Richard Blanchard (Sometimes spelled Blanshard) was the first governor of Vancouver Island, when it was still a British colony in 1849. A street in Victoria, the capital of British Columbia, is named after him.

There will always be a few figures in history that are looked back on with pity. Blanchard is one of those unfortunate souls: his life really was a tad pathetic. Originally, when a governor was being decided for VI, James Douglas (from the Hudson’s Bay Company, who retained most of the control over the island was fairly well-liked) was told he was the one who would be granted this position, but unexpectedly there were some arguments and conflicts of interest over this and Blanchard, a little known lawyer, was selected (through personal connections) instead.

Blanchard studied law at Cambridge University, and later served in the army in British India. He came from a wealthy family, and had traveled in the West Indies and the British Honduras, but was quite inexperienced as a governor, which could only serve to infuriate Douglas.

Blanchard is described by Doctor Tolmie as “a tall, thin person with a pale intellect...” who was “...a good smoker, a protectionist in politics and a latitudinarian in religious matters...” “... free from hauteur or pomposity.”

The governor was told from the beginning that he would not be given a salary. Instead, he was promised one thousand acres of land, which he could collect rent money on. Blanchard arrived on March 11th, 1850, expecting a mansion of sorts, but since he had arrived earlier than anticipated, Douglas had not yet begun building his house. Blanchard was forced to live on the boat he sailed in on for months, at one point sharing it with wild cattle and sheep.

Almost worse than this, for six months Blanchard lived uncomfortably with Douglas while his house continued to be built. When it was finally finished, a four-room cabin, Douglas was of the opinion that it was the best finished-building in the colony. Blanchard was not so impressed, and used his own money to improve it, although he was making no income.

Blanchard remained governor for only nine months. He had next to no power in the colony, seemed intimidated by Douglas, was spending tons of his own money, and to top it off, his health was failing. After sending in his resignation, however, poor communication with England meant he had to stay on Vancouver Island for nine more months until England could send their acceptance it. When he did sail back, a humbler man, he had to pay for the journey out of his own pocket as the final insult.

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