HC Deb 08 June 1821 vol 5 cc1150-63

On the order of the day for taking into consideration the resolution of 16th April 1818, granting the duke of Clarence an annuity of 6,000l. per annum.

The Marquis of Londonderry

said, it would be recollected, that in 1818 a proposition for increasing the provision allowed to different branches of the royal family received the sanction of the House. It arose from the Prince Regent deeming, necessary to bring under the consideration of parliament the situation, of certain, branches of the royal family then on the point of contracting marriage. In laying before the House, in 1818, the necessity of making an addition to the allowances of the royal family, it was his duty to suggest, that in. the failure of heirs to the duke of York, the country must naturally look to the succession to the Crown being kept up by the younger branches of the royal family, and that, therefore, it was proper for them to contract marriages with individuals of suitable rank. Here the noble marquis apologized for having commenced his statement before the House was in committee. He then moved, "That the Speaker do now leave the chair."

Mr. Monck

referred to what had fallen from the chancellor of the exchequer on a former evening. The right hon. gentleman had said, that, the country could not afford, to pay the debt claimed by the American loyalists, who asked for thing more than what was strictly just Now if, they could not afford to pay a debt of strict justice, the House would not, he hoped, be hasty in doing an act, not of justice, but of mere grace, bounty, and national generosity. But, independently of this, alterations had occurred with respect to the value of our currency which rendered, the present time peculiarly ill-suited for a grant of this nature, It was during Mr. Fox's administration that the present allowance was made. At that time 6,000l. was added to the 12,000l. originally granted; and that increase was expressly made on account of the great rise which had taken place in all the necessaries of life. But how was the fact now? Articles of consumption were reduced, very, nearly, to the value which they bore as the, time of the original grant. But he had another objection to this grant, which was connected with the honour and dignity of the illustrious person whose income they were called on to increase. They were living in an age which was remarkably censorious, and people were disposed to examine with a microscopic and criticising eye the conduct of princes. They would look, he would not say to the violent, but the marked conduct of the duke of Clarence, pending a late trial. Coupling his conduct on that occasion with the present application, he would put it to the House whether persons would not be induced to form extremely erroneous ideas and conclusions with reference to the motives by which he had been actuated. They would not trace his conduct to the right motive—a high sense of the parliamentary duty which he had to perform—but to an interested feeling and a prospective view to the present communication for an advance of income. For these reasons, he should oppose the Speaker's leaving the chair.

The House having gone into the committee,

The Marquis of Londonderry

said, that with respect to what took place in 1818, he would briefly observe that, from certain circumstances, that which parliament then meant to effect was not realized; and in consequence the present grant was called for. It was true that the allowances of the royal family were settled in 1806; but those allowances referred, not to the married, but to the unmarried state of the parties. Now, though lord Grenville's administration increased the allowance to the royal family when they were not married, it did not follow that a farther increase ought to be withheld when their situation was essentially altered. The scale of provision submitted to the House in 1818, did not meet the feelings of parliament, and that general scale underwent a considerable reduction. The situation of the duke of Clarence stood on special grounds; but, though it was contemplated to give to him a larger sum than to the other members of the royal family, the House manifested an unwillingness to place him in a better situation than that in which his royal brothers stood. Still he was perfectly sure that the feelings of the House were entirely in favour of the minor grant; and when he wished to withdraw the report, a right hon. gentleman expressed a desire that it should be brought up, in order that the House might express its sense of this particular case. The vote, as then proposed on the reduced scale, was 6,000l. a year for the joint lives of the duke and duchess. Though the royal duke could have no objection to the sum being settled on his illustrious consort, yet he knew that if he accepted it, under the then circumstances of the country, he could not properly support his dignity at home, and he preferred to go on the continent, and live on a smaller income. He, therefore, in a very respectful manner, declined the grant, and went abroad, but in a little time he was obliged to return in reference to his consort's health. If Providence had preserved to the nation the illustrious infant princess who was the issue of that marriage, it might have been his duty to have come down to parliament before now to have requested the House to revise that provision. The change of circumstances which had taken place relative to the royal, duke, now made him call upon parliament to resume their original vote. As his royal highness was settled again in this country, he, on the part of his royal highness, called upon the House to put him in the same situation as he would have stood in, had the bill been passed at the time of the marriage. He hoped there would be but one feeling in the House on the subject, and that in order to support the dignity of the royal duke, they would suffer the bill to take its operation from the original period of the vote. It should not be forgotten that his royal highness was the next brother to the duke of York, and that this provision was absolutely necessary to support his rank and dignity. In fact, he required no more than was already granted to his younger brothers. He did not wish to found this application on any personal comparison of the members of the royal family, but he could not avoid saying, that in that illustrious family no greater example of domestic propriety could be witnessed than that displayed by the royal duke, whose union with his amiable duchess had produced blessings to themselves, and might be productive of great advantages to the nation. The noble marquis concluded by moving, "That his Majesty be enabled to grant an additional yearly sum of money out of the Consolidated fund, not exceeding 6,000l. to make a suitable provision for his Royal Highness the Duke of Clarence, to commence and take effect from, the 5th of April 1818."

Mr. Hume

thought the noble lord ought to divide his proposition into two parts. To the first part, the House would perhaps agree; but the second involved a question of arrears, which he conceived ought not to be granted.

The Marquis of Londonderry

objected to the suggestion of the hon. member, which went to destroy the spirit in which his proposition was conceived.

Mr. Hume

said, that if the noble lord would be content to give the duke of Clarence no more than his brothers possessed, he was ready to go so far with him. The noble lord had called on the House not to place the duke on a worse footing than the younger branches of the royal family. He, for one, was ready to place his royal highness on an equality with his brothers. The late duke of Kent and the duke of Cambridge had each 18,000l. a year; to which 6,000l. was added on their marriage. Now, he was ready to place the duke of Clarence in the same situation; but before the increase asked for was granted; he must refer to the papers on the table; and these would show that an additional grant, not of 6,000l., but of 3,500l., would place his royal highness on a level with his brothers. Since the vote of 1818, the first of his present majesty had made a complete alteration in the state of the civil list. By that act 845,000l. was granted to his majesty, exclusive of all allowances to other branches of the royal family. By a former bill passed in 1806, an addition of 6,000l. had been made to the then income of the royal family of 12,000l. each. But it would be found, that besides 6,000l. being granted to the duke of Clarence at that time, to make up a nett 18,000l., an additional sum of 2,500l. was conferred on him, over and above the grant bestowed on the other branches of his family. That sum was now paid out of the consolidated fund, and therefore must be taken as part of the 24,000l. which it was intended to give him. As this was the fact, and as the noble lord only wished to place the duke on the same footing with his royal brothers, why did he not call for 3,500l. instead of 6,000l. per annum? With respect to any arrears, he should strenuously oppose them. The queen had formerly refused 50,000l. a year; and only accepted 35,000l. a year; the duke of Clarence had been also offered 24,0004l. a year, but he then refused it. The arrears due to the Queen since her refusal were 90,000l. If it was right to give the duke his arrears, surely Queen ought to get her arrears also; but that circumstance entirely escaped the notice of the noble lord, when he lately proposed a provision for her majesty. If such a proposition had been made, it would doubtless have astonished the noble lord, though he now recognized the principle for the duke of Clarence. Was this equal justice? He (Mr. Hume) would certainly have proposed that the arrears should be paid, if it had not been for the unfortunate advice which induced her majesty to send a message down to the House, declining all pecuniary assistance. The duke of Clarence had already 20,500l. per annum, and it was now proposed to make it 26,500l. The conduct of ministers to another branch of this illustrious family was most reprehensible. He alluded to the infant daughter of the duke of Kent—the heir-presumptive to the throne. She was supported by an individual, she was not allowed the smallest portion of assistance from the state. He conceived that some parliamentary provision ought to be made for her maintenance as well as for that of other branches of the royal family. An annual income was, it was true, granted to her mother; but those who knew the expenses attendant on the high rank which it was necessary for her to maintain, would perceive that of 6,000l. a year little could possibly be left for the support of the legitimate infant princess. Before they agreed to this grant, they should recollect that not a shilling was provided for the child of the duke of Kent, while the illegitimate children of the duke of Clarence were supported by pensions from the public purse of 500l. each or 2,500l. which in the same principle, applied to the duke of Kent's daughter, ought to be paid out of the income of the duke of Clarence. He could not be answered by being told that the brother of the duchess of Kent had taken charge of this child of his own free will. He looked upon the offspring of the royal family as the children of Great Britain; he thought they should, as such, be supported by the public, instead of being maintained as this child was now supported. He felt this sentiment more particularly when an application was made, which he hoped would be refused for a larger grant to the duke of Clarence than had been received by other branches of the royal family. He could not endure to see this partiality, more especially when lie considered the conduct of the duke of Clarence on a late occasion. No part of his royal highness's public conduct, during the last eight months, was calculated to produce that respect which the nation was naturally disposed to pay to the royal family. With respect to his royal highness's domestic behaviour and private virtues, they might bear out the picture given of them by the noble lord; he could not, of his own knowledge, agree or deny the assertions. To these he did not advert; he looked only to the public conduct of his royal highness. Would any gentleman stand up, and state manfully, that he would sit on the trial, almost for life or death, of a near relation? Would it not have been better, in every point of view, if the duke of Clarence had shown some of that delicacy which appeared to have actuated other branches of the royal family? He would appeal to the conduct of the duke of Sussex. Did not a sense of delicacy and propriety keep him from appearing before that tribunal by whom his relative was tried? He repeated, that he would willingly place him on an equality, but he saw nothing in the conduct of the duke of Clarence that ought to place him in a better situation than the younger branches of the royal family; and, therefore, if the vote were persisted in, he would certainly take the sense of the House on it. As to the granting a large sum by way of arrears, he felt so much hostility to the proposition, that he would throw every possible impediment in its way; because he conceived it to be most unjust to grant arrears to one member of the royal family and to withhold them from another. In the one instance a portion of the grant was given up from a liberal feeling—in the other, it was thrown up with a degree of petulance. He would, however, place the duke of Clarence on the same footing with his younger brothers; but before he did so, the House was bound to ascertain what had become of the private property of his late majesty? He would state how the matter stood, and if they would then proceed to vote the public money, without knowing how the 100,000l., the 200,000l., or the 300,000l, which was said to have been left to the royal family, had been disposed of, it would be extremely unjust to the public. If the hand of power had been exerted, as was reported, it was necessary that some investigation should take place. If a will had been made, as were said, why should it be kept from the public? If a will had been drawn up which was not legally sanctioned, then, by the law of the land, the property to which it related became public property, and might he applied to the payment of the proposed annuity. By the 1st of Anne, the sovereigns of this country were prevented from alienating any of their property; the 39th and 40th of George 3rd, gave power to his majesty to dispose of certain manors and hereditaments purchased out of the privy purse, which otherwise came under the operation of the act of Anne. By the act of George 3rd, the king was allowed to make a will, bequeathing property of this description. If the will were drawn up agreeably to the prescribed legal form, the right to the property thus disposed of was valid; but if the will were not made agreeably to the forms ordered, then the property reverted to the public. Report said that a will had been made, by which his late majesty's property was divided amongst his sons, the duke of Clarence being one. This fact ought to be ascertained, before they in-t creased his income; because, in the evens of considerable property having, been left to his royal highness which, might be sufficient in addition to his present allowance, he could see no reason for calling on the House to add to his income. If there were no will, the property became public property, and the annuity might be defrayed out of it. If there really was no such document, let ministers state that the law of the land, so far as they were concerned, had been acted upon. Either such was the case, or this property, which was managed by count Munster and others for a number of years during his late majesty's illness ought to be accounted for, as it must have amounted to a very considerable sum. If the noble lord would agree to withdraw the vote for the arrears, he (Mr. Hume) would support an allowance which would amount to 24,000l. a year, and thus place the duke of Clarence upon as good a footing as the other younger brothers of the royal family. He moved therefore, as an amendment, that instead of 6,000l. the sum of 3,500l. be substituted.

The Marquis of Londonderry

said, that in adverting to the 2,500l. charged on the Consolidated fund in favour of the duke of Clarence, the hon. gentleman ought, in fairness, to have stated the way in which that sum had become so charged. The fact was, that it had been granted to the duke at an early period of his life; and charged on the civil list. When an additional provision was made for the royal brothers, that sum of 2,500l. was not noticed, because the duke of Clarence was the only one of those brothers who had no professional income. The duke of Kent had the government of Gibraltar, which was worth 7,000l. a year. This system, therefore, of comparing one branch of the royal family with another was ill-advised and ungracious. Nor was the comparison between the reduction which her majesty in 1813 had signified it to be her wish should take place in the grant proposed to her, and the refusal of the duke of Clarence to accept the allowance voted to him three years ago, less so. No change had taken place in the circumstances of her majesty's life which rendered inadequate the sum she had contemplated as sufficient. But the circumstances under which the duke of Clarence had declined the liberal provision which had been made for him by parliament not having continued to exist, he was perfectly justified in stating so. Now as to the burdens, he hoped the hon. gentleman could be as singular in his feeling upon that subject, as he usually was in his other topics; and that he would fail to persuade the House to consider this vote in any other light than as the carrying into effect their own former intention. With respect to the explanations asked for, about his late majesty's property, that was not the moment at which the House would expect him to go into so important a question; but as to the will of the late king, he believed he might say that it had not turned out to be an effectual one. At the same time, he could assure the hon. gentleman that on a future occasion there would be no hesitation to lay the matter before the House. The fact was, that all those idle tales which were afloat about the 1,000,000l. of property which his late majesty was represented as having died possessed of, were the mere fabrications of ill-informed, or ill-designing persons. The property that his late majesty did leave behind him was very trifling, not much exceeding 80,000l.; and that amount was subject to many claims which might naturally be supposed, to arise. He left the House to consider how very small a portion of this sum his present majesty could apply to his own purposes; but though this will, which conveyed to him no beneficial interest, was irregular and inefficient in its present state, and his majesty might take the property "jure coronœ," it was his intention to discharge every provision of it, as if it had been formally drawn up and executed under the statute of queen Anne. The administration of that property was vested in persons of competent authority. He need hardly tell the hon. gentleman that the duke of Clarence took no benefit whatever under the will. He was quite surprised to find the mischievous delusions which had gone abroad, in the mouth of an hon. member who ought to have been better informed. Similar accumulations of property had been also attributed to the late consort of the deceased king. She, too, had been accused of having made a purse for the benefit of her family on the continent. The fact was, that she really died with hardly assets enough to cover her debts. All her savings had been exhausted in her extensive charities during her long and benevolent career. Under these circumstances, he trusted in the candour and liberality of parliament: he did hope that as Englishmen they would feel that they had already recognized the propriety of the grant proposed, and that he should hear no second voice raised hi support of the amendment.

Mr. Williams

said, that what he has understood was, that the grant of 2,500l. to the duke of Clarence was founded on the circumstance that he was the only one of the royal brothers who had no professional income. Now, the duke of Sussex had no professional income, and was the only member of the royal family who had never received sixpence out of the taxes levied on the people of England over and above the allowance voted him. He allowed that it was the duty of parliament, on these subjects, not to look to the right or to the left; otherwise he would say, that there was no member of the royal family who held a higher character as an English gentleman than the duke of Sussex. There was no member of the royal family who evinced more genuine humanity; who more warmly encouraged the arts, who contributed with greater cheerfulness to those valuable institutions which conduced to the prosperity of the country.

The Marquis of Londonderry

said, that what he meant to observe was, that parliament, in granting to the royal family incomes upon former occasions, had not taken any notice of their accidental or professional emoluments.

Mr. W. Smith

said, that the part of the proposition to which he most objected, was the payment of the arrears, of which he would not consent to vote a shilling. If the duke wanted the sum voted him in 1818, why did he not accept it? If he did not want it, why was parliament now to be called upon to pay it from that period? Adverting to the property of his late majesty, he observed, that as that property had fallen to the king jure coronœ, the subject ought to have been brought under the consideration of parliament when the civil list was arranged. Supposing the real estate of his late majesty were to turn out to be worth one, two, or three hundred thousand pounds, would any man tell him that that was not a sum which parliament ought to be called upon to appropriate? With respect to the 2,500l. a year, he did not think the length of time which it had been paid, any defence of the principle of a larger allowance.

Mr. Huskisson

said, that the estates of his late majesty, as he had not disposed of them by a valid instrument, had certainly devolved to the king jure coronœ. As such they had been placed under certain officers, and their proceeds would be accounted for. He wished he could confirm the hon. gentleman's supposition that those estates were worth one, two, or three hundred thousand pounds. He regretted, however, to say, that he believed, if the whole were sold by auction to-morrow they would not realise 20,00l.

Mr. Bright

had no objection to granting the additional 6,000l. a year, but he did not see upon what ground the arrears could be demanded.

Mr. Tierney

observed, that having supported the grant of 6,000l. a year to the duke in 1818, he felt himself bound to vote for, it at present. In doing this he was doing no more than the public would then have done if his royal highness had not refused the grant. He regretted that his royal highness had been so ill-advised as to do so. It should notwithstanding be recollected, that the increase of provision was proposed upon his marriage being in contemplation. His royal highness, however, did get married, and that marriage was highly creditable both to him and to his royal consort, as it was the only royal marriage which had been contracted within a considerable period, without a view to an increase of charge open the public. He had long expected to hear the present grant proposed to par- liament, and was only surprised that it had been so long delayed. The original grant proposed for his royal highness wais 10,000l. The hon. member for Surrey had proposed to reduce it to 6,000l. and he (Mr. T.) considering the state of the country, thought it right to vote for the latter sum. From that moment, he felt himself pledged to the grant; in short, he could not run away from his own vote. As to the other part of the question, the arrears, there was a shadow, and only a shadow of argument against it. The country had been benefited by his royal highness's refusal of the grant, inasmuch as it had the interest for the last three years. It was many years since he had the honour of being acquainted with his royal highness, and therefore he could have no personal motive in supporting the present question; but he had been informed that his royal highness had, since his marriage, conducted himself in a most meritorious and exemplary manner.— All, then, that was asked of the House, was to forget any little heat which occurred three years ago, and to grant that sum now which they then offered. An hon. member had mentioned the provision made for the duke of Sussex. If the question now was, as to whether any of the royal princes were entitled to an additional provision, undoubtedly the duke of Sussex would have the highest claim, and if a fit opportunity occurred, he would be most ready to support it, as no man felt more fully than he did the sense which the country entertained of his royal highness's conduct.

Mr. Forbes

contended that the private conduct of any of the princes of the blood royal ought not to become the subject of discussion when any grant was proposed for the maintenance of their royal dignity. He thought that on the present occasion there had been a good deal of inconsistency on both sides. A former grant to the duke and duchess of Cumberland had been objected to on grounds which he considered unfair and ungenerous. He thought it was unfair and illiberal to allow scandalous rumours to weigh with them on such occasions. From every thing which had come to his knowledge on this subject, nothing could be more praiseworthy than the conduct of the duchess of Cumberland. He had understood the noble lord to state, that the proposed grant was for the purpose I of placing the duke of Clarence upon a foot- ing with his royal brothers, but it was known that no provision of the kind had been made for the duke of Cumberland on his marriage. He had hoped that the noble lord would have come down for the purpose of proposing a grant of this nature to the duke of Cumberland, and that he would also have proposed a similar provision for the daughter of the duke of Kent. The noble lord had stated, that if the daughter of the duke of Clarence had lived, a suitable provision would have been made for her; but that princess having died, the princess of Kent was placed in the same situation; in fact, she might one day become the sovereign of these realms. It might he thought that the prince Leopold would support his niece out of the large provision made for him. If the allowance made to that prince was too large, let it be reduced [No, no!]; but let not his income be decreased in such a manner as this. He would certainly vote against the grant to the duke of Clarence unless one to the duke of Cumberland was also granted. As to the proposed grant of arrears, it ought not to be listened to; her majesty might as well claim the arrears of the difference between 35,000l. and 50,000l. which she had refused when princess of Wales. Sir J. Yorke said, that he would vote for the grant of 6,000l. a year; but he had no notion of paying any arrears. He was reminded on this occasion of the old proverb, He that will not when he may, When he will, he shall have nay. He saw no reason why, on account of the death of the young princess of Clarence, the name of another young princess with a hard name, Victoria or Victorine, should be introduced. Before any arguments founded upon that subject should be brought forward, they ought to give the duke of Clarence time to try his hand again. He might have another princess Elizabeth, or young prince George. They should wait at least another twelvemonth, and see what might be the result, as neither the duke nor duchess of Clarence was too old for procreation.

Mr. Harbord

felt himself bound to support the grant of 6,000l. a year, but would oppose granting the arrears. He would therefore move, as an amendment to the amendment, that the sum of 6,000l. a year be grated to the duke of Clearance.

Lord Milton

regretted that upon a question of this importance a specific message from the Crown had not been brought down. The grant under discussion had been voted, three parliaments ago. If this was made a precedent, no one knew to what consequences it would lead. He was ready to vote for the 6,000l. a year, but he would certainly oppose the arrears. The altered state of the currency made it necessary that all public allowances should be revised. This was not the period for introducing such a proposition, but he felt convinced that the next session would not pass over without the occurrence of circumstances which would impress upon every man the necessity of such a measure.

Sir R. Wilson

thought, that though the duke of Clarence had no legal claim to the grant, he had an equitable one. It would, he thought, be an inconsistency in the House, to act upon the refusal of his royal highness on a former occasion, and would have the appearance of a vindictive feeling, which it would not become the House to entertain. As to the arrears, he thought that as it was now more than twelve months since the return of his royal highness to this country, the arrears ought to be allowed for that time at least.

Sir F. Blake

expressed his entire concurrence in the proposed grant of 6,000l. a year.

Mr. Brougham

said, that having three years ago assented to the grant of 6,000l. a year to his royal highness, he now felt himself bound to affirm it. What he rose chiefly for was to correct a mistake that had crept into the present debate by which it seemed to be admitted that the grant of 2,500l. was given to make up the deficiency in the income of his royal highness, it being below that dftvtbjB1 Other branches of the royal family. But it should be recollected that the duke of Sussex was in the same situation. He had no situation, naval or military. He felt it but justice to the duke of Sussex to state this, for he was certain that his royal highness would be the last man who would come down to that House for any increase of his income. The grant now proposed for the duke of Clarence he could consent to pay the arrears.

Mr. Hume

then withdrew his amendment for reducing the grant to 3,500l. for the purpose of allowing Mr. Harbord's amendment to be put. Upon that amendment the committee divided: For the Amendment, 43. For the original resolution, 119.

List of the Minority.
Baring, sir T. King, sir J. D.
Bennet, hon. H. G. Lester, B. L.
Benet, J. Martin, J.
Bernat, R. Milton, lord
Birch, R. Newman, R. W.
Bright, H. Nugent, lord
Brougham, H. Palmer, C. F.
Bury, lord Parnell, sir H.
Chaloner, R. Portman, T. B.
Denman, T. Powlett, hon. E.
Dundas, hon. T. Rice, S.
Evans, T. Robarts, A. W.
Fane, J. Robinson, sir G.
Farrand, R. Rumbold, R.
Forbes, C. Smith, W.
Fleming, J. Smith, J.
Gipps, G. Tennyson, C.
Gordon, R. Webb, col.
Grattan, J. Williams, W.
Gaskell, B. TELLER.
Harbord, hon. E. Hume, Joseph
Hobhouse, J. C.