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Awaiting arrival of next Governor of Bermuda

We are awaiting the announcement from the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs in London as to who will be appointed the next Governor of Bermuda. The new appointee shall be the 142nd Governor to serve in that capacity. Richard Moore was appointed the first Governor of Bermuda 404 years ago in 1612 and served in that capacity for four years.

The Governor of Bermuda is appointed by the reigning British monarch at the advice of the British Government.

The role of the Governor is to act as the de facto head of state and as Commander-in-Chief, at the will and pleasure of the Queen. The special responsibilities under taken by the Governor are outlined in accordance to the provisions of the Bermuda Constitutional Order 1968, in which the Governor shall be responsible for the conduct and business relating to the Government specifically in the matters relating to the external affairs; defence including armed forces; internal security, and the police, and to any further instruction of which the British monarch may from time to time see fit to give him under her Signed Manual and Signet or through the Secretary of State.

During the heyday of British colonialism, of which the sun never set on the British Empire, the function and role of the Governor prior to the formation of the Bermuda House of Assembly in 1620, was sacrosanct, unimpeachable and supreme.

The Governor, as of right, had absolute command and authority to have any member of the colony to be whipped, hanged and expelled and banished from the colony.

Subsequent thereto, and for over a period of three-and-a-half centuries, the Governor played a pivotal role in the conduct of all affairs touching and concerning matters political, legal and economic, of which he initially administered power and authority through a Privy Council comprising of himself, the Chief Justice, and several civil servants, which was the forerunner of the Legislative Council and now regarded today formally as the Cabinet.

Since the formation of settlement in Bermuda, the power and auspices of the Governor has changed significantly.

Some of the former Governors who did not adhere to the idiosyncratic demands of the local landed gentry that dominated and controlled the House of Assembly were admonished by the denial of payment of funds allocated for public projects overseen by the Governor, or for his personal upkeep and enjoyment.

One particular circumstance arose in 1939 when the Governor, Sir Richard Hildyard resigned his post when the Bermuda Government refused to purchase a motor car to assist in the conduct of his official affairs.

Throughout British colonial history the status and function of office of the Governor as the official representative of the British Crown was accompanied with an elevated degree of pomp, circumstance and grandeur.

In every colonial territory which they administered, of which Bermuda is no exception, they lived in the most grandiose lifestyle in their official residence at Government House, with all expense of their upkeep paid out of the Consolidated Fund of the local government. A great majority of these gentlemen that had been elevated to the status of high office as Governor came from a host of varied social and political backgrounds with one common dominator, their sworn allegiance to the British Crown.

In delving into some of the biographical sketches of previous Governors, some interesting factors have been revealed. The first Governor of Bermuda, Thomas Moore, appointed in 1609, was a carpenter by trade. Governor Nathaniel Butler, who prior to his appointment was a privateer by profession who engaged in maritime warfare under a commission of war in the early 17th century, was instrumental in building many structures during his tenure including the State House in St George's, which housed Bermuda's first Parliament.

Another interesting note in mention is George James Bruere who was the longest-serving of all Bermudian Governors for a period of 16 years from 1764-1780. Upon his arrival as Governor in Bermuda, Sir Bruere was aghast at the way in which slaves were treated in Bermuda. He expressed his displeasure via a rather scolding speech he delivered before Members of the House of Assembly in which he proposed (by paraphrasing) to white slave owners the imposition of greater control over their slaves.

As he was familiar with the control of slaves in other colonies, he suggested that “white Bermudians should bring the Negroes to a better regularity and obedience and to prevent their unlawful assemblies, thefts and pernicious practices of leaving their masters houses and going to meetings by night”. Within one year of his appointment as Governor, Members of the House of Assembly resolved to appoint a Committee headed by the Speaker to address all relevant matters to his Majesty the King on the “tyranny and oppression of the Governor”.

Ironically, George James Bruere died in office as Governor in 1780 and Thomas Jones was appointed as Governor for a rather brief period and by a twist of fate, George James Bruere, the younger, was appointed Governor of Bermuda from 1780-1781. The first time in history a father and son had served as Governor.

Since the early part of the 20th century the social pedigree as to the appointment of persons as Governor of Bermuda has changed significantly with the majority of whom have included members of the British aristocracy and former and retired members of the British House of Commons and of the House of Lords.

During my tenure as a journalist, I do recall the appointment of David George Brownlow Cecil, 6th Marquess of Exeter, formally styled as Lord Burghley.

He served as Governor of Bermuda from 1943-1945. He was a former Conservative Member of Parliament and a former British Olympian that competed in the 1924, 1928 and the 1932 Olympics where he won a silver medal in the 4x400 metre relay.

His life story as an athlete was depicted in the epic 1981 film, Chariots of Fire, which won four Academy Awards, in which the character Lord Andrew Lindsay was based on the life of Lord Burghley.

Another Governor, who in recent times I can recall, that was amiable in character and very popular with the people of Bermuda was Lord Martonmere who served from 1964-1972. Upon his retirement he resided in Bermuda until his death in 1989.

As we await the appointment and arrival of the new Governor, and upon my recent inquiries with both Government House and the Cabinet Office earlier this week, neither one would confirm or deny that either a male or female shall be appointed as the next Governor.

Time to say farewell: Bermuda's most recent Governor, George Fergusson, says his final goodbyes to the staff of Government House before leaving on the Norwegian Dawn in King's Wharf Terminal, Dockyard. Mr Fergusson and his wife, Margaret, left Bermuda on August 2 (Photograph by Akil Simmons)

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Published August 27, 2016 at 9:00 am (Updated August 27, 2016 at 2:13 am)

Awaiting arrival of next Governor of Bermuda

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