In 1878, prime minister Benjamin Disraeli tagged the John Campbell, Marquess of Lorne, to become the governor general of the Dominion of Canada. This would take Queen Victoria’s daughter Louise away from England, for Princess Louise was married to the marquess. As the queen’s son-in-law, Lorne would prove to be a valuable asset to Victoria’s reign. A royal princess accompanying her husband to Canada was an added incentive. Although Lorne was a member of England’s Liberal party, Disraeli, a staunch Conservative, believe Lorne’s presence in Canada could unite a country that remained fragmented. Lorne and Princess Louise symbolized imperial accord.
“The office began in the 16th and 17th centuries with the Crown-appointed governors of the French colony of Canada followed by the British governors of Canada in the 18th and 19th centuries. Subsequently, the office is, along with the Crown, the oldest continuous institution in Canada. The present incarnation of the office emerged with Canadian Confederation and the passing of the British North America Act, which defines the role of the governor general as “carrying on the Government of Canada on behalf and in the Name of the Queen, by whatever Title he is designated”. Although the post initially still represented the government of the United Kingdom, the office was gradually Canadanized.” (Governor General of Canada)
1837 saw changes in the role of governor general change after the rebellion that occurred during that year. The British granted responsible governments to the individual Canadian provinces. This move made the viceroys named by Britain largely nominal heads rather than rulers of the country. The democratically elected legislatures crafted Canada’s laws. This arrangement continued after the reunification of Upper and Lower Canada in 1840 into the Province of Canada, and the establishment of the Dominion of Canada in 1867.
Upon his arrival in the country, Lorne became the highest ranking person in Canada. He was head of state with the prime minister as his subordinate, but in truth, the head of the government. Lorne would serve as a surrogate for the British government. Jerrold Packard in Victoria’s Daughters (St. Martin’s Press, 1998, page 188), “Like the monarch in the United Kingdom, he would be constitutionally responsible for ministerial succession were a government to resign or be defeated at the polls, though in reality he was constrained to appoint as prime minister whichever political leader commanded a majority in the Canadian Parliament. In addition to these broad duties, which left limited leeway for independent action on the incumbent’s part, Lorne would be unofficially expected to settle any number of administrative and diplomatic problems arising between London and Ottawa. Finally—and the role in which Louise was regarded as a tremendous boon—Lorne and his wife would stand indisputably at the peak of Canadian society, where the governor general’s wife was every bit as important as her husband.”
Queen Victoria did not wish to lose Louise to the Canadian wilderness, but she was wise enough to realize that Lorne’s success in the position would esteem not only her reign, but also Louise’s position. As governor general, Lorne would finally outrank his “princess” bride. Moreover, Lorne’s popularity as a member of the parliament had waned, and it was likely he might lose his place in the House of Commons soon. His party was out of favor at the time, and Lorne’s budding career as a poet had never taken off. Perhaps in Canada, he would know the success and popularity he desired. The honor of being governor general would save Lorne a loss of face among the aristocracy. Lorne had hoped that the Canadian position might lead him to more important posts, such as the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland or Governor-General of India.
Princess Louise held several objections to her husband’s taking the post: She would be required to abandon her interest in London’s literary world. Louise did not wish to miss out upon her brother’s, Prince Arthur, Duke of Connaught and Strathearn, marriage to Princess Louise Margaret of Prussia. She also worried that Canada’s bitter cold would affect the facial neuralgia from which she suffered. However, the sense of duty to office instilled in her by both her mother and father had Louise agreeing to support her husband’s appointment to the post.
Victoria presented Lorne with a Knight Grand Cross of the Order of St. Michael and St. George honorific before he sailed to Canada. Lorne and Princess Louise departed on 14 November 1878. The marquess and marchioness sailed on the Allan Line steamer, Sarmatiain, rather than a ship of the Royal Navy suggested by his mother-in-law.