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Gilbert Elliot-Murray-Kynynmound, 4th Earl of Minto

Gilbert John Elliot-Murray-Kynynmond, 4th earl of Minto (June 9, 1845 - March 1, 1914) was an English politician, Governor General of Canada, and Viceroy of India.

Early life and career

After completing his education at Eton College and Cambridge University, he joined the Scots Guards in 1867. In 1874, in the capacity of a newspaper correspondent, he witnessed the operations of the Carlists in Spain; he took service with the Turkish army in the war with Russia in 1877 and served under Lord Roberts in the second Afghan War (1878-1879), having narrowly escaped accompanying Sir Louis Cavagnari Kabul.

He acted as private secretary to Lord Roberts during his mission to the Cape in 1881, and was with the army occupying Egypt in 1882, thus furthering his military career and his experience of colonial administration. He was military secretary to Lord Lansdowne during Lansdowne's governor-generalship of Canada from 1883 to 1885, and lived in Canada with his wife, Mary Caroline Grey, sister of Earl Grey, Governor General from 1904 to 1911, whom he had married in England on July 28, 1883. On this first Canadian visit, he was very active in raising a Canadian volunteer force to serve with the British Army in the Sudan Campaign of 1884. He served as chief of staff to General Middleton in the Riel Rebellion of 1885. When he was offered command of the North West Mounted Police, he decided instead to pursue a political career in England. On his departure home to England, Canadian Prime Minister Sir John A. Macdonald apparently said to him, "I shall not live to see it, but some day Canada will welcome you back as Governor General".

His political aspirations were checked with his defeat in the 1886 general election. He then applied himself with great enthusiasm to promoting a volunteer army in Britain. He organized a volunteer peacetime auxiliary regiment of the British Army, the Border Mounted Rifles, which he soon turned into one of the most efficient regiments in England.

Governor General of Canada

Having succeeded to the earldom in 1891, Macdonald's prediction came true when Lord Minto was named Governor General of Canada in the summer of 1898. Sir Wilfrid Laurier wrote that Lord Minto "took his duties to heart" and a review of his life reveals an energetic man who welcomed many challenges and responsibilities.

Governor General Minto's term of office was marked by a period of strong nationalism which saw economic growth coupled with massive immigration to Canada. Relations with the United States were strained as border and fishing disputes continued to create problems between the two countries.

In September 1901, after Queen Victoria's death in January, the Duke and Duchess of Cornwall and York (later to become King George V and Queen Mary) visited Canada, and travelled with Lady Minto to western Canada and the Klondike.

Lord Minto, like his predecessors, travelled throughout the young country -- he crossed Ontario, Quebec and western Canada, visiting former battlegrounds where he had served during the North-West Rebellion. He rode throughout western Canada with the North West Mounted Police, and enjoyed the Quebec countryside on horseback.

Lord Minto's convictions about the importance of preserving Canadian heritage led to the creation of the National Archives of Canada.

Lord and Lady Minto were sports enthusiasts and the Minto Skating Club, which they founded in 1903, has produced many famous skaters. They both excelled at the sport and hosted many lively skating parties during their time at Rideau Hall. In the summer, the Minto family loved to bicycle and play lacrosse. In 1901, Lord Minto donated the Minto Cup and appointed trustees to oversee its annual awarding to the champion senior men's lacrosse team of Canada (since 1937 the Cup has been awarded to the junior men's champions). He loved the outdoors, championed the conservation of natural resources and promoted the creation of national parks.

In education and health, Governor General Minto encouraged a forward-looking approach. He believed that Canada's progress depended on the cultivation of patriotism and unity, and this conviction was reflected in his desire to see a wider history curriculum developed in Canadian schools. In response to the health crisis posed by tuberculosis, he helped establish the first anti-tuberculosis foundation in Canada.

Governor General Minto also took great interest in the development of the Canadian military and emphasized the need for training and professional development. He was appointed honorary Lieutenant Colonel of the Governor General's Foot Guards Regiment on December 1, 1898, and was subsequently appointed honorary Colonel, a tradition that has continued with the post of Governors General to this day.

On his trip back to England in 1904, having finished his term as Canada's Governor General, Lord Minto wrote in his journal "... so our life in Canada is over and it has been a great wrench parting from so many friends and leaving a country which I love, and which has been very full of interest to me".

Viceroy of India

In 1905, on the resignation of Lord Curzon, Lord Minto was appointed viceroy and governor-general of India, retiring in 1910.

For his lifetime of service, was made a Knight of the Garter.


Preceded by:
Earl of Aberdeen
Governor General of Canada Followed by:
Earl Grey
Preceded by:
William Elliot-Murray-Kynynmound
Earl of Minto Followed by:
Victor Elliot-Murray-Kynynmound