Sir Edmund Herring had a military career before becoming the Chief Justice of Victoria in 1944. Sir Edmund served as an artillery officer with the British Army in World War One and was awarded the Military Cross. While he returned to the Law between the wars, becoming King's Counsel in 1936, he continued his military associations through Australian Militia Forces, rising to colonel by the start of the Second World War. At the outset of WWII Herring was appointed as Commander of the Royal Artillery for the Australian Sixth Division. Herring saw service in North Africa and Greece and was in charge of Australian Northern forces in 1942, afterwards working with General Blamey in Papua New Guinea.
Sir Edmund was appointed Chief Justice, straight from his army command in 1944. As Chief Justice he quickly established the Law Reform Committee and after the war oversaw the extension of the Supreme Court buildings, with the creation of new Courts. He was considered an able administrator, but his refusal to appoint Joan Rosanove a Queen’s Counsel throughout the 1950s, did not sit well with many legal practitioners.
After his retirement from the Bench, he continued in his many public activities, including trustee of the Shrine of Remembrance and the Australian War Memorial and a member of the Melbourne Grammar School Council, as well as Lieutenant Governor of the State of Victoria, a position he held from 1945 to 1972.
Herring was also an outspoken social critic; between the wars he had been a member of the White Guard, who were a far right group acting against communism. During the Cold War period of the 1950s, Herring spoke out in favour of the British Empire and the American alliance.
The portrait of Sir Edmund Herring is the second one that Sir William Dargie (1912-2003), completed of Sir Edmund; his first effort in 1944/45 won the Archibald prize. Dargie won the Archibald prize a record eight times. His fame as a portrait painter was not without controversy, as he was considered ‘safe’ and the favourite of conservative sitters, particularly as many of his Archibald winners were of ‘Captains of Industry’. While no Archibald prize was awarded for this portrait, it is an interesting counterpoint to Dargie’s 1944/45 portrait.
The portrait of Sir Edmund Herring is significant because of whom it portrays and the artist William Dargie who painted it.
Portait in oils of Sir Edmund Herring. This is a half portrait of Sir Edmund in his red judicial robes. Gold leaf frame, with plaque.
Inscriptions & markings
Plaque reads "The Honourable Sir Edmund Francis Herring, KCMG, KBE, DSO, MC, ED. Chief Justice of the Supreme Court 1944-1964"