Alexander Gore Arkwright
Hore-Ruthven, 1st Baron Gowrie (6 July 1872 - 2 May 1955, tenth
Governor-General of Australia, was born in Windsor, Berkshire, England,
the second son of the 8th Baron Ruthven. He was educated at Eton, but
withdrawn due to poor eyesight. In 1898 he joined the Army, and served
in the Sudan, where he won the Victoria Cross. In 1905 he became aide-de-camp
to Lord Dudley, then Lord Lieutenant of Ireland, and in 1908 he married
Zara Pollok. They had one son.
In 1908 Dudley was appointed
Governor-General of Australia, and Hore-Ruthven (pronounced Hore-Riven)
went with him as military secretary. He left in 1910 and returned to
military service in India. During the First World War he served in
France and at Gallipoli, where he was severely wounded. He finished the
war as a Brigadier-General, and commanded British forces in Germany in
1919-20. He then held various Army staff positions until 1928, when he
was appointed Governor of South Australia. His term ended in 1934, and
he was then promptly appointed Governor of New South Wales, with the
title Baron Gowrie.
With such a fine military record, and
such extensive vice-regal experience, Gowrie was an obvious choice to
succeed Sir Isaac Isaacs when he retired as Governor-General in 1936. In
accordance with established practice, the Prime Minister, Joseph Lyons,
was offered several alternatives, but Gowrie was the outstanding
candidate given the Lyons had no intention of appointing another
Australian to the post.
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. Nevertheless, 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 a
Governor-General had represented Australia abroad.
In April 1939 Lyons died suddenly, the
first time this had happened in Australia. Gowrie commissioned Sir Earle
Page, the leader of the Country Party, as acting 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
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 dumped Menzies as leader, the independent members
voted to put the government out. Gowrie sent for them and demanded that
they give him a guarantee that if he commissioned the Labor leader, John
Curtin, they would support him and end the instability in government.
In wartime Gowrie saw his duty as
supporting 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 this, he and
Lady Gowrie learned that their son, Patrick, had been killed in Libya
the previous year.
Gowrie's term ended in September 1944
and he returned to Britain, where he was created 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.