Henry Bartle Frere was born in March 1815 in Monmouthshire. He was educated at the East India company college and on graduation in 1834 was sent to India as a civil servant in Poona. By 1842 he had risen to be the secretary to the Governor of Bombay and two years later married the governor’s daughter. He was then posted as the Resident at the court of the Raja Sharji of Satara and in 1850 he became Chief Commissioner in Sindh province, where he set up the Postal Service which would form the model for the later Indian postal system. He was knighted in 1857 and joined the Viceroy’s staff in 1859, before becoming Governor of Bombay in 1862. Whilst in this post he implemented a policy of municipal improvements in the city. In 1867 he returned to England.
He served as a member of the commission on India until 1877 when he was posted as Commissioner for Southern Africa. His attempted civil reorganisation and Confederation of the states, against the advice of local leaders, was strongly resisted. It led to a number of local wars and eventually to the Anglo-Zulu War and the first Boer war.
In 1880 he was recalled to London and charged with misconduct. He died whilst preparing his defence and was buried in St Paul’s Cathedral.