This Week in History


Presenting the Third Governor General of Canada!

For the week of Monday June 16, 2014

On June 21, 1826, Frederick Blackwood, better known as the Marquess of Dufferin and Ava, was born in Italy. Destined for an outstanding political and diplomatic career, he became the third Governor General of Canada from 1872 to 1878. During his tenure, he made his mark by expanding the scope of his authority and becoming directly involved in the issues he favoured.

Lord and Lady Dufferin, with their children and friends
© Topley Studio / Library and Archives Canada / PA-026460

Lord Dufferin began his political career in Queen Victoria’s inner circle, and was appointed Governor General of Canada in 1872. Diligently assuming his new responsibilities, he made it his duty to keep himself well informed. To keep abreast of politics, he even sent his wife to attend parliamentary debates and report to him because Governor Generals are not allowed in the House of Commons!

A shrewd strategist, he acted as the Imperial mediator during the transcontinental railway dispute, alleviated the Pacific scandal, commuted the sentence of a Métis leader of the Northwest Rebellion/Resistance, and shouldered a pickaxe to support the miners of Nova Scotia. He also advised Prime Minister Mackenzie. Lord Dufferin was so passionate about his role that one animated discussion almost came to blows.

The Marquess of Dufferin, Governor General of Canada, at a masquerade ball
© Library and Archives Canada / C-002109

He supported the preservation and restoration of Quebec City’s ancient fortifications and recommended the extension of the Durham Terrace, which was renamed in his honour. He authorized the establishment of the Royal Military College in Kingston and the Supreme Court of Canada. Furthermore, he established the Governor General’s Academic Medals, which are still awarded to recognized academic excellence at every level today. He did all this in only six years!

The Marquess of Dufferin played an active role in the Capital’s cultural life. An author himself, he and his wife established a veritable “court” at Rideau Hall, complete with theatre, public lectures, receptions, masquerade balls and sports activities.

The Marquess of Dufferin (Frederick Blackwood) was designated a person of national historic significance in 1975. He was instrumental in the restoration of the Fortifications of Québec, which were designated a national historic site in 1957 to commemorate their defensive function in the New France era.

To learn more about the governors general of Canada, read the following articles in the archives of This Week in History: The First Canadian-born Governor, Canada's Governors General, The "Governess General" of Canada, and A Scandal Exposed.

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