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Governor-General of South Africa


Governor-General of South Africa

Governor-General of the Union of South Africa
Former political post
Arms of South Africa
First officeholder The Viscount Gladstone
Last officeholder The Rt Hon. Charles Robberts Swart
Style His Excellency
Appointer King/Queen of South Africa
Office began 31 May 1910
Office ended 31 May 1961

The Governor-General of the Union of South Africa was the representative of the British (1910–1931) and later South African Crown (1931–1961) in the Union of South Africa between 31 May 1910 and 31 May 1961. The Union of South Africa was a Commonwealth Realm in which Queen Elizabeth II was given the title Queen of South Africa, although she never visited the country in that capacity.

Some of the first holders of the post were members of the British Royal Family including Prince Arthur of Connaught, between 1920 and 1924, and the Earl of Athlone, who served between 1924 and 1931, before becoming the Governor General of Canada. As in other Dominions, this would change, with only local South African citizens holding the office.

The office was established by the South Africa Act 1909.


The Afrikaner-dominated National Party, which came to power in 1948, was avowedly republican, and regarded South Africa's links with the other Commonwealth realms as a relic of British imperialism. Under the National Party, the office of Governor-General was held by retired government ministers, who chose not to wear the traditional Windsor uniform composed of a blue military jacket and plumed hat. In 1957, God Save the Queen ceased to have equal status with Die Stem van Suid-Afrika as a national anthem, and the Union Flag similarly ceased to have equal status with the South African flag.

However, it was not until 1960 that the Prime Minister, Hendrik Verwoerd, advised the Governor-General to hold a referendum on the issue. After several protests regarding the lowering of the voting age to 18, and the inclusion of white voters in South West Africa, on 5 October 1960, South Africa's whites were asked: "Are you in favour of a Republic for the Union?" The result was 52 per cent in favour of the change.

Charles Robberts Swart, the last Governor-General, left office on 30 April 1961 and Lucas Cornelius Steyn become Officer Administering the Government under a transitional arrangement, until 31 May 1961, when Republic of South Africa was declared and Swart become the first State President of South Africa.

List of Governors-General of the Union of South Africa (1910-1961)

# Name
Picture Took office Left office Monarch Prime Minister
1 The Viscount Gladstone
31 May 1910 8 September 1914 George V Botha
2 The Viscount Buxton
8 September 1914 17 November 1920
3 HRH Prince Arthur of Connaught
17 November 1920 21 January 1924 Smuts
4 The Earl of Athlone
21 January 1924 26 January 1931
5 The Earl of Clarendon
26 January 1931 5 April 1937 Hertzog
6 Sir Patrick Duncan
5 April 1937 17 July 1943 George VI
Nicolaas Jacobus de Wet
(Officer Administering the Government)
17 July 1943 1 January 1946 Smuts
7 Gideon Brand van Zyl
1 January 1946 1 January 1951
8 Ernest George Jansen
1 January 1951 25 November 1959 Malan
Lucas Cornelius Steyn
(Officer Administering the Government)
26 November 1959 11 December 1959 Elizabeth II Verwoerd
9 Charles Robberts Swart
11 December 1959 30 April 1961
Lucas Cornelius Steyn
(Officer Administering the Government)
30 April 1961 31 May 1961

See also

External links

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