HC Deb 25 April 1815 vol 30 cc847-9
Sir Charles Burrell

Sir Charles Burrell rose, in pursuance of his notice, to move an Address to the Regent, upon the subject of certain gratuities received by the servants of the Royal Household from individuals attending the Court. He first drew the attention of the House to the observations of the two Civil List Committees upon this subject, which was beyond the control of the Lord Steward. He referred to the ancient and evil practice of visitors giving vails to the servants of noblemen and gentlemen, now entirely discontinued, and argued upon the necessity of abolishing the custom when visitors waited on the occupant of the throne. The existence of this system was, he said, a stigma upon the national character; and foreigners went away with the conviction that every thing was to be done by money in this country, without which they could not procure even a sight of the Sovereign. In the household of the Prince of Wales no such custom had ever prevailed; but since his Royal Highness had become Regent, it had been transferred with the Royal Household. There were usually belonging to the establishment, among the inferior officers eight marshals, who paid 800l. for their situations, and yet only received a nominal salary of 22l. 15s. 6d., and they were obliged to procure themselves hats and other clothes, excepting coats, which were given once in two years: of course, they were obliged to derive their profits from the visitors of the Court. In the same situation was the serjeant-porter, whose place produced only 120l. per annum, and the yeoman-porters and groom-porters, who gave 200l. for their offices, and received salaries of 50l. and 60l. The gentlemen pensioners, or yeomen of the guard, gave 350l. for the situation, and only obtained a salary from the Household of 39l. 11s. 3d. The consequence was, that, instead of being gentlemen as formerly, they were in truth beggars, and carried their begging books round to the nobility and gentry, for subscriptions to make up the deficiency. Besides these, there were the Regent's and the Queen's gentlemen-porters, footmen, and grooms of the chambers; all of whom were paid at the same inefficient rate, and who, in consequence, were constrained to prey upon the gratuities of those who visited the Court, and who thus became liable to the most vexatious demands. The object which he had in view, and which he was satisfied would be sanctioned by the House, was, that such provision should be made for these officers in future, that they would be sufficiently remunerated, without having recourse to a system which was discreditable to the honour and dignity of the Crown, as it was disgraceful to the country. The hon. baronet concluded by moving, "That an humble Address be presented to his royal highness the Prince Regent, submitting to his Royal Highness's gracious consideration so much of the reports of the committees on the Civil List of the years 1812 and 1813, as relates to the mode of remunerating certain inferior servants of the Royal Household by gra- tuities collected from individuals attending the Court."

The Chancellor of the Exchequer

did not object to the motion; but thought that the House would do well not to pledge itself too far, lest the sum necessary for the proposed commutation should be found greater than members would think fit to lay upon the public. The practice complained of prevailed in a greater or less degree in all the Courts of Europe.

Mr. W. Smith

would not concur in laving any great and additional burthen upon the nation for the sake of removing a sŭpposed stigma.

Sir C. Burrell

did not think that the sum could be considerable; it might be paid out of the Droits of Admiralty.

Mr. Huskisson

remarked, that it would be necessary not only to give compensation to those who had bought their places, but to any persons who derived emolument from the prevailing custom, and more especially to those higher officers of the household, whose emoluments depended upon the sale of the situations of their inferiors.

Mr. Sumner

said, that if the dignity of the Crown required the abolition of the present fees, he did not think the House would be restrained by motives of parsimony from taking measures to put this part of the household establishment on the same footing with all other parts of it.

The motion was agreed to.