Sir Ralph Darling

In office
19 December 1825 – 22 October 1831
Preceded by Thomas Brisbane
Succeeded by Richard Bourke

General Sir Ralph Darling, GCH (1772[1] – 2 April 1858) was a British colonial Governor and Governor of New South Wales from 1825 to 1831.


Ralph Darling was born circa 1772 in England, United Kingdom to Christopher Darling (c1751-1795) and Ann (bef1780-1820) and died 2 May 1858 39 Brunswick St, Brighton, Sussex, England, United Kingdom of unspecified causes. He married Elizabeth Dumaresq (1798-1868) 15 October 1817 in Cheltenham, Gloucestershire, England, United Kingdom.

Early career

Darling entered the British Army as an ensign in 1793 in the 45th Regiment of Foot,[1] and in August 1796 was appointed military secretary to Sir Ralph Abercromby. Having commanded a regiment at the Battle of Corunna, Darling subsequently was promoted to brevet-colonel in 1810, major-general in 1813, deputy adjutant general in 1814[1] and was on the Royal Horse Guards staff in 1815.

From February 1819[1] to February 1824, Darling commanded the British troops on Mauritius, before serving as acting-governor of the island for the last three years of his stay, exhibiting administrative ability. It was largely on account of this service that Darling was appointed the seventh Governor of New South Wales in 1824.[1] Nevertheless, Darling was very unpopular in Mauritius, particularly for allowing a British frigate to breach quarantine and start an epidemic of cholera. He then suspended the island’s Conseil de Commune when it protested his actions.

Governor of New South Wales

Darling initiated the construction, from 1826, of the convict-built Great North Road, linking the Hawkesbury settlements around Sydney with those in the Hunter Valley.

When Darling was commissioned as Governor, the Colony’s western boundary — set in 1788 at 135 degrees east longitude — was extended by 6 degrees west to the 129th meridian. This line of longitude subsequently became the border dividing Western Australia and South Australia. To the south, everything beyond Wilsons Promontory, the southeastern ‘corner’ of the Australian continent, ceased to be under the control of New South Wales and was placed under the authority of the Lieutenant Governor of Van Diemen's Land. Proclaimed Van Diemen's Land as a separate government.


During his tenure Darling was accused of tyrannical misrule by, amongst others, newspapers in England and Australia (including the Australian run by William Wentworth and Robert Wardell).[1] Allegations included that he ordered the torture of prisoners Joseph Sudds and Patrick Thompson as an example to others, leading to the death of Sudds.

He is said to have "ruthlessly and implacably countered all attempts to establish a theatre in Sydney". He even introduced a law effectively banning the performance of drama. The law stated that no form of public entertainment could take place without approval from the Colonial Secretary, and Darling ensured that all such applications were rejected. He did permit concerts of music to take place.[2]

His departure for England was greeted by public rejoicing.[2]

Late life

Ralph Darling was knighted for his various services in 1835 and was promoted to general in 1841. He died in Brighton on 2 April 1858, survived by his widow, three sons and several daughters.[1]


On 13 October 1817, Darling married Elizabeth Dumaresq (born Macau 10 November 1798, died 3 September 1868). He was older brother of Major-General Henry Darling, father of His Excellency Sir Charles Henry Darling, KCB.


Offspring of Ralph Darling and Elizabeth Dumaresq (1798-1868)
Name Birth Death Joined with
Cornelia Maria Darling (1818-1896)
Frederick Darling (1821-1909)
Edward Boissier Darling (c1823-1824)
Sydney Darling (1825-1902)
Augustus Darling (1826-1887)
Edward Darling (1827-1828)
Caroline Darling (1829-1914)
Amelia Charlotte Darling (1831-1912)
Agnes Darling (1833-1909)

Named after Ralph Darling

The following features are named after Ralph Darling or members of his immediate family:

Strictly speaking, Darling Point and Darlinghurst were named in honour of Darling's wife Henrietta.


  1. ^ a b c d e f g "Darling, Sir Ralph (1772 - 1858)". Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 1. MUP. 1966. pp. 282–286. Retrieved 2007-08-14. 
  2. ^ a b Eric Irvin, Dictionary of the Australian Theatre 1788-1914

Additional resources listed by the ADB:

  • Historical Records of Australia, series 1, vols 12-17; E. S. Hall [sic], Reply in Refutation of the Pamphlets of Lieut-Gen R. Darling (Lond, 1833), by R. Robison; L. N. Rose, ‘The Administration of Governor Darling’, Journal and Proceedings (Royal Australian Historical Society), vol 8, part 2, 1922, pp 49–96 and vol 8, part 3, 1922, pp 97–176; Parliamentary Debates (Great Britain) (3), 29, 30; Parliamentary Papers (House of Commons, Great Britain), 1828 (538), 1830 (586), 1830-31 (241), 1831-32 (163, 620), 1835 (580); A. S. Forbes, Sydney Society in Crown Colony Days (State Library of New South Wales); manuscript catalogue under Ralph Darling (State Library of New South Wales).

External links

Further reading

  • Brian H. Fletcher (1984). Ralph Darling: A Governor Maligned. Oxford University Press. p. 473. ISBN 0-19-554564-8. 
  • Edward Duyker, ‘An Elegant Defence of a Colonial Governor’, Australian Rationalist Quarterly, No. 22, June 1985, p. 14.

Government offices
Preceded by
Thomas Brisbane
Governor of New South Wales
Succeeded by
Richard Bourke

Footnotes (including sources)

‡ General
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