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Thomas Brassey

1836 – 1918

Thomas Brassey, 1st Earl Brassey (1836–1918), politician and governor, studied law and modern history at Oxford, but abandoned law for a career in politics two years after being called to the Bar. He entered the House of Commons in 1868, holding the seat of Hastings until 1886 and dedicating much of his time in parliament to subjects such as wages, working conditions, and maritime matters. Brassey had picked up his love of ships as a boy, and as a politician contributed greatly to reforms in naval administration and maritime policy. He was a civil lord of the Admiralty under William Gladstone (from 1880 to 1884); parliamentary secretary to the Admiralty (in 1884–85), and a lord-in-waiting to Queen Victoria. When not writing or lecturing on naval affairs, Brassey undertook voyages on his steam yacht, Sunbeam, which he sailed to Melbourne in 1895 having accepted the position of governor of Victoria. Brassey and his second wife, Sybil, were noted for their support of children’s causes and school education, Lady Brassey, for example, founding the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to and Neglect of Children. A supporter of Federation, Brassey left office shortly before Queen Victoria gave her assent to the Commonwealth Act in 1900. Elevated to the peerage in 1886, he was created Earl Brassey on the coronation of George V in 1911. Brassey’s first wife, Annie, who died off the coast of Port Darwin in 1887, published a number of accounts of his Sunbeam voyages.

Updated 2018