OF AUSTRALIA's 25 governors-general before Peter Cosgrove, only three were long-term career army officers.
Several others, however, had distinguished war records. And, as was common in the upper reaches of British society a century or more ago, some combined military careers with politics and other forms of public service.
Alexander Hore-Ruthven, Earl of Gowrie, who was governor-general from 1936 to 1945, was the first career-military man. He won a Victoria Cross as a young officer in the Sudan campaign of 1898, rescuing a comrade in the midst of a Dervish charge. He was severely wounded at Gallipoli and finished World War I as a brigadier general.
Field Marshal Sir William Slim (GG 1953-60) was a regular soldier from the outbreak of World War I. He too was wounded at Gallipoli and in 1918 won a Military Cross in Mesopotamia. His military fame came, however, when he commanded the British army in Burma during World War II.
The third career man, and only Australian, was the 24th - Major General Michael Jeffery (2003-08). Jeffery, who won a Military Cross in Vietnam, was rushed into the position after the resignation of Peter Hollingworth.
Several other governors general came to the position with strong military attachments, but others were bestowed the honour based on their societal position, or more recently, their achievements.
There was the unusual case of Prince Henry, Duke of Gloucester, who was governor-general 1945-47. He was an officer for 18 years and returned to active duty in World War II. He was slightly wounded in France in 1940. But as the third son of King George V, his primary career was being a royal.
Sir Isaac Issacs had the esteemed honour of becoming the first Australian-born governor-general in 1931. And the first female governor-general was Quentin Bryce, who took up the position in 2008.
The governor-general is officially appointed by the monarch of Britain but is recommended by the prime minister of Australia. The constitution of Australia says:
A Governor-General appointed by the Queen shall be Her Majesty’s representative in the Commonwealth, and shall have and may exercise in the Commonwealth during the Queen’s pleasure, but subject to this Constitution, such powers and functions of the Queen as Her Majesty may be pleased to assign to him.
While the role is largely ceremonial, the governor-general is able to exercise political power when it is necessary, such appointing a prime minister if there's a hung parliament, or dismissing a prime minister if they have lost the confidence of parliament, or broken the law.
Timeline: Governors-general of Australia
|Number||Term of office||Governor-General|
|26||2014 -||General Peter Cosgrove. AC, MC|
|25||2008 - 2014||Quentin Bryce, AC, CVO|
|24||2003 - 2008||Major General Michael Jeffery, AC, AO (Mil), CVO, MC (Retd)|
|23||2001 - 2003||Dr Peter Hollingworth, AC OBE|
|22||1996 - 2001||Sir William Patrick Deane, AC, KBE|
|21||1989 - 1996||William George Hayden, AC|
|20||1982 - 1989||Sir Ninian Stephen, KG, AK, GCMG, GCVO, KBE, QC|
|19||1977 - 1982||Sir Zelman Cowen, AK, GCMG, GCVO, QC|
|18||1974 - 1977||Sir John Robert Kerr, AK, GCMG, GCVO, QC|
|17||1969 - 1974||Sir Paul Meernaa Caedwalla Hasluck, KG, GCMG, GCVO|
|16||1965 - 1969||Richard Gavin Gardiner Casey, KG, GCMG, CH, DSO, MC, PC|
|15||1961 - 1965||William Philip Sidney De L'Isle, lst Viscount De L'Isle, VC, KG, GCMG, GCVO, PC|
|14||1960 - 1961||William Shepherd Morrison, 1st Viscount Dunrossil, GCMG, MC, QC, PC|
|13||1953 - 1960||Sir William Joseph Slim, 1st Viscount Slim (Yarralumla and Bishopston), KG, GCB, GCMG, GCVO, GBE, DSO, MC|
|12||1947 - 1953||Sir William John McKell, GCMG, PC|
|11||1945 - 1947||HRH Prince Henry William Frederick Albert, Duke of Gloucester, KG, KT, KP, GCB, GCMG, GCVO|
|10||1936 - 1945||Brigadier General Gore Arkwright Hore-Ruthven, lst Baron Gowrie, VC, GCMG, CB, DSO, PC|
|9||1931 - 1936||Sir Isaac Alfred Isaacs, GCB, GCMG, PC|
|8||1925 - 1931||John Lawrence Baird, 1st Baron Stonehaven, GCMG, DSO, PC, JP, DL|
|7||1920 - 1925||Henry William Forster, lst Baron Forster, GCMG, PC, DL|
|6||1914 - 1920||Sir Ronald Craufurd Munro-Ferguson, GCMG, PC|
|5||1911 - 1914||Thomas Denman, 3rd Baron Denman, GCMG, KCVO, PC, JP|
|4||1908 - 1911||William Humble Ward, 2nd Earl of Dudley, GCB, GCMG, GCVO, TD, PC|
|3||1904 - 1908||Henry Stafford Northcote, 1st Baron Northcote, GCMG, GCIE, CB, PC|
|2||1903 - 1904||Hallam Tennyson, 2nd Baron Tennyson, GCMG, PC|
|1||1901 - 1903||John Adrian Louis Hope, 7th Earl of Hopetoun, KT, GCMG, GCVO, PC|
Source: www.gg.gov.au, AAP