HC Deb 03 August 1831 vol 5 cc654-61

On the Motion of Lord Althorp, the House resolved itself into a Committee, to take into consideration the Message from his Majesty, respecting a further grant of money to the Duchess of Kent and Princess Victoria.

The Chairman having read the Message—[for which see ante p. 591.]

Lord Althorp

said, that he apprehended no difference of opinion would exist with respect to the proposition which he was about to submit to the House. He believed that it was the wish of every Gentleman present, that the provision made for the Heir Presumptive to the Throne, should be such as was suitable to her situation and rank. From circumstances, to which it was not necessary for him to allude, the maintenance and support of her Royal Highness the Princess Victoria, had, up to the present moment, been scarcely any charge at all to the public. A change, however, had taken place in those circumstances, and it had now become, he conceived, the bounden duty of that House, to make such a suitable allowance to the Princess, as might support her in her present state of dignity and honour, and provide for those necessary expenses which were attendant on her education. In considering the amount of the provision which it was desirable to make, the attention of the Government was naturally directed to what took place in the case of the Princess Charlotte of Wales. The Committee were aware that the Princess Charlotte was in the same station as the Princess Victoria, namely, that of the Heir Presumptive to the Throne. He found, that upon the birth of the Princess Charlotte, the Princess of Wales received 6,000l. a-year for her maintenance; and in 1806, that sum was raised to7,000l., to be paid out of the Consolidated Fund. In addition to this, the Princess Charlotte was paid a sum of 34,000l. out of the Droits of the Admiralty, and received 9,777l. from the Civil List. Upon the whole, the income received by the Princess Charlotte, from the 10th year of her age, amounted to 17,000l. a-year. In 1825 the sum of 6,000l. was granted for the support of the Princess Victoria; and that was all that had been voted by the public for her maintenance. It now became his duty to make a proposition for the future support and maintenance of the Princess Victoria, and it was his intention, in making this proposition, to follow the precedent of 1825, and to vote the money to her Royal Highness the Duchess of Kent, to be by her applied to the support and education of her daughter. The amount of income at present received by the Duchess of Kent was 6,000l. a-year—an allowance settled upon her at the time of her marriage; and a further sum of 6,000l. which she received on account of the Princess Victoria. He proposed, that 10,000l. a-year be added to this income, which would make the whole allowance received by the Duchess of Kent 22,000l.; namely, 6,000l. for the Duchess herself, and the remaining 16,000l. for the maintenance of the Princess Victoria. He did not think, that this was a proposition to which the country would at all object. The people of this country were aware of the importance of providing a due and proper education for a person situated as the Princess Victoria was, and of the advantage of maintaining her in that rank and station of life to which she belonged. He, therefore, thought, that the House would be of opinion, that the proposition he now made did not go further than the occasion required. He would not detain the House any longer, but at once conclude by proposing the following Resolution:— "That it is the opinion of this Committee, that his Majesty should be enabled to grant a yearly sum, not exceeding 10,000l., out of the Consolidated Funds of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland, for a more adequate provision for her Royal Highness the Duchess of Kent, and the honourable support and education of her Royal Highness the Princess Alexandrina Victoria of Kent; and the said yearly sum to be paid from the 5th of January, 1831."

Mr. Hunt

expressed the surprise with which he had heard the noble Lord say, that he was persuaded no one would object to the proposition which he had submitted to the House. He, for one, objected to it as a piece of most extravagant expenditure. The noble Lord had told them, that the Princess Charlotte of Wales had received a similar sum, or perhaps 1,000l. a-year more. But the noble Lord ought to have told them, that the value of money was not the same now as it was at the former period. He was persuaded, so great was the difference in the value of money at the two periods, that 12,000l. at the present day would buy more than 17,000l. at the period when the grant was made to the Princess Charlotte of Wales. He was at a loss to conceive how it happened that his Majesty's present Government, who entered office pledged to the observance of an economical system, could make such a proposition as the present. He knew, that if he were to allude to other countries—if he were to allude to the expenses of the President of the United States, he should be met by the laughs and jeers of the House, and should be told that America was not to be compared to this country—a fact which he very readily admitted. If the present Parliament were really the Representatives of the people— if the Members of it were not many of them nomination Members, no such proposition could be made by a Minister, accompanied by the declaration, that he did not conceive it possible, that it would be opposed. If he had been present when it was proposed to grant her Majesty a dowry of 100,000l. he certainly should have objected to it; but the proposition was brought forward at the very unreasonable hour of two o'clock in the morning. Feeling, that he should not do his duty to his constituents if he did not oppose every kind of extravagance, he moved, as an amendment to the Resolution, to substitute 5,000l. for 10,000l.

Sir Francis Burdett

agreed with the noble Lord (Lord Althorp) in thinking that no person would consider this grant immoderate. On the contrary, he believed, that if less had been proposed, her Royal Highness the Duchess of Kent would not have been able to maintain herself in that rank and station to which she belonged: 22,000l. was, after all, but a very small sum for a person of her elevated rank; and though the hon. member for Preston had stated the grant to be extravagant, he had not stated any reasons for so calling it. How could her Royal Highness, with a less allowance, maintain that station and those habits, which he might call the decent splendor attached to her rank? The hon. member for Preston had talked of the difference in the value of the currency at the time of the Princess Charlotte and of the Princess Victoria, but the hon. Member ought to recollect, that the difference in the grant was also great. He believed, that the people of England, instead of thinking this grant immoderate, would concur with that House in considering it nothing more than was required to maintain in a proper condition the situation of her Royal Highness. From what had transpired, it appeared, that the Duchess of Kent had not hitherto possessed the means to carry on in a suitable manner the education of the Princess Victoria, without the assistance of Prince Leopold. He hardly knew whether it was becoming in a country like England, to have suffered that Prince to defray the charges of the Princess Victoria's education. There could, however, be no doubt that the conduct of Prince Leopold was extremely honourable; and no less creditable was the anxiety shewn by her Royal Highness the Duchess of Kent, not to be forward in pressing her claims on the attention of the country. He differed entirely from the hon. member for Preston, and he had no doubt, that this grant would prove perfectly in accordance with the feelings of the people. He was quite satisfied, that the state of the country was not such as to require that sort of economy—that penny-wise conduct—recommended by the hon. member for Preston; and the opinion expressed by the hon. Member, would prove very unpalatable to the country.

Sir R. Peel

quite concurred with the hon. Baronet, that it was better suited to the dignity of this country to make a just and independent provision for the maintenance and education of the Heir Presumptive to the Throne, considering her age, than to leave her dependant on the voluntary, though very honourable bounty, of a near relation, now the sovereign of another country. He could not conceive it possible for any person possessing a proper feeling for the honour of his country, to desire to restrict the public bounty, in order to make the Heir Presumptive dependent for maintenance and education on her relations. The grant proposed appeared to be liberal, and it ought to be so. It was not, however, more liberal than just, and he should give his cordial support to it, in preference to the amendment of the hon. member for Preston. Gentlemen were all aware of the claims made upon the liberality of persons in exalted situations. The hospitality which they exercised was nothing more than that decent hospitality which was frequently displayed by persons of less dignity; and it did not fail to serve as a great stimulus to the trade and manufactures of the country. These exalted personages were also large subscribers to many useful charitable institutions; and he was bound to say, that much more of this grant contrary to what people generally imagined, would be expended in promoting public objects, than in maintaining the splendor of the individual to whom it was granted. It was quite consistent in those Gentlemen who were advocates of popular principles, to be likewise the advocates for a suitable provision being made to those who governed the country; so that they might have the means of introducing themselves to the best society, and of accustoming themselves to that intercourse with their subjects, which was much more necessary on the part of the Monarch of this country, than on the part of a despotic sovereign. As he could not see how this desirable object could be obtained at a less expense, he should vote for the proposition of the noble Lord.

Colonel Davies

concurred in the sentiments delivered by the two preceding speakers, and expressed his dissent from the view taken by the hon. member for Preston. He thought, that her Royal Highness the Duchess of Kent conducted herself in such a manner that she was deserving of that love and attachment on the part of the people of England which she had obtained; and, considering the numerous public charities which she contributed to support, he was far from thinking that the grant proposed was too much. He recommended the hon. Member to withdraw his amendment, in order that the vote might be carried unanimously.

Mr. Hughes Hughes

hoped the hon. member for Preston would withdraw his amendment.

Sir M. W. Ridley

declared his cordial concurrence in the Motion, and begged to take that opportunity of suggesting to his noble friend, what he thought would be very congenial to the feelings of the people of this country. He hoped he should not be considered intruding, if he begged to suggest, that it might be possible in the course of this proceeding to give a name and title to her Royal Highness, more accordant to the feelings of the people. There would be no difficulty in handing down the name of Elizabeth, instead of Victoria, as the Queen of this country [laughter]. He assured the noble Lord who laughed, that he had heard the subject frequently and seriously argued.

Mr. O' Connell

expressed himself in favour of the proposition of the noble Lord, and believed there was not a second individual in the country who did not feel that the situation of the Duchess of Kent entitled her to this provision. The conduct of her Royal Highness was an example to the country.

Mr. Ruthven

said, that Ireland, although poor, was anxious to contribute her small mite to the proper splendor and dignity of the Crown, at the same time that the people did not wish to see any profuse or extravagant luxury. The people of his country would, he was sure, cordially assent to the proposed grant.

Sir Robert Inglis

concurred most cordially in the Motion, and was disposed to consider very favourably the suggestion of the hon. member for Newcastle. The name the Princess now bore had no historical associations to recommend it to the people, and, dear though she was, other names might be given her which would render her still dearer to the nation. There were precedents for the change of names in the Royal Houses both of Scotland and France.

Lord Althorp

begged to correct a mistake of the hon. member for Preston. So far from the question of the Queen's Dower having been brought on at a late hour at night, it was brought on at the same hour as this question. In fact, a Message from the Throne always received precedence before the ordinary business of the House. After the unanimity which had been manifested, he had only to express his satisfaction and gratification at the manner in which the House had declared its approbation of the proposition. With respect to the suggestion of his hon. friend, he must say, that he did not think it a matter of great consequence what name the Sovereign of the country bore. He could only hope that the name of Victoria would be as glorious as any other in the history of this country.

Mr. Alderman Waithman

most cheerfully agreed with the proposal of the noble Lord.

Mr. Hunt

said, he had no objection to the re-christening of the Princess; but as to the grant, he had heard nothing to induce him to withdraw his amendment. The hon. Baronet, the member for Westminster, called this provision merely decent. A right hon. Baronet on the Opposition side of the House went further, and said, it was liberal. The fact was, he believed, if his Majesty's Ministers had proposed double the amount, it would not have been opposed at that side. It was said by the right hon. Baronet, that no man of proper feeling would oppose this grant. He hoped that he had as good feeling as the right hon. Baronet. When they talked of decency and good feeling, he wished he could take hon. Gentlemen down to the North of England, where the people were not, perhaps, so well off as the people of Ireland, who were giving their potatoes to pay this grant. He would take them to where the poor weavers of Lancashire were working without necessary clothing. Would that be called decent? He thought the sum which he proposed would be quite adequate to the maintenance of the Princess, considering the alteration in the value of money, and he could not withdraw his amendment.

Mr. Watson Taylor

said, her Royal Highness acted as the members of the Royal Family of this country had always done—she was the patroness of all charities, and large portions of her funds went to the relief of the poor, the aged, and the infirm. The benevolent institutions of the country derived great benefit from the private bounty of her Royal Highness, and he thought the course taken by the hon. member for Preston a very invidious one, appealing, as he did, to the worst and most mercenary feelings of the people. He was sure, that the grant would be well applied.

Lord Eastnor

could not believe, that even the hon. member for Preston, if he knew how the funds of her Royal Highness were dispensed, would object to this proposition.

Mr. Protheroe

said, that although he was bound by his pledges to his constituents to support every measure of economy, he could not forbear expressing the pleasure with which he supported this proposition. He was convinced, that the public would be satisfied with it.

The Committee divided on the Amendment, and the numbers were—Ayes 0; Noes 223—Majority 223.

Original Resolution agreed to.