Charles Metcalfe, 1st Baron Metcalfe

British Library Charles Bagot Charles Cathcart, 2nd Earl Cathcart

The Lord Metcalfe

Charles Theophilus Metcalfe, 1st Baron Metcalfe by George Chinnery.jpg
Portrait by George Chinnery, early 1820s
Governor-General of India
In office
20 March 1835 – 4 March 1836
MonarchWilliam IV
Preceded byLord William Bentinck
Succeeded byThe Lord Auckland
Governor of Jamaica
In office
Preceded bySir Lionel Smith, Bt
Succeeded byThe Earl of Elgin
Governor General of the Province of Canada
In office
Preceded bySir Charles Bagot
Succeeded byThe Earl Cathcart
Personal details
Born(1785-01-30)30 January 1785
Calcutta, Bengal Presidency, British India
Died5 September 1846(1846-09-05) (aged 61)
Malshanger, Oakley, Hampshire

Charles Theophilus Metcalfe, 1st Baron Metcalfe, GCB PC (30 January 1785 – 5 September 1846), known as Sir Charles Metcalfe, Bt between 1822 and 1845, was a British colonial administrator. He held appointments including acting Governor-General of India, Governor of Jamaica and Governor General of the Province of Canada.[1][2]

Family and education

Metcalfe was born on 30 January 1785 in Lecture House, Calcutta, Bengal Presidency, India, the second son of Thomas Metcalfe, then a major in the Bengal Army, who first went to India in 1767 as a cadet in the King's Army, afterwards became a Baronet, MP, and Director of the British East India Company (1789–1812), and was created a baronet on 21 December 1802.[3][4] Thomas Metcalfe married Susannah Selina Sophia, Lady Metcalfe (1756–1815) in Calcutta in 1782, who was the daughter of a merchant, John Debonnaire, trading at Fort St. George, who subsequently settled at the Cape of Good Hope. She and her sister were educated in England and then visited their father and went on to Madras. The sister died on the voyage but Susannah married Major John Smith of the Bengal Establishment in Madras on 24 August 1776. After his death she married Major Thomas Theophilus Metcalfe in Calcutta in 1782, and the couple returned to England in 1785.[5][6] Their elder daughter was Emily Theophila, Viscountess Ashbrook (1791–1885).[7] His Metcalfe descent can be traced back to the 14th century in Wensleydale, North Yorkshire, where the Metcalfe family originated.

Having been educated at Eton, in 1800 Metcalfe sailed for India as a writer in the service of the Company. He then studied Oriental languages as the first student at Lord Wellesley's College of Fort William. His younger brother, Sir Thomas Theophilus Metcalfe, 4th Baronet (1795–1853) was an agent of the Governor General of India to the Mughal court.

Metcalfe had a Sikh wife and three sons.[8]


Letter given by Sir Charles Metcalfe to Bahadur Shah Zafar
Portrait of Akbar II with Sir Charles Theophilus Metcalf and court dignitaries

At the age of nineteen, Metcalfe was appointed political assistant to General Lake, who was then conducting the final campaign of the Second Anglo-Maratha War against Yashwantrao Holkar. In 1808 he was selected by Lord Minto for the responsible post of envoy to the court of Ranjit Singh at Lahore; here, on 25 April 1809, he concluded the important Treaty of Amritsar securing the independence of the Sikh states between the Sutlej and the Jumna. His first tenure as Resident at Delhi began on 25 February 1811 for the East India Company, (from 1813 for British Government), and in 1819 he received from Lord Hastings the appointment of secretary in the secret and political department. From 1820 to 1825 Sir Charles (who succeeded his brother in the baronetcy in 1822) was resident at the court of the Nizam, and afterwards was summoned in an emergency to his former post at Delhi.

Governor of Agra

On 14 November 1834 he was posted as Governor of the Presidency of Agra where he served for over four months till 20 March 1835.[9]

Acting Governor-General

In 1827 he obtained a seat in the supreme council, and in March 1835, after he had acted as the first governor of the proposed new presidency of Agra, he provisionally succeeded Lord William Bentinck as the Governor-General of Bengal (1835–36). During his brief tenure of office (it lasted for only one year) he carried out several important measures, including that for the liberation of the press, which, while almost universally popular, complicated his relations with the directors at home to such an extent that he resigned the service of the Company in 1838. In 1835 he was also appointed a Knight Grand Cross of the Order of the Bath (GCB).[10]

Lieutenant Governor of the North-Western Provinces

He was Lieutenant-Governor of the North-Western Provinces from 1 June 1836 to 1 June 1838.[11][12]

Governor of Jamaica

In 1839 he was appointed by the Second Melbourne ministry to the governorship of Jamaica, where the difficulties created by the recent passing of the Negro Emancipation Act had called for a high degree of tact and ability. Metcalfe's success in this delicate position was very marked, but unfortunately his health compelled his resignation and return to England in 1842.

Governor General of the Province of Canada

Monument of Charles Metcalfe in St. William Grant Park in Kingston, Jamaica
Baron Metcalfe, Charles Theophilus, 1846.

Six months afterwards he was appointed by the Peel ministry to the post of Governor General of the Province of Canada with instructions to resist further development of responsible government. A clash soon emerged between Metcalfe and the leaders of the legislative assembly, Robert Baldwin and Louis-Hippolyte Lafontaine. Despite suffering from worsening cancer, he fought to preserve the prerogatives of the Crown and the governor's control over the administration and patronage. He nonetheless had to make some concessions to win support, and the most notable of these was persuading the Colonial Office to grant amnesty to the rebels of 1837-38, and to abandon forced anglicization of the French-speaking population.

Final years

Metcalfe's success in Canada carrying out the policy of the home government was rewarded with a peerage shortly after his return to England, with the title Baron Metcalfe, of Fern Hill in the County of Berkshire in 1845.[13] But his success did not endure and responsible government would be conceded by his successor James Bruce, 8th Earl of Elgin. Metcalfe died of cancer at Malshanger in Oakley, near Basingstoke, on 5 September 1846. His residence was however at Fernhill Park in Winkfield, near Windsor and it was in the parish church there that he was buried.

Honorific eponyms

Geographic locations

Further reading


  1. ^ Half-length portrait of Sir Charles Theophilus Metcalfe (1785–1846), 3rd Baronet and 1st Baron Metcalfe, the second son of Sir Thomas Metcalfe, British Library.
  2. ^  This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domainChisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). "Metcalfe, Charles Theophilus Metcalfe, Baron". Encyclopædia Britannica. 18 (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press.
  3. ^ Sir Thomas Theophilus Metcalfe, 1st Baronet (1745–1813). British Library.
  4. ^ Prints & Drawings full record display for shelfmark P2204 British Library.
  5. ^ Lady Susannah Selina Sophia Metcalfe (nee Debonnaire) (1756–1815) British Library.
  6. ^ Lady Susannah Selina Sophia Metcalfe (1756–1815). Married. British Library.
  7. ^ Emily Theophila, Viscountess Ashbrook (1791–1885) British Library.
  8. ^ Sita Anantha Raman 2009 Women in India: a social and cultural history, volume 2. Praeger, p. 87.
  9. ^ The India list and India Office list for 1905 By Great Britain, India Office #130
  10. ^ "No. 19310". The London Gazette. 25 September 1835. p. 1791.
  11. ^
  12. ^ The India list and India Office list for 1905 By Great Britain, India Office #130
  13. ^ "No. 20433". The London Gazette. 17 January 1845. p. 137.