The Governor-general of Ceylon was the representative of the monarch in the Dominion of Ceylon from the country's independence from the United Kingdom in 1948 until it became the republic of Sri Lanka in 1972.[1]


The monarch, on the advice of the Prime Minister, appointed a governor-general to be his/her representative in Ceylon. Neither the monarch nor the Governor-General had any real authority in conducting the administration of the country (however, both possessed reserve powers under the constitution which would allow them full control of the nation's governance whenever in their opinion a case of emergency requiring such action arises). Real legislative and executive responsibilities rested with the elected representatives of the people. During several periods when a state of emergency was declared the Governor-General used his reserved powers.

The governor-general represented the monarch on ceremonial occasions such as the opening of Parliament, the presentation of honours and military parades. Under the Constitution, he was given authority to act in some matters, for example in appointing and disciplining officers of the civil service, in proroguing Parliament and so on, but only in a few cases was he empowered to act entirely on his own discretion. On the absence of the governor-general, the Chief Justice of Ceylon became acting Governor-General.


There were four governors-general.

Sir Henry Monck-Mason Moore became the last Governor of Ceylon and first governor-general when the Ceylon Order in Council, the first constitution of independent Ceylon came into effect. He was followed by Lord Soulbury, thereafter by Sir Oliver Goonetilleke the first Ceylonese to be appointed to the post. When William Gopallawa was appointed as Governor-General in 1962, he discarded the ceremonial uniform of office.

When Ceylon became a republic in 1972 the post was replaced by the office of President of Sri Lanka.


The official residence and office of the governor-general was the Queen's House (currently the President's House) in Colombo. Other Governor-General residences include:

Governors-general of Ceylon

Governor-Generals of Ceylon 1948–1972[2]
Portrait Name
Term of office Sovereign
Sir Henry Monck-Mason Moore
4 February 1948 6 July 1949 George VI
Herwald Ramsbotham, 1st Viscount Soulbury.jpg Herwald Ramsbotham, 1st Viscount Soulbury
6 July 1949 17 July 1954
Elizabeth II
Sir Oliver Goonetilleke.gif Sir Oliver Ernest Goonetilleke
17 July 1954 2 March 1962
William Gopallawa.jpg William Gopallawa
2 March 1962 22 May 1972
Acting Governors-general
Portrait Name
Term of office Sovereign
No image.png Acting
Justice Arthur Wijewardena
1953 1953 Elizabeth II
No image.png Acting
Justice C. Nagalingam
1954 1954

Flag of the governor-general


  1. ^ "Ceylon Constitution Order in Council 1946". Tamilnation. Retrieved 9 November 2012.
  2. ^ Lentz, Harris M. (1994). Heads of States and Governments Since 1945. New York.: Fitzroy Dearborn Publishers. p. 704. ISBN 1-884964-44-3. Retrieved 27 July 2017.