Dictionary of National Biography, 1912 supplement/De Winton, Francis Walter

DE WINTON, Sir FRANCIS WALTER (1835–1901), major-general and South African administrator, born at Pittsford, Northamptonshire, on 21 June 1835, was second son of Walter de Winton (1809-1840), of Maesllwch Castle, Radnorshire, whose surname was changed from Wilkins to De Winton by royal licence in 1839. His mother was Julia Cecilia, second daughter of Richard John Collinson, rector of Gateshead.

Educated at the Royal Military Academy, Woolwich, he entered the royal artillery as second lieutenant on 11 April 1854. Serving in the Crimean war, he was present at the siege and fall of Sevastopol, and received the medal with one clasp, Turkish medal, and the legion d'honneur, 5th class. Becoming captain in 1861, he acted as A.D.C. to Sir W. Fenwick Williams [q. v.] when commanding the forces in British North America, and was again on his staff when he was lieutenant-governor of Nova Scotia from 1864 to 1867 and when he was governor of Gibraltar in 1870-5. From 1877 to 1878 De Winton was military attaché at Constantinople, and from 1878 to 1883 he was secretary to the marquis of Lome (afterwards ninth duke of Argyll) when governor-general of Canada. Promoted lieut.-colonel in 1880, he became brevet-colonel in 1884, and was made C.M.G. in 1882 and K.C.M.G. in Feb. 1884.

In 1885 (he was appointed administrator-general of the Congo under the Belgian government, just before it was raised to the rank of a state. He held this office only until 1886, when he was created a commander of the Order of Leopold. In 1887 he acted as secretary of the Emin Pasha relief committee, and assisted (Sir) H. M. Stanley [q. v. Suppl. II] in his preparations for the relief expedition (H. M. Stanley, In Darkest Africa, i. 40). Subsequently Sir Francis, who became a substantive colonel in 1887, commanded the expedition against the Yonnies on the West Coast of Africa. Robarrie, the strong-hold of the insurgents, was captured on 21 Nov. 1887, and the rebellion suppressed. For his services De Winton was made a C.B. in March 1888, receiving the medal and clasp, and on his return home he was appointed assistant quartermaster-general at headquarters. The end of 1889, however, found him once more in Africa. Repeated requests had been made by the King of Swaziland that his country should be taken under the protection of the British government, owing to the aggressive attitude of the Boers, but the government had declined to interfere. Left to selves, the Boers gained virtual possession of the pastoral resources of Swaziland, In 1889 De Winton was sent as a commissioner to Swaziland, with instructions to hold an inquiry into its affairs in conjunction with a commissioner of the South African republic. He reached Pretoria in Nov. 1889, and after several interviews with President Kruger left for Swaziland, accompanied by Generals Joubert and Smit. The joint commissioners held a meeting of the native chiefs and head-men, and, amongst other things, promised them that the independence of the Swazis should be maintained by both governments; but, according to the report which De Winton subsequently made respecting his mission, the Swazis had already parted 'not only with all their actual territory but with rights which should only belong to the government of a country, to a lot of adventurers whose sole object was to make money by them.' He therefore considered a British protectorate inadvisable and impracticable. Not until the close of the South African war was the position of the Swazis improved. In May 1890 Sir Francis, who retired from the army on 21 June of that year with the honorary rank of major-general, was appointed governor of the Imperial East African Association's possessions; but he resigned in June 1891. In January 1892 he was appointed controller and treasurer of the household of the duke of Clarence, after whose death in January 1892 he continued to act in the same capacity in the household of the duke of York, now King George V. He was promoted G.C.M.G. in 1893. He was hon. sec. of the Royal Geographical Society in 1888-9. He was made hon. LL.D. of Cambridge in 1892, and was also hon. LL.D. of Durham. He died at Llanstephan, Llyswen, South Wales, on 16 Dec. 1901, and was buried at Glasbury, Breconshire.

He married in 1864 Evelyn, daughter of Christopher Rawson of Lennoxville, Canada, and had issue two sons and two daughters. One son predeceased him in 1892.

[Burke's Landed Gentry; The Times, 18, 19, and 21 Dec. 1901; G. Schweitzer, Life and Work of Erain Pasha, 1898, i. 309; H. M. Stanley, Autobiography, 1909, p. 338.]

J. H. L-e.