Robert FitzRoy was born in 1805 in Suffolk, England. His family were aristocracy directly descended from Charles II.

FitzRoy entered the Royal Naval College at 13 and joined the navy a year later, becoming a lieutenant in 1824. After working on a few ships, FitzRoy was given command of the HMS Beagle and set off on a hydrographic survey of the South American coastline in 1831, along with Charles Darwin, the young naturalist. During the voyage, FitzRoy visited the Bay of Islands and reported back to the British Government on the works of the Church Mission Society in New Zealand. Back home, FitzRoy began a parliamentary career as the Tory MP for Durham, but was appointed Governor of New Zealand in 1843, ending his political career in England. FitzRoy arrived in New Zealand later that year to a colony seething with economic and political unrest.

Post Treaty of Waitangi, New Zealand was broke. The British government didn't want to spend any money on New Zealand and previous governors had issued promissory notes that were due. With no money in the coffers, FitzRoy issued debentures, informally known as Fitzroy Debentures. This made the British government irate, but FitzRoy had little choice.

FitzRoy had a knack for offending people and continued to do so while in office. He rejected Land Commissioner Spain's report, which upset relations with the New Zealand Company and settlers. This limited the amount of land available to Taranaki settlers to the small Fitzroy block. A pole, Te Pou Tutaki, also known as the Fitzroy Pole, was erected by Māori on the banks of the Waiwhakaiho River to mark out the boundary of the settlement.

Recalled to England after what was termed the near-ruin of the colony, FitzRoy worked on meteorological research, which earned him great accolades. He worked to the point of total exhaustion and took his own life in 1865, leaving a wife and family.

This story was originally published in the Taranaki Daily News.

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