
1939-45 Star.jpg 1939–45 Star
Pacific Star.gif Pacific Star
Defence Medal ribbon.png Defence Medal
War Medal 1939–1945 (UK) ribbon.png War Medal 1939–1945
80px Australia Service Medal 1939–45
King George V Coronation Medal ribbon.png King George V Coronation Medal
GeorgeVSilverJubileum-ribbon.png King George V Silver Jubilee Medal
GeorgeVICoronationRibbon.png King George VI Coronation Medal
UK Queen EII Coronation Medal ribbon.svg Queen Elizabeth II Coronation Medal
Order of the Osmanie lenta.png Order of Osmanieh, 4th Class
BEL Croix de Guerre WW1 ribbon.svg Belgian Croix de guerre
CroixdeGuerreFR-BronzeStar.png French Croix de guerre 1914–1918 with Bronze star
Khedives Sudan Medal 1897.png Khedive's Sudan Medal with three Clasps
DNK Order of Danebrog Commander BAR.png Commander of the Order of the Dannebrog


External links

Government offices
Preceded by
Sir George Bridges
Governor of South Australia
Succeeded by
Sir Winston Joseph Dugan
Preceded by
Sir Philip Game
Governor of New South Wales
Succeeded by
Sir David Anderson
Preceded by
Sir Isaac Isaacs
Governor-General of Australia
Succeeded by
HRH The Duke of Gloucester
Peerage of the United Kingdom
New title Baron Gowrie
Succeeded by
Alexander Patrick Greysteil Ruthven
Earl of Gowrie
Military offices
Preceded by
Charles James Briggs
Colonel of 1st King's Dragoon Guards
Succeeded by
Sidney Howes

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