One of the most remarkable of the royal governors, Francis Nicholson faced a variety of challenges during his career. Nicholson was born near Richmond, in Yorkshire, England. He joined the English army at the age of 24, and served for several years in Tangier, Africa. In 1686, he went to America for the first time, as commander of a company of foot soldiers sent to serve under Sir Edmund Andros.
Andros named Nicholson as lieutenant governor of the Dominion of New England in 1688. When a revolt broke out in Boston in 1689, Nicholson was in New York City. He yielded control of the town and sailed to England. In order to show that the crown was not displeased with his actions, King William then named Nicholson lieutenant governor of Virginia.
Nicholson spent two years in Virginia, from 1690 to 1692. He helped the Reverend James Blair found the College of William and Mary, which became the most prestigious educational institution in the southern colonies.
In 1692, Nicholson was replaced as lieutenant governor by his former mentor, Sir Edmund Andros. After serving as governor of Maryland for four years, Nicholson returned to Virginia in 1698, this time as the full governor.
Nicholson’s second administration in Virginia was less successful than his first. He had developed a formidable temper, and he became estranged from some of his former political allies, Reverend Blair among them. He left Virginia in 1705, and retired to England.
Nicholson was called back to service for his country in 1709 when he returned to America to play a role in the planned invasion of French Canada. The campaign was called off for that year, but in 1710 Nicholson led a combined force of British soldiers and American militiamen in the capture of Port Royal (modern-day Annapolis, Nova Scotia).
Nicholson served briefly as governor of Nova Scotia in 1712 and then went to England when King George I took the throne. In 1720 Nicholson was given one last appointment, as governor of South Carolina. There he earned the hostility of the Charles Town merchants. Nicholson and was finally replaced in 1725. He retired to England, where he died three years later.
Francis Nicholson held more posts than . any other colonial governor, and while he was not well-loved, he was generally respected for his integrity and sense of duty.