Elizabeth Bourke (1774–1832)

ELIZABETH BOURKE, the wife of Governor Sir RICHARD BOURKE, was a vice-regal lady who died at Old Government House, Parramatta. According to her obituary in the Sydney Herald, ELIZABETH was ‘the first lady of any Governor in this Southern hemisphere’ to die.

In life, ELIZABETH, endearingly known to her loved ones as BETSY, was heavily involved in evangelical poor relief programs and school projects, as she was a great advocate for mass free immigration and education, believing both to be imperative for the betterment of society’s downtrodden. Prior to her husband’s colonial appointment as the eighth Governor of New South Wales, she had been his vice-regal lady when he was appointed Acting Governor at the Cape Colony in present-day South Africa from 1825 to 1828.

A few months after her death her husband, GOVERNOR BOURKE, erected a white marble tablet on the walls in St. John’s Church, Parramatta.


  • Maiden name: ELIZABETH JANE BOURKE (her father had the same surname as her husband)
  • Alternate: ELYZABETH J. BOURKE (c.f. headstone inscription, St. John’s Cemetery, Parramatta)
  • Colloquial: BETSY


  • Born: 19 May 1774 at ‘Honeywood,’ Carshalton, Surrey, England
  • Baptised: 18 June 1774, All Saints Church, Carshalton, Surrey, England
  • Married RICHARD BOURKE: 22 March 1800
  • Daughter GEORGINA BOURKE born: 12 January 1801, London, England
  • Daughter GEORGINA BOURKE baptised: 15 February 1801, London, England
  • Daughter MARY JANE BOURKE born: 17 March 1802, Coleshill, Hertfordshire, England
  • Son JOHN BOURKE born: 11 February 1803, Essex, England
  • Son EDMUND BOURKE born: 6 January 1805, Essex, England
  • Son EDMUND BOURKE died: 1805, Essex, England
  • Father JOHN BOURKE died: 1806, Carshalton, Surrey, England
  • Daughter ANNE MARIA BOURKE born: 13 June 1806, Buckinghamshire, England
  • Daughter FRANCES EMMA BOURKE born: 28 August 1808, Sussex, England
  • Daughter LUCY BOURKE born: 10 May 1810, England
  • Mother MARY BOURKE (née MARY BATTYE) died: 1816, Carshalton, Surrey, England
  • Daughter LUCY BOURKE died: February 1823, Ireland
  • Son RICHARD BOURKE born: 30 May 1812, Limerick, Ireland
  • Died: 11 o’clock, Monday, 7 May 1832, Old Government House, Parramatta
  • Buried: Thursday 10 May 1832, Parramatta Burial Ground (St. John’s Cemetery, Parramatta)

Burial Location

  • Section 3, Row H, No. 6, St. John’s Cemetery, Parramatta.


  • Daughter of JOHN BOURKE (d.1806)
  • Daughter of MARY BOURKE (née MARY BATTYE) (d. 1816)
  • Sister of Reverend JOHN WILLIAM BOURKE
  • Sister of MARY KENNEDY (née MARY BOURKE)
  • Spouse of RICHARD BOURKE
  • Mother of GEORGINA BOURKE (1801–1801)
  • Mother of MARY JANE BOURKE (1802–1888)
  • Mother of JOHN BOURKE (1803–1868)
  • Mother of EDMUND BOURKE (1805–1805)
  • Mother of ANNE MARIA BOURKE (1806–1884)
  • Mother of FRANCES ‘FANNY’ EMMA BOURKE (1808–1866)
  • Mother of LUCY BOURKE (1810–1823)
  • Mother of RICHARD ‘DICK’ BOURKE (1812–1904)

Related Content

Elizabeth Bourke: A Much-Lamented Lady (2019)

By Catie Gilchrist

Abstract: The arrival of Governor Richard Bourke and his wife Elizabeth Jane in December 1831 generated enormous excitement in New South Wales. But less than six months later, the colony was plunged into a deep and profound collective grief for the vice-regal first lady they had barely known. more >>



Primary Sources

Secondary Sources

  • Alison Alexander, Obliged to Submit: Wives and Mistresses of Colonial Governors, (Tasmania: Montpelier Press, 1999).
  • David Clune and Ken Turner (eds.), The Governors of New South Wales, 1788–2010, (Annandale: The Federation Press, 2009).
  • Judith Dunn, The Parramatta Cemeteries: St. John’s, (Parramatta, NSW: Parramatta and District Historical Society, 1991), p. 167.
  • Hazel King, Richard Bourke, (London and Melbourne: Oxford University Press, 1971).
  • Penny Russell, A Wish of Distinction, Colonial Gentility and Femininity, (Melbourne: Melbourne University Press, 1994).
  • Anita Selzer, Governors’ Wives in Colonial Australia, (Canberra: National Library of Australia, 2002).
  • David Stoneman, “Richard Bourke: For the Honour of God and the Good of Man,” Journal of Religious History, Vol. 38, No. 3, (September, 2014): 341–355.


# Governor’s Wife

# Came free

# Ship: Margaret (1831)

# Government House, Sydney

# Government House, Parramatta

# Burial Year: 1832

# Grave: marked