The Governor-General of India (or, from 1858 to 1947, officially the Viceroy and Governor-General of India, commonly shortened to Viceroy of India) was originally the head of the British administration in India and, later, after Indian independence in 1947, the representative of the Indian head of state. The office was created in 1773, with the title of Governor-General of the Presidency of Fort William. The officer had direct control only over Fort William, but supervised other British East India Company officials in India. Complete authority over all of British India was granted in 1833, and the official came to be known as the "Governor-General of India".
In 1858, the territories of the East India Company came under the direct control of the British government; see British Raj. The governor-general (now also the viceroy) headed the central government of India, which administered the provinces of British India, including the Punjab, Bengal, Bombay, Madras, the United Provinces, and others. However, much of India was not ruled directly by the British government; outside the provinces of British India, there were hundreds of nominally sovereign princely states or "native states", whose relationship was not with the British government, but directly with the monarch. To reflect the governor-general's role as the representative of the monarch to the feudal rulers of the princely states, from 1858 the term Viceroy and Governor-General of India (known in short as the Viceroy of India) was applied to him.
The title of viceroy was abandoned when British India split into the two independent dominions of India and Pakistan, but the office of governor-general continued to exist in each country separately—until they adopted republican constitutions in 1950 and 1956, respectively.
Until 1858, the governor-general was selected by the Court of Directors of the East India Company, to whom he was responsible. Thereafter, he was appointed by the sovereign on the advice of the British government; the Secretary of State for India, a member of the UK Cabinet, was responsible for instructing him on the exercise of his powers. After 1947, the sovereign continued to appoint the governor-general, but did so on the advice of the Indian government.
Governors-General served at the pleasure of the sovereign, though the practice was to have them serve five-year terms. Governors-General could have their commission rescinded; and if one was removed, or left, a provisional governor-general was sometimes appointed until a new holder of the office could be chosen. The first Governor-General of British India was Warren Hastings, and the first Governor-General of independent India was Louis Mountbatten.
Many parts of the Indian subcontinent were governed by the East India Company, which nominally acted as the agent of the Mughal Emperor. In 1773, motivated by corruption in the Company, the British government assumed partial control over the governance of India with the passage of the Regulating Act of 1773. A Governor-General and Supreme Council of Bengal were appointed to rule over the Presidency of Fort William in Bengal. The first Governor-General and Council were named in the Act.
The Charter Act 1833 replaced the Governor-General and Council of Fort William with the Governor-General and Council of India. The power to elect the Governor-General was retained by the Court of Directors, but the choice became subject to the Sovereign's approval.