John Chancellor (colonial administrator)

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John Chancellor

John Chancellor British High Commissioner 1931.jpg
Chancellor in Palestine, 1931
Born(1870-10-20)20 October 1870
Edinburgh, United Kingdom
Died31 July 1952(1952-07-31) (aged 81)
Shieldhill Castle, Lanarkshire, United Kingdom
Service/branchBritish Army
RankLieutenant Colonel
UnitCorps of Royal Engineers
AwardsDistinguished Service Order, Companion of the Order of St Michael and St George, Knight Commander of the Order of St Michael and St George, GBE
Other workColonial Administrator

Lieutenant Colonel Sir John Robert Chancellor GCMG, GCVO, GBE, DSO (20 October 1870 – 31 July 1952)[1] was a British soldier and colonial official.


Chancellor was the younger son of Edward Chancellor, of Woodhall House, Juniper Green, Midlothian, and Anne Helen (d. 1932), daughter of John Robert Tod, WS. The Chancellor family had held the lands of Shieldhill, Quothquan from 1432.[2] After a career in the British Army's Corps of Royal Engineers,[3][4] which included service on the North West Frontier[5] and being Secretary of the Colonial Defence Committee,[6] he became a colonial administrator serving as the 20th Governor of Mauritius from 13 September 1911[7] to 28 January 1916,[8] Trinidad and Tobago (1916[9]–1921) and Southern Rhodesia (1923–1928). He also served as Principal Assistant Secretary to the Committee of Imperial Defence From 1922–1923.[10]

In 1898 he was awarded the Distinguished Service Order (DSO).[5] In 1909 he was appointed a Companion of the Order of St Michael and St George.[6] He was knighted in the 1913 King's Birthday Honours when he was made a Knight Commander of the Order of St Michael and St George (KCMG).[11] In the 1922 Dissolution Honours List he was promoted to Knight Grand Cross of the Order of St Michael and St George (GCMG).[12] He was appointed a Knight of Justice in the Venerable Order of Saint John on 19 December 1928.[13]

High Commissioner

John Chancellor installed as High Commissioner 6 December 1928
High Commissioner Chancellor visiting Rishon Lezion 1931

In 1928, he became High Commissioner of the British Mandate of Palestine, where he was perceived as being cool to Zionism and the Jewish people.[14] Though he admired some Zionist leaders, in particular Pinchas Rutenberg, in general Chancellor's attitude towards Jews was negative.[15] He wrote to his son that "truly the Jews are an ungrateful race".[15] His attitude towards Arabs was politically supportive but paternalistic; he wrote to his son "they are like children, and very difficult to help".[15]

While he was in London in 1929, Arab riots protesting Jewish immigration broke out. On his return, he initially condemned Arab attacks but was subsequently less critical. He helped write the Lord Passfield's White Paper of 1930, which aimed to reinterpret the Balfour Declaration in order to back away from a commitment to the creation of a Jewish state. He left Palestine in 1931.

In 1931, Jerusalem's Straus Street was renamed Chancellor Avenue in his honour. The street reverted to its original name after the 1948 Arab-Israeli War.[16][17]

In 1937 he was appointed chairman of the Livestock Commission, which was set up following the passing of the Livestock Industry Act, 1937.[18] In the 1947 King's Birthday Honours he was created a Knight Grand Cross in the Civil Division of the Order of the British Empire (GBE) for services to the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries.[19]


In 1903, Chancellor married Mary Elizabeth Howard (1881–1976), daughter of George Rodie Thompson, DL, JP, of Lynwood, Ascot, Berkshire.[2] They had two children: a son, Christopher John Howard Chancellor (1904–1989), who married Sylvia Mary Paget in 1926; and a daughter, Elizabeth Rosemary Alice Chancellor (1906–1971), known as Rosemary, who married Air Chief Marshall William Elliot in 1931. Christopher and Sylvia had two children: John Paget Chancellor and Alexander Chancellor; Rosemary and William also had two children: Louise Elliot (Halsey) and Simon Elliot.


Chancellor Avenue in Salisbury, Southern Rhodesia, now Harare, Zimbabwe, was named after him and still bears his name.[20] However, his grandson, Alexander Chancellor, suggested that it be changed on account of it now being the street on which Robert Mugabe, President of Zimbabwe lived.[21]


  1. ^ Profile of Sir John Robert Chancellor
  2. ^ a b Burke's Landed Gentry, eighteenth edition, vol. I, ed. Peter Townend, 1965, p. 130
  3. ^ "No. 26076". The London Gazette. 5 August 1890. p. 4283.
  4. ^ "No. 26428". The London Gazette. 1 August 1893. p. 4356.
  5. ^ a b "No. 26968". The London Gazette. 20 May 1898. p. 3166.
  6. ^ a b "No. 28305". The London Gazette (Supplement). 5 November 1909. p. 8240.
  7. ^ "No. 28517". The London Gazette. 28 July 1911. p. 5632.
  8. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 9 June 2009. Retrieved 25 March 2016.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  9. ^ "No. 29516". The London Gazette. 21 March 1916. p. 3065.
  10. ^ "No. 32598". The London Gazette. 3 February 1922. p. 978.
  11. ^ "No. 28724". The London Gazette. 30 May 1913. p. 3905.
  12. ^ "No. 32766". The London Gazette (Supplement). 10 November 1922. p. 8017.
  13. ^ "No. 33453". The London Gazette. 1 January 1929. p. 49.
  14. ^ Anita Shapira (2012). Israel: A History. Brandeis University Press. p. 79. ISBN 9781611683523.
  15. ^ a b c Evyatar Friesel (1993). "Through a Peculiar Lens: Zionism and Palestine in British Diaries, 1927-31". Middle Eastern Studies. 29 (3): 419–44. doi:10.1080/00263209308700959.
  16. ^ Katz, D. (1 October 2011). "Pizza, Shnitzel and the Fog of War: Some Impressions of a Recent Visit to Israel". Archived from the original on 9 February 2013. Retrieved 31 January 2012.
  17. ^ Ronnen, Meir. "The Life and Death of Jaffa Road". The Jerusalem Post. Retrieved 31 January 2012.
  18. ^ "No. 34420". The London Gazette. 23 July 1937. p. 4743.
  19. ^ "No. 37977". The London Gazette (Supplement). 6 June 1947. p. 2582.
  20. ^ Notebook, The Spectator, 30 September 1983, page 5
  21. ^ Despite Mugabe's hatred of British colonialism, the road he lives in is still named after my grandfather, The Guardian, 27 June 2008