AskDefine | Define viceroy

Dictionary Definition



1 governor of a country or province who rules as the representative of his or her king or sovereign [syn: vicereine]
2 showy American butterfly resembling the monarch but smaller [syn: Limenitis archippus]

User Contributed Dictionary



Latin (via French) vice: "in place of" and French roy/roi: "king".


  • RP: /ˈvaɪsrɔɪ/


  1. The governor of a country, province, or colony, ruling as the representative of a sovereign.
  2. An orange and black North American butterfly (Limenitis archippus), named because it is similar, but smaller than a monarch.


the governor of a country etc.
a butterfly

Extensive Definition

A viceroy is a royal official who governs 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 (rare, as it usually includes military high command), or a Viceroy's wife.
The etymological allusion to the royal style makes it be perceived as higher than governor-general and lord lieutenant, even when in some cases it is a synonym for that administrative rank, and not necessarily above several "provincial" (lieutenant-) governors.
In some cases, the title (and the office, unless the title is not 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.

Spanish Empire

The title was originally used in the Aragonese Crown since 14th Century for Sardinia and Corsica. The absolutist Kings of Spain employed numerous Viceroys to rule over various parts of their vast empire "where the sun never set", both European and overseas.
In Europe, until the 18th century the Spanish crown appointed Viceroys of Aragon, Valencia, Catalonia, Navarra, Sardinia, Sicily, Naples and Portugal (15801640)
Meanwhile in the New World, there were colonial viceroys to govern New Spain and to govern South American territories known as Viceroyalties (Spanish term: virreinato). Until 1717, there were only two Spanish viceroyalties, the Viceroyalty of Peru and the Viceroyalty of New Spain. The Viceroyalty of Peru, with its capital in Lima, ruled over all of Spain's territory in South America, while the Viceroyalty of New Spain, with its capital in Mexico City, ruled over Spain's territory in Mexico, Central and North America, the Caribbean and the Philippines. (Venezuela, in South America, was at times attached to the Viceroyalty of New Spain.)
Due to the growing size of Spain's American colonies, new viceroyalties were created for New Granada in 1717 (capital, Bogotá) and the Río de la Plata in 1776 (capital, Buenos Aires). The viceroyalties of Spanish America were subdivided into smaller units, Audiencias and Captaincies General, which in many cases became the bases for the independent countries of modern Spanish America.

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: 21 February15 August 1947 Louis Francis Mountbatten, Earl Mountbatten of Burma).
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 (in general technically incorrect, 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.

Portuguese Empire

in Portuguese Vice-Rei:
  • Portuguese India, with its seat in Goa, started in 1505–1509 under Viceroy Francisco de Almeida (b.1450–d.1510). From 1505 on Viceroys, Governors(-general) 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. From 1896 until 1961 only Governors–general took place.
  • Brazil, 13 July 171416 December 1815. From that date, the giant colony was the seat of the Portuguese royal Bragança dynasty in exile, until on 7 September 1822 the royal Regent declared the independence of the now separated Kingdom of Brazil, proclaiming himself on 12 October 1822 Emperor of Brazil (13 May 1825 recognized by Portugal). Allegedly there were once two viceroyalties in Brazil, including Grão Para.

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 with 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.


In imperial China, viceroy was the English translation of the title "general supervisor-protector" (Zǒngdū 總督), otherwise translated as the Governor General, who were heading large administrative divisions, directly under the imperial court. These divisions are usually two or three provinces. The regions included Zhili, Huguang, Liangjiang, Liangguang, Shangan, Minzhe, Yungui and Sichuan. 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
viceroy in Catalan: Virrei
viceroy in Welsh: Rhaglaw
viceroy in German: Vizekönig
viceroy in Spanish: Virrey
viceroy in French: Vice-roi
viceroy in Korean: 부왕
viceroy in Italian: Viceré
viceroy in Hebrew: משנה למלך
viceroy in Hungarian: Alkirály
viceroy in Dutch: Onderkoning
viceroy in Japanese: 副王
viceroy in Norwegian: Visekonge
viceroy in Polish: Wicekról
viceroy in Portuguese: Vice-rei
viceroy in Russian: Вице-королевство
viceroy in Swedish: Vicekung

Synonyms, Antonyms and Related Words

beg, beglerbeg, bey, burgrave, collector, dey, eparch, exarch, gauleiter, governor, governor-general, khedive, lieutenant governor, nabob, nawab, palatine, proconsul, provincial, satrap, stadtholder, subahdar, tetrarch, vali, vice-chairman, vice-chancellor, vice-consul, vice-director, vice-governor, vice-king, vice-legate, vice-master, vice-premier, vice-president, vice-queen, vice-regent, vice-warden, vicegerent, wali
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