Sir Henry Bartle Frere 1st Bt GCB GCSI


Bartle Frere is generally remembered as the man who started the Zulu War. This is a shame because he had achieved several successes in India while he served there as a Civil Servant and administrator. He was born in Brecknockshire, Wales on 29th Mar 1815 and went out to India in 1834 after finishing his education at Haileybury. From 1850 He spent 9 years in Sind as Chief Commissioner and improved the economy of the region. During the Indian Mutiny the Sind remained relatively quiet, for which he was rewarded with a place on the Viceroys Council and a knighthood. He spent another 5 years as governor of Bombay and then returned to the UK in 1867 to sit on the India Council. He concerned himself with the development of Indian agriculture, communications and education. He was created a baronet in 1876.

In 1877 he was sent out to South Africa by Lord Carnarvon, the British Colonial Secretary to take up the post of Governor of Cape Colony and High Commissioner for Native Affairs. He was appointed on the condition that he carry out Carnarvon's plan for the confederation of British South Africa. This had worked in Canada but it was wrong for the lands populated by Boers and native tribes. Frere's experience in India did not give him any advantage in South Africa and, after kick-starting the 9th Cape Frontier War against the Xhosas in 1878, he deliberately provoked of the Zulu king in December 1878 and disturbed the hornet's nest. The massacre at Isandhlwana which resulted in the horrible deaths of British soldiers, including many from Frere's homeland in Wales, effectively ended his career. Parliament officially censured him and he was recalled in July 1880. He died on 29th May 1884 at Wimbledon in Surrey. The painting of him in his High Commissioner's uniform was painted by Sir George Reid in 1881.


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by Stephen Luscombe