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A viceroy is a royal official who runs a country or province in the name of and as representative of the monarch. The term derives from the Latin prefix vice-, meaning "in the place of" and the French word roi, meaning king. His province or larger territory is called a viceroyalty. The relative adjective is viceregal. A vicereine is a woman in a viceregal position, or a viceroy's wife.

The etymological allusion to the royal style can create the perception that the office ranks higher than governor-general and lord lieutenant, even in cases when it is a synonym for that administrative rank and not necessarily ranked above "provincial" (lieutenant-) governors.

In some cases, the title (and the office, when the title is permanently attached to the job) is reserved for members of the ruling dynasty. It was not uncommon for potential heirs to the throne to obtain such a post (or an equivalent one, without the viceregal style) as a test and learning stage, not unlike the even loftier "associations to the throne", such as the Roman consortium imperii or the Caesars in Emperor Diocletian's original Tetrarchy.

Portuguese Empire

From 1505 to 1896 Portuguese Indiamarker - the name "India" including all Portuguese possessions in the Indian Oceanmarker, from southern Africa to Southeast Asia, until 1752- was governed either by a Viceroy (Portuguese Vice-Rei) or Governor, from its headquarters in Goamarker since 1510. The government started six years after the discovery of sea route to India by Vasco da Gama, in 1505, under first Viceroy Francisco de Almeida (b.1450–d.1510). Initially, King Manuel I of Portugal tried a power distribution with three governors in different areas of jurisdiction, however the post was centered by governor Afonso de Albuquerque (1509-1515), who became plenipotentiary, and remained so. The duration in office was, as in Spain, of only three years, possibly given the power represented: in the sixteenth century of the thirty-four governors of India, only six had longer mandates.

Under the monarchy, the government of Portuguese India ranged from 'Governor' and 'Viceroy'. The title of Viceroy being awarded to members of the nobility, was extinguished after 1835. From 1896 until 1961 there were only Governors. Viceroys, Governors and Governing Commissions were many times interleaved as the form of government until the last Viceroy Afonso Henriques, Duke of Oporto (b.1865-d.1920) in 1896.For two centuries the governors held the jurisdiction over all Portuguese possessions in the Indian Oceanmarker. Only in 1752 Mozambique had its own government and in 1844 the Portuguese Government of India stopped to administer the territory of Macaumarker, Solormarker and Timormarker, being then confined to a small territorial expression in Malabar: Goamarker, Daman, Diumarker, Nagar Havelimarker and Dadra. Portugal lost the last two enclaves in 1954, and finally the remaining three in December of 1961, when they were occupied by the India (although Portugal only recognized the occupation after the Carnation Revolution in 1975). Thus ended, after four and a half centuries of Portuguese rule, the Portuguese state of India.

Colonial Brazilmarker, 1714–1808. Since 1714 Governors-General of Brazil were titled "Viceroys". With the arrival of the Portuguese Royal Family in Brazil in 1808 due to the Napoleonic Wars, the office of Viceroy ceased to exist, due to the presence of the Queen and of the Prince Regent in the colony. Brazil remained the seat of the Portuguese Empire until 1821, but when the Portuguese Court returned to Portugal the colonial office of Viceroy was not re-established, given that Brazil had been elevated to the rank of a kingdom, and a new State, the United Kingdom of Portugal, Brazil and the Algarves had been proclaimed in 1815. Thus, when the Royal Family returned to Lisbon, Prince Dom Pedro was left behind to govern Brazil with the rank of Regent, as Viceroy was perceived as being a colonial title and Brazil was no longer a colony since the proclamation of the United Kingdom. Prince Regent Dom Pedro would proclaim Brazil's independence in 1822, becoming the first Emperor of the newly formed Empire of Brazilmarker.

British Empire and Commonwealth

From 1858 (when the British crown took over the role of the British East India Company, which had appointed governors-general since 20 October 1774, and maintained its last incumbent) to 1947, the height of the British Raj, the British colonial Governor of India was also known as the Viceroy of India. Only the last incumbent was connected to royalty: Louis Mountbatten, 1st Viscount Mountbatten of Burma (21 February – 15 August 1947).

The Lord Lieutenant of Ireland was also sometimes referred to as a British viceroy or in the Irish language Tánaiste-Ri, literally 'deputy king'.

The title itself and the derived adjective "vice-regal" are used in some Commonwealth realms (generally in a technically incorrect way, as formerly in British India) to refer to the function of the governor general (and in Canada, provincial lieutenant governors, and in Australia, state governors) as representatives of the Crown. This usage may reflect the direct relationship between a governor general and the Crown and a governor general's exercise of all royal powers and functions under the Balfour Declaration of 1926.

Other colonial viceroyalties

Other domestic viceroys, including personal unions

In fiction

Non-Western counterparts

As many princely and administrative titles, viceroy is often used, generally unofficially, to render somewhat equivalent titles and offices in non-western cultures.

Ottoman empire

The khedive of Egypt, especially in the dynasty initiated by Muhammad Ali Pasha (1805-1848). This officer established an almost autonomous regime in Egypt, which officially still was under Ottoman rule. Although Mehemet Ali/Muhammad Ali used different symbols to mark his independence from the Sublime Porte, he never openly declared himself independent. Adopting the title of viceroy was yet another way to walk the thin line between challenging the Sultan's power explicitly and respecting his jurisdiction. Muhammad Ali Pasha's son, Ismail Pasha, subsequently received the title of Khedive which was almost an equivalent to viceroy.


The "general supervisor-protector" (Zǒngdū 總督) of imperial China, otherwise translated as Governor General. This officer was the head of a large administrative division directly under the imperial court. The divisions were usually two or three provinces. The regions included Zhili, Huguang, Liangjiang, Liangguang, Shangan, Minzhe, Yunguimarker and Sichuanmarker. Li Hongzhang was Viceroy of Huguang from 1867 to 1870, and Yuan Shikai was once Viceroy of Zhili.

Sri Lankan and Southeast Asian tradition

Uparaja, variations and compounds such as Maha Uparaja.


The post of Tổng Trấn (governor of all military provinces) was a political post in the early of Vietnamesemarker Nguyen Dynastymarker (1802-1830). From 1802, under the reign of emperor Gia Long, there were always two Tổng Trấn who directly ruled Vietnam's northern part named Bắc Thành (Hanoimarker and surrounding territories) and the southern part named Gia Định (Saigonmarker and surrounding territories) while Nguyen emperors ruled only the middle part named Vùng Kinh Kỳ (Hue and surrounding territories). Tổng Trấn is sometimes translated to English as viceroy. In 1930, emperor Minh Mang abolished the post in order to increase the imperial direct ruling power in all over Vietnam. The best-known Vietnamese viceroy in the west is Le Van Duyet, who ruled the southern part of Vietnammarker twice (1812–1815 and 1820–1832) and had many contact with Europeans.


  1. Diffie, Bailey W. and George D. Winius (1977), "Foundations of the Portuguese Empire, 1415–1580", p.323-325, Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press. ISBN 0816607826.
  2. Encyclopædia Britannica: Ismail Pasha, Ottoman Viceroy of Egypt
  3. Philip Taylor (2004), Goddess on the rise: pilgrimage and popular religion in Vietnam, University of Hawaii Press, p. 36.

Sources and references

  • Elliott, J. H., Imperial Spain, 1469-1716. London: Edward Arnold, 1963.
  • Fisher, Lillian Estelle. Viceregal Administration in the Spanish American Colonies. Berkeley, University of California Press, 1926.
  • Harding, C. H., The Spanish Empire in America. New York: Oxford University Press, 1947.

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