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"Fetteresso" Sir Robert Duff (Image plate from Vanity Fair)
, 1883

by Francois Verheyden

chromolithograph (sheet: 38.0 cm x 26.0 cm)

Sir Robert William Duff (1835–1895), governor, joined the Royal Navy at age thirteen and served for over 20 years, ultimately attaining the rank of commander. In the midst of this, he was elected to the House of Commons as the Member for Banffshire, fulfilling this role until being appointed Governor of New South Wales in March 1893. Within months of his arrival in Australia he became embroiled in a political dilemma when, having agreed to an act to redraw existing electoral rolls and boundaries, he assented to a request from the NSW Premier, Sir George Dibbs, to prorogue Parliament (thereby sparing Dibbs from being forced to resign). Duff was accused of partisanship by Sir Henry Parkes and was strongly chastised by the Colonial Office. Taken ill during a visit to Tasmania in early 1895, Duff returned to Sydney, where he died from a liver disorder and septicaemia in March. He was the first New South Wales governor to die in office.

The title of this work, Fetteresso, refers to the name of the Duff family estate in Kincardineshire, Scotland.

Collection: National Portrait Gallery
Purchased 2015
Accession number: 2015.19