HC Deb 19 June 1843 vol 70 cc92-4
Mr. Blewitt

rose to submit a question to the Attorney-general upon some important constitutional points. His Majesty the King of Hanover had lately arrived in London, and had taken his seat in the House of Lords as Duke of Cumberland; his position was thus extraordinary; he was a British-born subject, owing therefore allegiance to the Queen; he was also a peer of Parliament, a member of the privy council, a field marshal, and an independent, or, as some might say, a despotic sovereign. It seemed impossible that any person could reconcile the conflicting duties thus imposed upon the same individual; the King of Hanover claimed the right of taking part in our legislative proceedings; and, as a privy councillor, he was able to obtrude himself into the secrets of the executive government. As a field marshal, he would have a right to lead our armies, even though this country should be at war with the kingdom of which he was monarch [Laughter.]. Gentlemen opposite might well laugh at the absurdity of the anomaly he was bringing before the houses. The King of Hanover, in his own dominions, might declare war, make peace, or enter into treaties. Upon the subject of allegiance, he begged leave to read what was said by that great constitutional lawyer, Blackstone— The peers of the realm are by their birth hereditary counsellors of the crown, and may be called together by the king to impart their advice in all matters of importance to the realm, either in time of Parliament, or, which bath been their principal use, when there is no Parliament in being. Accordingly Bracton, speaking of the nobility of his time, says they might properly be called 'consules, a consulendo: reges enim tales sibi associant ad consulendum' And in our law books it is laid down that peers are created for two reasons: 1. Ad consulendum. 2. Ad defendendum, regem: on which account the law gives them certain great and high privileges, such as freedom from arrests, &c., even when no Parliament is sitting; because it intends that they are always assisting the king with their counsels for the commonwealth, or keeping the realm in safety by their prowess and valour. In another part of his work, the same eminent judge stated that it was a contempt of the king's prerogative, and a high misdemeanour, for a British-born subject to prefer the interests of a foreign potentate to those of his own sovereign. Looking at the duties of a peer of Parliament, and at those of a privy councillor, what did Blackstone say upon that point:— An Englishman who removes to France, or to China, owes the same allegiance to the King of England there as at home, and twenty years hence as well as now. For it is a principle of universal law, that the natural-born subject of one prince cannot, by any act of his own, no, not by swearing allegiance to another, put off or discharge his natural allegiance to the former. He asked the House whether all these duties could be reconciled in the same individual? He remembered soon after the King of Hanover came to his crown, reading in a newspaper that the Duke of Wellington had been offered by the King of Hanover the custody of his proxy in the House of Lords, but that the Duke, seeing the anomalous position of the King, refused to accept it. He, therefore, rose to put a question on the subject most respectfully to the highest legal authority in the House, and the constitutional prosecutor of all public delinquents.

The Attorney-general

was sorry that such a matter had been brought under the notice of the House. With reference to the nature of the question, and with reference to the illustrious individual to whom it related, he must say, that he thought he should be setting a bail example, which might be drawn into a very mischievous precedent, if he were to offer any reply. He apprehended that he should discharge his duty much better by remaining silent.