Harris, George Francis Robert (DNB00)


HARRIS, GEORGE FRANCIS ROBERT, third Baron Harris (1810–1872), governor of Madras, grandson of Sir George Harris [q. v.], the first baron, was born at Belmont, Kent, 14 Aug. 1810. His father, William George Harris [q. v.], the second baron, was a general in the army. Harris was educated successively at Eton; at a private tutor's (the Rev. John Shaw, at Potton, Bedfordshire), where he began a lifelong friendship with Charles John Canning, afterwards Earl Canning [q. v.]; and at Oxford, where he matriculated at Merton College 2 Feb. 1829. He soon migrated to Christ Church, where he proceeded B.A. in 1832, and was in later life created D.C.L. (1863). At Christ Church Harris was contemporary with Lords Elgin, Dalhousie, and Canning. After taking his degree Harris fell into delicate health, and resided for some time at Pau, where he received a testimonial from the British residents for services in connection with the work of the church of England. Succeeding to the peerage in 1845, he was sent in the following year to Trinidad as governor. In 1854 he was appointed governor of Madras; during his rule there the police administration underwent thorough reform. Later on the sepoy revolt and its consequences distracted Upper India, and, for a moment, threatened to involve the Deccan in political rebellion (Despatch of Major C. Davidson, dated 2 Aug.) In spite of this serious danger Harris forwarded important reinforcements to his friend Canning, and the Madras fusiliers played a very prominent part in the recovery of Cawnpore and Lucknow.

Trotter describes Harris as ‘an able and fearless ruler in a time of need’ (India under Victoria, ii. 119). In 1859 he returned to England and was made a G.C.S.I. Harris, who had attracted the especial regard of the prince consort, was, by the particular request of the dying prince, made chamberlain to the Princess of Wales on her marriage. Harris was a whig, but did not take an active part in politics; he was for some time deputy-chairman of the London, Chatham, and Dover railway, and died at Belmont, the seat of his family, on 23 Nov. 1872. He was a typical English gentleman, honourable, brave, and manly; somewhat reserved in manner, and faithful to all his duties. He married, 16 April 1850, Sarah, daughter of George Cummins, archdeacon of Trinidad; by her he had one daughter, and an only son, George Robert Canning Harris, who succeeded him, and is now (1894) governor of Bombay.

[Family information; Foster's Peerage; Foster's Alumni Oxon.; Kaye's Hist. of the Sepoy War.]

H. G. K.