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Sir George Grey
, c. 1845

by Theresa Walker

cast wax (frame: 18.8 cm x 18.8 cm depth 3.5 cm diameter 19.0 cm)

Sir George Grey (1812–1898), soldier, explorer and colonial administrator, arrived in Western Australia in 1838 to conduct an expedition by which he proposed to locate a site for settlement on the north-west coast. The attempt failed, but he remained in the colony and was appointed resident magistrate at Albany in August 1839. Later that year he married Eliza Spencer (c. 1819–1898). During his time in Albany, Grey studied local Aboriginal culture, publishing his findings as Vocabulary of the Dialects spoken by the Aboriginal Races of South-Western Australia. Recalled to England, he produced an account of his Western Australian expeditions before being appointed Governor of South Australia in October 1840. In South Australia he introduced drastic and much-resented spending cuts, though over five years he nearly balanced the colony’s budget. His intractability marred his subsequent two terms as Governor of New Zealand – from 1848 to 1853 and again from 1861 to 1868 – and his term as Governor of the Cape Colony (between 1854 and 1861). His approach to his marriage was similarly austere, such that when Eliza, who was never reconciled to colonial life, confessed her unhappiness to a male acquaintance, Grey insisted on a separation. A reconciliation in 1896 was unsuccessful and they both died, after separating again, in late 1898.

Collection: National Portrait Gallery
Purchased 1999
Accession number: 1999.52.1