Governor of Bermuda

The Governor of Bermuda is the representative of the British monarch in the British overseas territory of Bermuda. The Governor is appointed by the monarch on the advice of the British government. The role of the Governor is to act as the de facto head of state, and he or she is responsible for appointing the Premier and the 11 members of the Senate (the upper house of Bermuda's Parliament).

Governor of Bermuda
Coat of Arms of Bermuda
John Rankin

since 5 December 2016
StyleHis Excellency
ResidenceGovernment House
AppointerMonarch of the United Kingdom
Term lengthAt His/Her Majesty's pleasure
First holderRichard Moore
WebsitePage on
This article is part of a series on the
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The Governor is also Commander-in-chief of the Royal Bermuda Regiment.

The current Governor is John Rankin; he was sworn in on 5 December 2016.

The Governor has his own flag in Bermuda, a Union Flag with the territory's coat of arms superimposed.


Bermuda's settlement began in 1609, with the wrecking of the flagship of the Virginia Company, the Sea Venture. Although most of the passengers and crew ultimately completed their voyage to Virginia, the archipelago was permanently settled from that point, and left in the hands of the Virginia Company. The first intentional settlers arrived in 1612, under the colony's first Governor, Richard Moore. A carpenter by trade, Moore ensured the long-term survival of the colony by concentrating on building fortifications, including the first stone forts in the English New World, and developing St. George's Town.

Bermuda was the second permanent English colony established (as an extension of the first, Jamestown, Virginia). Bermuda was administered under Royal charters by the Virginia Company, and its successor, the Somers Isles Company, which appointed the colony's governors until the Crown revoked the charter and took over administration in 1684. The Crown maintained the system of government established under the company; an elected parliament and a privy council under a governor. The Privy Council, made up of the Chief Justice, certain senior civil servants, and appointees, was also known as the Governor's Council and the Legislative Council (most of its responsibilities are now filled by the Cabinet and the Senate of Bermuda, with the Council now only an advisory body for the Governor). The last company-appointed Governor was reappointed by the Crown. In 1707 the British State was created by the union of the Kingdom of England with the Kingdom of Scotland, and Bermuda thereby became a British colony. Since the 1783 independence of Virginia, it has been Britain's oldest colony. Following US independence, Bermuda became an important Royal Navy base, with a large military garrison to guard it.[1] As such, the policy of the government until the closure of the Royal Naval dockyard in 1953 had been to appoint retiring Generals or Admirals as Bermuda's Governor and Commander-in-Chief. On the rare occasions when a civilian was appointed to the role, it was only as Governor – the role of Commander-in-Chief being filled by a serving General or Admiral in Bermuda or Newfoundland. Since the 1950s, those appointed Governor and Commander-in-Chief have tended to be prominent career-politicians at the ends of their political lives.

Prior to the creation of the lower (and, originally, only) house of the Parliament of Bermuda, the House of Assembly, in 1620, the Governors ruled supreme, and were often draconian. Governor Daniel Tucker, formerly of Virginia, who arrived in 1616, was notorious for his harshness, having many islanders hanged, maimed, or whipped on the slightest provocation. One Bermudian, John Wood, was hanged for airing his views on the Governor in church. Governor Tucker's personal boat was reportedly stolen by five islanders, one named Saunders, who left a note saying they were on their way to England, or Davy Jones' Locker, either place being preferable to Bermuda under Tucker's rule. On reaching England, they complained about the harshness of Tucker's rule, though their complaints fell on deaf ears. Governor Tucker also, reportedly, used his oversight of the surveying of Bermuda to enrich himself and future generations of Bermudian Tuckers with prime real estate when he appropriated the overplus (surplus) land left after Richard Norwood's 1616 survey of the colony. Much of this land, forming an estate known as The Grove, would still be in the hands of his relatives during the American War of Independence.

For the remainder of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, the real political power in Bermuda lay in the elected parliament and the appointed Council, both dominated by members of Bermuda's wealthy commercial class. By the mid-Seventeenth Century, the Somers Isles Company had ceased sending Governors from overseas, and instead appointed Bermudians such as William Sayle from this same local elite; a policy which ended after the Civil Wars. Governors who were too high-handed or injudicious in the exercise of their office occasionally fell foul of the local political institutions. Governor Isaac Richier, who arrived in 1691, quickly made himself unpopular with his carousing and criminal behaviour. Bermudian complaints saw him placed in jail, and replaced by Governor Goddard. When Goddard proved worse than Richier, attorney general Samuel Trott had him jailed alongside Richier. The two governors were to be tried before a pair of prominent Bermudians, John Trimmingham and William Butterfield. After Trott called the amateur judges bush lawyers, however, he found himself in St. George's jail alongside the governors. After they confided in him their plan for escape, Trott informed the judges. Richier and Goddard were sent back to England for trial.[2]

At the written request of George Washington, during the course of the American War of Independence, 100 barrels of gunpowder were stolen from a magazine in St. George's and provided to the American rebels. No one was ever prosecuted in relation to this act of treason. The theft had been the result of a conspiracy involving powerful Bermudians, who were motivated as much by Bermuda's desperate plight, denied her primary trading partner and source of food, as by any favourable sentiments they may have had in regard to either the American colonists or their cause. The chief conspirator was Henry Tucker of The Grove (the overplus estate appropriated in 1616 by Governor Daniel Tucker), a Member of the House of Assembly, former Member of the Council, and Militia officer (soon to be promoted to Colonel), who had plotted with Benjamin Franklin while attending the rebel Continental Congress as a delegate for Bermuda. Two of his sons served in the rebel Army and were to achieve high office in the post-War US Government. A third son, also named Henry Tucker, was at the time the President of the Council (and later acting Governor on multiple occasions), and married to the daughter of Governor George James Bruere. Following this, Bermudians and their political institutions were looked at suspiciously by the British Government.

With the buildup of the naval and military bases on the island following American independence, the position of the Governor was enhanced. Despite this, the Governors – appointed by the Crown – remained largely dependent on the Bermudian parliament to pass laws and to provide funds. This fact often found Governors pleading in vain for the required acts of parliament or money to carry out policies determined at Government House, or in London. This was particularly noticeable in the Bermudian Parliament's neglect to maintain militia, which (other than during the course of the American War of 1812), it allowed to become moribund after the build-up of the naval and military base began in 1795.

Attempts to raise militias directly under the control of the Governor, without acts of the local parliament, ultimately failed because the parliament did not provide funds. In the 1860s, it became the policy of the British Government to reduce the costly professional military garrison in Bermuda. As it was not wished to leave the colony, seen more as a naval base, unguarded, this could only be done if the professional soldiers were replaced with part-time Volunteer units. Successive governors were set the task of convincing the Bermudian parliament to raise the required units, but, concerned of being saddled with the cost of maintaining the entire garrison, as well as with the possibility for social disruption that could be caused by raising either racially segregated or integrated units, the Bermudian Parliamentarians simply refused. This state of affairs continued until the Secretary of State for War found a lever (the Princess Hotel) to blackmail the Bermuda Parliament with in 1885, which resulted it finally passing acts in 1892 for the creation of militia and volunteer forces (although the units would be entirely funded by the British Government).[3] Struggles between the Governor and the Parliament would continue to recur. In 1939, the Governor, General Sir Reginald Hildyard, resigned his post, reportedly because the Bermudian Parliament refused to allow him a motor car (motor vehicles having been banned in Bermuda before the First World War, following a petition signed by numerous Bermudians, and by visitors including Woodrow Wilson).

On 10 March 1973, the 121st Governor, Richard Sharples, and his aide-de-camp Captain Hugh Sayers, were assassinated in an attack by a Bermudian black activist named Buck Burrows and an accomplice, Larry Tacklin, who were members of the Black Beret Cadres. Under Bermudian law at the time, premeditated murder was a capital offence, and death sentences were often handed out, though routinely commuted. No death sentence had been carried out since the 1940s. After much debate due to the controversial moral issues raised, the sentence stood despite a 6,000-strong petition from Bermudians to the Queen. Both men were hanged in 1977 for the killings and other murders, sparking riots throughout Bermuda. Buck Burrows explained in his confession that he had killed the Governor to prove that he was not untouchable and that white-dominated politics was fallible. He was also found guilty of murdering the police commissioner, George Duckett, six months earlier on 9 September 1972, and of killing the co-owner and book-keeper of a supermarket called the Shopping Centre, Victor Rego and Mark Doe in April 1973.

List of Governors of Bermuda

  1. 1612–1616 Richard Moore
  2. 1616–1619 Capt. Daniel Tucker
  3. 1619–1622 Nathaniel Butler
  4. 1622–1622 Capt. John Bernard
  5. 1622–1623 Capt. John Harrison
  6. 1623–1626 Capt. Henry Woodhouse
  7. 1626–1629 Capt. Philip Bell
  8. 1629–1637 Capt. Roger Wood
  9. 1637–1641 Capt. Thomas Chaddock
  10. 1641–1642 Capt. William Sayle
  11. 1642–1643 Capt. Josias Forster
  12. 1643–1644 Capt. William Sayle
  13. 1644–1645 Capt. William Sayle
  14. 1645 Capt. Josias Forster
  15. 1645–1647 The Triumvirate
  16. 1647–1649 Capt. Thomas Turner
  17. 1649–1650 John Trimingham (Elected by the People)
  18. 1650–1659 Capt. Josias Forster
  19. 1659–1663 Capt. William Sayle
  20. 1663–1668 Capt. Florentius Seymour
  21. 1668–1669 Samuel Whalley
  22. 1669–1681 Sir John Heydon
  23. 1681–1682 Capt. Florentius Seymour
  24. 1682–1683 Henry Durham (Act. Gov.)
  25. 1683–1687 Col. Richard Coney (last Company appointee. Re-appointed by Crown in 1684)
  26. 1687–1690 Sir Richard Robinson
  27. 1691–1693 Isaac Richier
  28. 1693–1698 Capt. John Goddard
  29. 1698–1700 Samuel Day
  30. 1701–1713 Capt. Benjamin Bennett
  31. 1713–1718 Henry Pulleine
  32. 1718–1722 Capt. Benjamin Bennett
  33. 1722–1727 Sir John Hope
  34. 1727–1728 John Trimingham
  35. 1728–1737 Capt. John Pitt
  36. 1737–1738 Andrew Auchinleck
  37. 1738–1744 Alured Popple
  38. 1744–1747 Francis Jones
  39. 1747–1751 William Popple
  40. 1751–1755 Francis Jones
  41. 1755–1763 William Popple
  42. 1763–1764 Francis Jones
  43. 1764–1780 George James Bruere
  44. 1780 Thomas Jones
  45. 1780–1781 George Bruere the younger
  46. 1782–1788 William Browne
  47. 1788–1794 Henry Hamilton (Lt. Gov.)
  48. 1794–1796 James Crawford
  49. 1796 Henry Tucker
  50. 1796-1796 Lieutenant-Colonel William Campbell (arrived 22 November, 1796, but died within days)
  51. 1796–1798 Henry Tucker
  52. 1798–1803 Colonel (later General) George Beckwith
  53. 1803–1805 Henry Tucker
  54. 1805–1806 Major Francis Gore (Lt. Gov.)
  55. 1806 Henry Tucker
  56. 1806–1810 Brigadier John Studholme Hodgson
  57. 1810–1811 Samuel Trott
  58. 1811–1812 Sir James Cockburn
  59. 1812 William Smith
  60. 1812–1816 George Horsford (Lt. Gov.)
  61. 1814–1816 Sir James Cockburn
  62. 1816–1817 William Smith
  63. 1817–1819 Sir James Cockburn
  64. 1819 William Smith
  65. 1819–1822 Lieutenant-General Sir William Lumley
  66. 1822–1823 William Smith
  67. 1823–1825 Lieutenant-General Sir William Lumley
  68. 1825–1826 William Smith
  69. 1826–1829 Lieutenant-General Sir Tomkyns Hilgrove Turner
  70. 1829 Robert Kennedy (Act. Gov.)
  71. 1829–1830 Lieutenant-General Sir Tomkyns Hilgrove Turner
  72. 1830 Robert Kennedy (Act. Gov.)
  73. 1830–1832 General Sir Tomkyns Hilgrove Turner
  74. 1832–1835 Colonel Sir Stephen Remnant Chapman
  75. 1835 Henry G. Hunt (Act. Gov.)
  76. 1835–1836 Robert Kennedy
  77. 1836–1839 Colonel (from 1837, Major-General) Sir Stephen Remnant Chapman
  78. 1839–1846 Lieutenant-Colonel (later Major General) Sir William Reid
  79. 1846 Lieutenant-Colonel William N. Hutchinson (Act. Gov)
  80. 1846–1852 Captain (later Admiral) Sir Charles Elliot
  81. 1852–1853 Lieutenant-Colonel William Hassell Eden, 56th Regiment of Foot (ex-88th Regiment of Foot, later Commandant at Chatham) (Act. Gov.)
  82. 1853 Lieutenant-Colonel George Philpots, Royal Engineers (Act. Gov.)
  83. 1853 Major Soulden Oakley, 56th Regiment of Foot (Act. Gov.)
  84. 1853 Lieutenant-Colonel Thomas C. Robe, Royal Artillery (Act. Gov.)
  85. 1853 Major Soulden Oakley, 56th Regiment of Foot (Act. Gov.)
  86. 1853–1854 Captain (later Admiral) Sir Charles Elliot
  87. 1854 Lieutenant-Colonel Montgomery Williams, Royal Engineers (Act. Gov.)
  88. 1854–1859 Colonel Freeman Murray, late 72nd Regiment of Foot
  89. 1859 Colonel Andrew T. Hemphill, 26th (Cameronian) Regiment of Foot (Act. Gov.)
  90. 1859–1860 Colonel William Munro, 39th Regiment of Foot
  91. 1860–1861 Col. Freeman Murray, late 72nd Regiment of Foot
  92. 1861–1864 Col. Harry St. George Ord
  93. 1864 Colonel William Munro, 39th Regiment of Foot (Act. Gov.)
  94. 1864–1865 W.H. Hamley (Lt. Gov.)
  95. 1865–1866 Colonel Harry St. George Ord
  96. 1866–1867 W.H. Hamley (Lt. Gov.)
  97. 1867 Colonel Arnold Thompson, Royal Artillery (Act. Gov.)
  98. 1867–1870 Colonel Sir Frederick Edward Chapman, Royal Engineers
  99. 1870 W. F. Brett (Lt. Gov.)
  100. 1871–1877 Maj. Gen. Sir John Henry Lefroy
  101. 1877–1882 Robert Michael Laffan[4]
  102. 1882–1888 Lt. Gen. Thomas L. J. Gallwey
  103. 1888–1891 Lt. Gen. Edward Newdegate
  104. 1892–1896 Lt. Gen. Thomas Lyons
  105. 1896–1901 Lt. Gen. Sir George Digby Barker
  106. 1902–1904 Lt. Gen. Sir Henry LeGuay Geary[5]
  107. 1904–1907 Lt. Gen. Sir Robert M. Steward
  108. 1907–1908 Lt. Gen. Sir Josceline Wodehouse
  109. 1908–1912 Lt. Gen. Sir Frederick Walter Kitchener
  110. 1912–1917 Lt. Gen. Sir George M. Bullock
  111. 1917–1922 Gen. Sir James Willcocks
  112. 1922–1927 Lt. Gen. Sir J. J. Asser
  113. 1927–1931 Lt. Gen. Sir Louis Jean Bols
  114. 1931–1936 Lt. Gen. Sir Thomas Astley Cubitt
  115. 1936–1939 General Sir Reginald Hildyard
  116. 1939–1941 Lt. Gen. Sir Denis John Charles Kirwan Bernard
  117. 1941–1943 The Rt. Hon. Viscount Knollys
  118. 1943–1945 Lord Burghley
  119. 1945 – May 1946 William Addis (acting)[6]
  120. May 1946–1949 Admiral Sir Ralph Leatham
  121. 1949–1955 Lt. Gen. Sir Alexander Hood
  122. 1955–1959 Lt. Gen. Sir John Woodall
  123. 1959–1964 Maj. Gen. Sir Julian Gascoigne
  124. 1964–1972 The Rt. Hon. Lord Martonmere
  125. 1972–1973 Sir Richard Sharples (assassinated)
  126. 1973 – 7 April 1977 Sir Edwin Leather
  127. 7 April 1977 – 6 September 1977 Peter Lloyd (acting – 1st tenure)[6]
  128. 1977–30 December 1980 The Hon. Sir Peter Ramsbotham
  129. 1 January 1981 – February 1981 Peter Lloyd (acting – 2nd tenure)[6]
  130. February 1981 – 15 March 1983 Sir Richard Posnett[6]
  131. 14 Feb. 1983 – July 1983 Mark Herdman (acting) – Acting for Governor Posnett until 15 March 1983[6]
  132. 1983–1988 The Rt. Hon. Viscount Dunrossil
  133. 1988–1992 Major-Gen Sir Desmond Langley
  134. 25 August 1992 – 4 June 1997 The Rt. Hon. Lord Waddington
  135. 4 June 1997 – 27 November 2001 Thorold Masefield
  136. 27 November 2001 – 11 April 2002 Tim Gurney (acting)[6]
  137. 11 April 2002 – 12 October 2007 Sir John Vereker
  138. 12 October 2007 – 12 December 2007 Mark Andrew Capes (acting)[6]
  139. 12 December 2007 – 18 May 2012 Sir Richard Gozney
  140. 18 May 2012 – 23 May 2012 David Arkley (acting)
  141. 23 May 2012 – 2 August 2016 Hon. George Fergusson
  142. 2 August 2016 – 5 December 2016 Ginny Ferson (acting)
  143. 5 December 2016 – present John Rankin


Bermuda and Great Britain; Bermuda Online Portal

  1. "The Andrew and the Onions: The Story of the Royal Navy in Bermuda, 1795–1975", Lt. Commander Ian Strannack, The Bermuda Maritime Museum Press, The Bermuda Maritime Museum
  2. "Bermuda in Three Colours", Carveth Wells. Robert M. McBride & Company, New York. 1935.
  3. "Defence, Not Defiance: A History of the Bermuda Volunteer Rifle Corps", Jennifer M. Ingham (now Jennifer M. Hind), ISBN 0-9696517-1-6. Printed by The Island Press Ltd., Pembroke, Bermuda. Itself using as a source the unique, typescript "History of The Bermuda Volunteer Rifle Corps, 1891–1933", held at the Bermuda Library, in Hamilton.
  4. May, Alex. "Laffan, Sir Robert Michael". Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (online ed.). Oxford University Press. doi:10.1093/ref:odnb/15875. (Subscription or UK public library membership required.)
  5. "No. 27398". The London Gazette. 17 January 1902. p. 385.
  6. "Countries Ba-Bo: Bermuda". Retrieved 3 September 2015.

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