HC Deb 28 January 1818 vol 37 cc85-8

Lord Castlereagh moved, that the Addresses of Congratulation sent to the Queen and Prince Leopold, on his marriage with the princess Charlotte, should be entered as read; which was accordingly done.

Lord Castlereagh

then said:—I rise, in pursuance of the notice I gave last night, to move a message of condolence to her majesty, and to his serene highness the prince of Saxe-Cobourg, on the lamented and untimely death of the princess Charlotte. In adverting to the records of parliament on this subject, I do not find that it has been the practice of this House to vote messages of condolence on such occasions, except to the crown. But this is a case so peculiarly interesting—a case which has so painfully affected the feelings of the country—that I hope the House will not be guided by precedent in marking their sense of the calamity which has befallen us, but that they will act under the influence of those sentiments of deep regret in which the whole empire has participated. Certainly, when I say that this is a case altogether without precedent, in whatever light we view it, I only declare that which is not merely the feeling that prevails in this country, but which, I believe, pervades even foreign nations. If we look to all the circumstances connected with it, we must regard it as an occurrence in the highest degree tragical. The loss, almost at the same moment, of both mother and child, is a misfortune, whether contemplated in a private or a public point of view, of a most distressing nature. Such a circumstance would carry the most poignant sorrow into the bosom of a private family; but how much greater must be the grief which it produces, when the melancholy event blasts the hopes of an entire nation! We may judge of the feelings of her illustrious father, under this dreadful calamity, when we see the effect it has had on society at large. The House on the occasion of the princess Charlotte's most auspicious marriage, carried their congratulations not merely to the foot of the throne, but followed up that mark of respect by addressing her majesty, and the illustrious prince, on that joyful event. As we had the satisfaction of conveying to those illustrious individuals the feelings of pleasure which that union created; so is it now our duty to express to the same quarter, our deepest sorrow, that the bright prospect which then opened on the country, has been so soon overclouded. Whatever expectations might have been formed by the country, with respect to that marriage, I am sure I speak the sentiments of the House and of the public, when I say, that they were not only equalled, but greatly surpassed. It was a marriage of mutual inclination—a marriage founded on similarity of character—during the whole course of which, private comfort was closely connected with public dignity. Whatever views the country might entertain with respect to the results of this alliance, the whole conduct of the illustrious pair gave the nation every reason to hope that its fondest wishes would be realized. I feel this to be a subject on which it is impossible to enlarge, without exciting the most painful sensations. Those feelings of regret are not confined to this country, but have been expressed in every foreign state where the melancholy intelligence has been received. Under all the circumstances I am confident the House will be ready to convey to her majesty and to the prince of Saxe-Cobourg, the sincere expression of our regret on their great and irreparable loss. I shall now move, "That this House do condole with her majesty on the calamitous and untimely death of her royal highness the Princess Charlotte Augusta."

The Speaker

—There is no precedent, as far as I know, of any message of condolence being carried beyond the crown. The care on when the noble lord seems to have founded the present motion is, the address of congratulation, which, some few months ago, was voted to prince Leopold and the queen; and though there is no direct precedent, the noble lord has put it to the House, whether it will not be proper, on this occasion, to make a precedent.

The question being put,

Mr. Calcraft

said, he rose to discharge a painful duty, but he felt that he should be wanting to himself and to those whom he represented, if he did not give his negative to this motion. He should best discharge his duty by assigning no reason for the course which he felt it necessary to take on the present occasion. He had that within him which convinced him that he should not otherwise be discharging his duty; but it was a duty he was discharging at the expense of his own feelings. He trusted the House would not expect him to enter more at large into the subject.

Lord Castlereagh

said, the manner in which the hon. gentleman had given his negative without adducing any reason for it, precluded him from making any observations. He could only guess at the motives which governed his conduct. But if he surmised the reasons of the hon. member correctly, he could say that there was not the slightest colour or foundation for them.

Mr. M. A. Taylor

said, he would follow the example of his hon. friend, and without stating his reasons, oppose the motion.

The motion was then carried; some few members calling out "No!" and Mr. Disbrowe was ordered to attend her majesty with the condolence.

Lord Castlereagh

then moved, "That a message be sent to condole with his serene highness prince Leopold George Frederick, duke of Saxe, margrave of Meissen, landgrave of Thuringuen, prince of Gobourg of Saalfield, in the calamitous and untimely death of his illustrious consort her royal highness the princess Charlotte Augusta."

Mr. Brougham

was convinced, that on this motion there would not be a dissenting voice. The whole country, without exception, sympathised in the sorrows of this illustrious personage, who had endeared himself to all classes of the community.

Mr. Calcraft

heartily concurred in the motion, which must be perfectly agreeable to the House and the country.

The motion was then agreed to nem. con. and lord John Thynne was appointed to wait on the prince of Saxe-Cobourg with the said message.