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Macquarie, Elizabeth (1778–1835)

Macquarie, Elizabeth (1778–1835)

Scottish diarist who authored Diary of Journey from England to New South Wales 1809 . Born Elizabeth Campbell in 1778 in Airds, Scotland; died in 1835 in Scotland; daughter of John Campbell; married Lachlan Macquarie (1762–1824, governor of New South Wales in Australia [1809–1821]), before 1809.

Born in 1778, Elizabeth Macquarie was raised and well educated in Scotland before becoming the second wife of Lachlan Macquarie sometime before 1809. A career military man who had served with the British army in Canada, America, Egypt, and India, Lachlan was in 1809 appointed governor of New South Wales in Australia. Elizabeth Macquarie accompanied her husband on the trip to his new posting and recorded the journey in a volume entitled Diary of Journey from England to New South Wales 1809. New South Wales had been established by Britain as a penal colony in 1788, and the appointment of the new governor was the result of what is known as the Rum Rebellion (fomented by officers posted to control the colony's convicts) against the previous governor. The Macquaries were therefore entering into a delicate situation, and from the outset Elizabeth Macquarie proved a valuable partner to her husband.

She counseled him on ticklish matters of state and supported him vigorously in disputes he had with a variety of factions in New South Wales. Governor Macquarie was a strong proponent of the convicts, and his long term in office, generally acknowledged as one of the most successful in that nation's early history, saw the struggle between the "emancipists," freed or pardoned ex-convicts who remained in the colony, and the "exclusionists," who were generally wealthy settlers (or squatters) or officers seeking to stake their claims to potentially valuable land. Elizabeth Macquarie displayed particular concern for women convicts, and was interested in ensuring that all people, including the colony's Aboriginal inhabitants, were treated equitably by the state. Earlier training in architecture also enabled her to supply valuable advice to Francis Greenway, her husband's architect.

New South Wales was officially opened to immigration by free settlers in 1820. (Convict transportation would cease 20 years later.) Lachlan Macquarie's governorship came to an end in 1821, and the couple left the continent the following year. They returned to the Macquarie family estate at Jarvisfield, Scotland, where he died in 1824. Much of what is known of his final years has been gleaned from letters written by Elizabeth Macquarie to friends back in New South Wales. A biography, Elizabeth Macquarie, was published by Lysbeth Cohen in 1979, and No Barrier, a historical novel by Eleanor Dark published in 1953, features her as a character. Biographies of her husband, including Macquarie's World by Marjorie Barnard and Lachlan Macquarie by Malcolm Ellis, also include details of her life. A number of natural and man-made landmarks in and around Sydney, Australia, bear the names of either Elizabeth Macquarie or her husband, including a prominence overlooking Sydney Harbor that is called Mrs. Macquarie's Chair.


The Oxford Encyclopedia of World History. Oxford and NY: Oxford University Press, 1998.

Wilde, William H., Joy Hooton, and Barry Andrews. The Oxford Companion to Australian Literature. Melbourne: Oxford, 1985.

Don Amerman , freelance writer, Saylorsburg, Pennsylvania

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