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William Hillier Onslow, 4th Earl of Onslow Passes Away

Today in Masonic History William Hillier Onslow, 4th Earl of Onslow passes away in 1911.

William Hillier Onslow, 4th Earl of Onslow was a British politician.

Onslow was born on March 7th, 1853 in Old Alresford, Hampshire, England. At the age of 17 he succeeded his great-uncle in the earldom of Onslow. He went on to be educated at Eton College and Exeter College in Oxford, England.

For two months in 1880, Onslow served as Lord-in-Waiting which is the government whip in the House of Lords. He served in the same position in 1885 under the Government of Lord Salisbury. In Salisbury's second term as Prime Minister, Salisbury's first term was only a matter of a few months and was separated by his second second term by a similar length of time, Onslow served as Under-Secretary of State for the Colonies. Onslow also served as Parliamentary Secretary of the Board of Trade.

In the late 1880's an economic downturn in England caused Onslow to seek a new more lucrative position in government. He was able to to secure the position of Governor General of New Zealand. He was appointed in 1888 and was the youngest Governor General at the age of 35. At the time, New Zealand had cut the stipend of the Governor General and the position was less desirable for some of the senior colonial administrators.

In 1890, Onslow became embroiled in controversy regarding the Legislative Council, which is the upper house in the New Zealand Parliament. The positions in the house were by appointment of the Governor General. During a heated election, the outgoing Conservative Prime Minister, Onslow was also a Conservative, asked Onslow to appoint a list of individuals to the Legislative Council to maintain the Conservative control of the body. When news of this came out, it enraged liberals. After the election, Onslow was given a list by the Liberal leader to counteract the Conservative appointments. Onslow refused to appoint them stating that the upper house of Parliament should also be Conservative. This angered individuals in the Legislative Council and many changed over to the Liberal side so that the Liberals could form a government.

Onslow resigned as Governor General in 1892.

After returning to England, Onslow served in various government positions. He served the longest as President of the Board of Agriculture. He was also appointed to the Privy Council.

Onslow passed away on October 23rd, 1911.

Onslow's masonic affiliation is unclear. When he became Governor-General of New Zealand, the Grand Lodge of New Zealand had not yet been formed. He was approached by a group of masons asking him to support the formation of a Grand Lodge. Onslow refused stating that it was not the right time for such a change. Despite Onslow's objection, the Grand Lodge of New Zealand was formed in 1890.