BROUN, Christian (1786-1839)

Born on February 28th 1786 around Lochmaben, in Scotland, Christian Broun (Christian Ramsay, Countess of Dalhousie) was the daughter of Charles Broun, lawyer, and of Christian McDowall.

As the wife of a colonial administrator, Broun accompanied her husband, the Earl of Dalhousie, to numerous official functions. He served as lieutenant governor of Nova Scotia between 1816 and 1820, as governor general of British North America between 1820 and 1828, and as commander in chief of the Indian army between 1828 and 1832.

The wives of governors were generally responsible for the gardens of their official residences, but Broun took this one step further. She collected plant specimens, classified them, and shipped them around the world. Seeds were sent to Dalhousie Castle in Scotland, where they were planted. Broun also sent specimens to scholars and learned societies. In Quebec City, she presented her collection of 382 Canadian plants to the Literary and Historical Society of Quebec in 1827. She also provided many specimens gathered in India to Robert Graham, botanist at the University of Edinburgh, who named a then-unknown plant in the legume family Dalhousiea in her honour. She also corresponded with William Jackson Hooker, chair of regius professor of Botany at the University of Glasgow, and sent him specimens collected in India, Burma, and Malaya. Hooker used these to compile his encyclopedic work Flora Indica. Broun also donated 1200 exotic specimens to the Botanical Society of Edinburgh, who named her an honourary member in 1837.

The governor’s wife also held the official title of patron of literature and the arts. In 1824, Julia Catherine Beckwith dedicated her novel St Ursula’s Convent to Broun, the first fictional narrative written by a Canadian-born author.

Broun is also known for her satirical caricatures of the civil and military elite of the time.

She died in Edinburgh on January 22nd 1839.

In 1805, she married George Ramsay, ninth Earl of Dalhousie, officer and colonial governor, son of George Ramsay, eighth Earl of Dalhousie, and Elizabeth Glene. She was the mother of James Andrew Broun Ramsay, first Marquess of Dalhousie.

– Patrick Donovan, June 2015


Christian Broun

Primary Sources

  • BAILEY, Alfred G. “Beckwith, Julia Catherine” in the Dictionary of Canadian Biography, vol. 9. Université Laval/University of Toronto, 2003-. Consulted on 29 January 2015,
  • BLAIR, Louisa, Patrick DONOVAN and Donald FYSON. From Iron Bars to Bookshelves. Québec: Septentrion, 2015 (forthcoming).
  • BROWNE, Janet. “Ramsay, Christian, countess of Dalhousie (1786-1839)” in Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2004. Online edition, mai 2010. Consulted on 29 January 2015.
  • BURROUGHS, Peter. “Ramsay, George, 9th Earl of Dalhousie” in the Dictionary of Canadian Biography, vol. 7, University of Toronto/Université Laval, 2003–, accessed March 11, 2015,
  • “Ramsay, George,” Repertoire du patrimoine culturel du Québec.
  • ELWOOD, Marie. “The Discovery and Repatriation of the Lord Dalhousie Collection,” Archivaria (Ottawa), no 24 (summer 1987). p. 108–116.
  • HORWOOD, Catherine. Gardening Women : Their Stories 1600 to the Present. Hachette Digital, 2010. Accessed January 29 2015.