HC Deb 29 May 1857 vol 145 cc1007-20

Order for Committee read.

House in Committee.

Clause 1.


, who had given notice that he should move to add an Amendment to Clause 1, said, that the reasons both for and against his Amendment were so obvious that it would be best to introduce it briefly. He need scarcely say that he participated in those feelings of affectionate loyalty which pervaded not only that House but all classes of this country. Indeed, when he looked back to the history of this country up to the time of the Norman Conquest, he did not find amongst the long line of princes who had filled the Throne a better sovereign than Her Majesty the Queen. But these feelings, however laudable and just, ought not to influence the House in deciding a matter like the present. It seemed to him that all the reasons in favour of this provision for the Princess Royal, however just they might he under present circumstances, did not apply to the event of Her Royal Highness becoming Queen Consort of Prussia. It was most desirable for the honour of the Prussian Crown that the Queen Consort of Prussia should not be in the receipt of a pension from a foreign State. He was sure that we should not like to see a Queen Consort of England placed in that position; and he felt confident there would be a strong feeling, especially among the middle classes of this country, against an annual payment to the Queen Consort of an independent nation. Such a continued payment would be a constant source of irritation in the country, and candidates on the hustings would be asked whether they concurred in it, or would propose its repeal. Some illustration on this point was afforded by the case of the King of Belgium, who, it was well known, did not apply to his own personal use the sum he received as having been the husband of the Princess Charlotte. Yet candidates at elections had been questioned in regard to that pension and a strong feeling had been expressed at the hustings against the sovereign of a foreign country deriving anything from the Exchequer of England. For this reason he thought the hon. and learned Member for Sheffield (Mr. Roebuck) was right when he proposed the payment of a capital sum instead of an annuity. He (Mr. Bowyer) was aware that precedents might be cited against him. His answer was that precedents drawn from things done in the reigns of George II. and George III., under unreformed Parliaments, ought not to be binding upon them. Indeed, such precedents rather resembled the lighthouse placed on a rock to warn people off than the signpost which pointed the way they should go. His Amendment, which had been slightly altered since he put it on the paper, was that the annuity to the Princess Royal should be suspended during the time she might be Queen Consort of Prussia. But looking to the possible contingency, which he trusted would not occur, of her becoming a widow, he proposed that in the event of her Royal Highness surviving her intended husband, after he had been King of Prussia, her allowance should revive, and its payment be resumed. His reason was this: on becoming a widow her Royal Highness would very probably return to her own country. At any rate she would be regarded more as an English than a foreign princess. In this shape he believed his proposal would be more favourably received by many hon. Members than if it made the annuity entirely to cease from the date of the Princess Royal becoming Queen Consort of Prussia. The hon. Gentleman concluded by moving to add to Clause 1 the words— Provided, however, that in the event of Her Royal Highness becoming Queen Consort of Prussia, the said annuity shall he and remain suspended, so long as her Royal Highness shall continue the consort of his Royal Highness Prince Frederick William of Prussia; but in case His Royal Highness Prince Frederic William of Prussia shall die in the lifetime of Her Royal Highness the Princess Royal that the said annuity shall revive and become payable from the date of his decease.


I will endeavour to follow the example of the hon. and learned Member for Dundalk by addressing the House very briefly; and I can hardly think that any very elaborate argument is needed to convince them of the propriety of rejecting the Amendment which he has proposed. I could understand any hon. Member of this House objecting that the whole proposition of the Government respecting the provision for the Princess Royal was excessive and extravagant; that, looking to the compact made between the Queen and the country at Her Majesty's accession, it is Her duty to provide for Her children; and that this House ought not to be called upon to vote anything for the dowry of Her eldest daughter. I could comprehend, I say, an hon. Gentleman taking that course, and putting an entire negative on the proposition of Her Majesty's Government; but I confess I cannot appreciate the merit of such counter Motions as have been submitted to the House—such minute, such "nibbling" Motions (if I may be allowed the word), first reducing the annuity of Her Royal Highness from £8,000 to £6,000 per annum, and then crowning this species of propositions by the singular Amendment at present under discussion. The hon. and learned Member has now made his Motion smaller and more diminutive than the one of which he originally gave notice. The notice he gave at the outset was to put an end to the annuity if the Princess Royal should become Queen Consort of Prussia. He now amends his Amendment, and converts this into a sort of shifting or springing annuity, to be paid as long as she remains the consort of the son of the Prince of Prussia. She would continue, I presume, to enjoy this allowance if her father-in-law should succeed to the throne, and if she became consort of the heir apparent. Should she, however, become Queen Consort of Prussia, she is to be deprived of her annuity! But the hon. Gentleman hopes that she may die during the life of her husband. [Mr. BOWYER: No, no!] He wished her, as I understood him, to be short-lived, in the hope that she might not survive her husband; but in the event of the unfortunate calamity of her being blessed with longevity, her allowance is to revive—this grant is to spring up again, and she is to be entitled to £8,000 a year. I do not believe that an arrangement of that sort would redound to the credit of this country. For myself I would far rather agree that this Bill be read a second time this day six months, and give up the arrangement altogether. What should we think of the person who proposed such an arrangement in private life? Would anybody really propose, on the marriage of a lady to the heir of a fortune or a lauded estate, that she should enjoy a certain annuity till her father-in-law died—that, on her husband succeeding to the estate, she should be deprived of that annuity; but in the event of her becoming a widow, that the allowance should again come in force? Such a settlement would not be deemed very honourable to those who framed it; and I cannot think it is the wish of this House that if the Princess Royal forms an alliance with the presumptive heir of Prussia—a marriage higher perhaps in rank than any contracted by a Princess of this kingdom for many years past—she should be placed, if her husband succeeds to the throne, in a situation of entire dependence on the bounty of the Royal Family of Prussia, and that no contribution should be made by the country of her birth to maintain her dignity and support the exalted position she will have to occupy. Without considering what is due to the honour of the Crown, I cannot but believe that even the national pride of this country would prevent the House from acceding to a Motion such as the hon. and learned Member has invited us to sanction. I therefore trust it will not receive the countenance of hon. Gentlemen, but will be negatived by a large majority.


said, that having himself given notice of a Motion similar to the present, he should cordially support the hon. and learned Gentleman's proposal. He was not a little surprized to find Her Majesty's Government opposing so reasonable a Motion. What, he should like to know, could be the feeling of a King of Prussia who could allow his Queen to be a pensioner paid out of the taxes extracted from the people of England? A man of so little spirit could hardly be a very desirable husband for the Princess Royal. What would Her Majesty and the people of this country say, if His Royal Highness the Prince Consort derived an annuity from the taxes of Saxe Coburg? They would be ashamed of it, and would not permit it for one moment. That the people of England should be taxed to maintain a foreign Queen, and especially the Queen of a high power like Prussia, would be most degrading to that country; and so far from this being a "nibbling" proposition, it was one which, if carried, would conduce greatly to the respect in which Her Majesty and her august family were held. Taxes for such objects as that proposed by the Bill were the most likely of all other things to bring the Royal Family into a position with respect to the people very different from that which they now occupied. He hoped, although he knew there was not much ground for hoping, that the hon. and learned Gentleman would carry this Motion. He was quite convinced that it would be most acceptable to the country at large. The House had acted very liberally in granting this annuity, as well as the dowry of £40,000; and it would be unjust to the people of England, and a violation of every principle, if she were to continue to receive an annuity of £8,000 after she had become Queen of Prussia.


thought that the very circumstance of this discussion showed how much more sensible the arrangement that was suggested by his hon. and learned Friend the Member for Sheffield would have been (had it been proposed in a more definite and specific form) than the scheme which had been submitted by the Government. It must be confessed that it would be somewhat unbecoming in the Princess Royal to continue to be a pensioner on the people of England when she became Queen of Prussia. At the same time he could not support the proposition of his hon. and learned Friend the Member for Dundalk, unless it underwent some alteration. He should like to suggest, by way of compromise, that the annuity should cease altogether when the Princess Royal became Queen of Prussia; but that a corresponding increase should be made in the annuity for the limited period antecedent to that event—that it should be £12,000 instead of £8,000, and should cease absolutely when the Princess Royal became Queen of Prussia. He believed that—as a matter of pounds, shillings, and pence—that would be a very good bargain for the country. If it were possible to propose such an Amendment on the Motion of his hon. and learned Friend, he should be disposed to do so.


Every stage of this measure, and every form in which these propositions have come before us, has only the more and more convinced me of the folly and extreme injustice of placing the Crown in the position of making these applications to the House of Commons. It is necessary to remind the House over and over again, that the Crown has possession of an estate perfectly adequate to furnish all that is required for the convenience, comforts, and happiness of the Queen and the Royal Family, and for establishing every branch of that family, however numerous, in a manner worthy of the Royal Family of England without coming down to Parliament for any grant whatever. It appears, by evidence which any hon. Gentleman may refer to, that the Crown Estate brings into our Exchequer £260,000 per annum. With an estate to that amount surely the Crown would be in a position to supply all that is necessary for the comfort and convenience of the Crown, and for establishing every branch of the Royal Family. In all that is necessary for the wise pageantry connected with the Crown the country is as much and more interested than the Crown itself. We know very well that under ordinary circumstances that pageantry is not had recourse to, but on all occasions of public ceremonials in which the august individual who is the representative of our national institutions performs public duties that pageantry is required, and the House of Commons is bound to furnish the expenditure which it entails, and an annual Vote of a certain amount for that purpose would never be refused. Unfortunately, on the accession of Her Majesty to the Throne, and by the advice of those who believed, no doubt, that they were giving sound advice to the Crown, Her Majesty entered into this compact which we now call the Civil List. But let the House consider under what circumstances a youthful Sovereign is called upon to enter into an arrangement of that kind. What experience of the world could a youthful Sovereign have as to the feelings of a community which she might be called upon to govern? If it had not been for the compact then entered into it would not have been necessary for Her Majesty to make this application to the House of Commons. It may now be impossible to change the arrangements entered into with the Crown, but it is for those who advise the Crown to consider whether it might not be advisable to do so. I suppose that no person in this House may live till another reign, but if I should have the opportunity, I should urge upon the advisers of the Sovereign that a compact so unwise as regards the dignity of the Crown as the Civil List of 1832 ought never to have been sanctioned by any Government or Parliament. The hon. Gentleman the Member for Lambeth talks of these annuities being paid out of the taxes of the people. But is that true? [Mr. W. WILLIAMS: Perfectly true.] The hon. Gentleman says it is perfectly true, but he does not deny that the Crown estate at this moment furnishes some £260,000 a year, being considerably more than two-thirds of the Civil List, and that that £260,000 a year is not furnished out of the taxes of the people. The hon. Gentleman will not deny that the revenues of that Crown estate are quite ample for all that is necessary for the comfort and convenience of the Crown and the establishment of the various members of the Royal Family. I am surprised that he should persist in saying that this annuity is to be furnished out of the taxes of the people; at the same time I regret that there is a state of circumstances which gives a plausible show to the remarks of the hon. Gentleman, and of others who sit beside him. I am quite sure that when another appeal of this kind is made to the House we shall hear the same declaration, that these sums which are voted for the establishment of the various members of the Royal Family are paid out of the taxes of the people, and therefore I think the Crown ought to be advised to reconsider the settlement of the Civil List in 1832. I think the position of the Crown in respect to these applications one that ought never to have been established. The resources of the Crown are quite sufficient to meet all these expenses if the money were not diverted to public objects in which the country is infinitely more concerned than the Crown. I am sure that the objections which have been made to this annuity cannot be sanctioned by the House. They would, if carried into effect, place this country in a shabby and ignominious position. It may, or may not be a question whether the Queen of Prussia should be a pensioner of England under these circumstances; but it is not for England—it is for the Court of Prussia—to determine that question. The Court of Prussia may signify, as the King of Belgium did, its dislike to be placed in such a position; but it is not for us to anticipate what may be the conduct of that Court by a shabby suggestion of our own. That, I am sure, is not a course which the House of Commons will tolerate. The hon. Gentleman spoke as if it was a matter of doubt how the income which the King of Belgium derives from this country is expended, but the hon. Gentleman and the House should remember that the whole of that income was relinquished by His Majesty. With the exception of legacies which were left by his lamented consort to maintain the establishment which she left, the whole of that income, amounting to £34,000, I think, a year, or something very near that sum, is always paid back into our Exchequer. The hon. Gentleman the Member for Lambeth tried to illustrate the position in which one who, I hope, may be the future Queen of Prussia may be placed by referring to the Consort of Her Majesty, but I do not think that was a very felicitous illustration. I do not believe that it would tend to decrease the popularity of His Royal Highness if, for example, the people of this country were made aware that he derived from the country of his birth annually a considerable sum. I believe the truth is that His Royal Highness docs derive from that country no inconsiderable income, not exacted from the taxes of the people, as the hon. Gentleman says, but from that patrimonial and hereditary estate which every Sovereign in the world but the Queen of England enjoys. In consequence of the jealousy of Parliament the earliest opportunity is taken on the accession of the Sovereign to prevent that Sovereign from enjoying the pleasures and duties of a proprietor. The circumstances under which that jealousy first arose having ceased to exist, I think it would be much better that the Sovereign of this country should fill the natural position of being the chief landed proprietor in this country. You cannot suppose that because the King or Queen of England was in receipt of £200,000 or £300,000 a year from landed estate, that King or Queen would become an object of suspicion and jealousy to the people, or that our rights and liberties would be thereby endangered. This country is remarkable for its accumulated capital and immense wealth, and we might as well be jealous of some of our great peers who have territorial incomes of that character and amount, and suppose that our liberties were endangered by them, and every one of them would turn out to be an Earl of Warwick. But I suppose nobody imagines any danger is likely to arise to our liberties because the Duke of Bedford or the Marquess of Westminster draw a large income from their landed estates. We therefore should not be jealous if the Sovereign of this country, possessing real property, should exercise the duties of a propietor. On the contrary, we should rather be glad if the Sovereign were placed in that position and saved from the humiliation of making appeals of this kind. When Her Majesty is called upon to fulfil the most agreeable of duties—namely, the establishing in an honourable manner a member of her family, we find her position entirely misrepresented by its being said that she is exacting something from the taxes of Her people. I think the time is come when we ought gravely to consider whether this system should not be put an end to, because we can all anticipate that other appeals may be made to us, and because the same objection, utterly false and fallacious, will again be urged in order to poison the feelings of the people of this country.


Sir, I regret that the right hon. Gentleman opposite has introduced a new question into the discussion, and entered upon matters which would have been better considered and discussed upon some more opportune occasion. As to the result at which the right hon. Gentleman arrives, I entirely concur with him. I may say for myself that I am not usually anything but a lover of economy, but I should deeply regret if to the grant of this House were attached a condition which would, I think, bear the character of extreme shabbiness. When, however, the right hon. Gentleman opposite bases this grant, not upon the attachment we bear to the Sovereign, or upon the duty which, as it seems to me, is imposed upon us of providing for the Royal Family, but upon the ground that the Crown has made a bad bargain with the country, all I can say is, that in the first place I sincerely regret that such a point should have been started, and in the next place I must frankly state that the right hon. Gentleman and I, looking at the figures involved in the case, have come to different conclusions. I know this is an argument which my late lamented Friend, Sir Robert Inglis, was ever fond of using in this House; but it was founded upon an entire misapprehension of the charges originally attaching to the Royal revenue. No doubt, if you take the Crown's hereditary revenue, and say that that should be employed only for the personal advantage and pleasure of the Sovereign for the time being, it may be true that the Civil List is not equal to the amount which the Crown would then receive. But what are the facts? In old times the Crown's hereditary revenue was bound to support many charges now considered of a public nature. Thus, in former times, the diplomatic and many other services were paid for from the hereditary revenues of the Crown; and if, as to my surprize has been suggested by the right hon. Gentleman, the Crown, were to re-enter upon its hereditary revenue, I am afraid Her Majesty would find that a large part of the expenditure now borne by the public would attach to that revenue, and very much reduce its amount. I will not go further into the question, for I am sorry it has been raised, than to say that, as regards the possibility of binding the hereditary revenue for the payment of an annuity to the Princess Royal, I very much doubt whether the Crown, in the full plenitude of its enjoyment of this revenue, would allow such a charge to be made; I very much doubt whether it would not be found necessary to come to Parliament, even supposing the Crown still possessed its hereditary revenue. But I will-not go further into a question which I regret should have been raised. I cordially concur with the right hon. Gentleman in voting against this Motion, and I hope my hon. Friend who brings it forward will find very few to support him.


After the political lecture read to us by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Buckinghamshire (Mr. Disraeli), I was in hopes that, when the other right hon. Gentleman got up to answer him, he would have taken notice of the inaccuracy of his facts. There is another right hon. Gentleman here who was a member of the Administration which actually made the settlement which has been referred to. And first, let me remind the Committee that this settlement was not made with a youthful Sovereign. It was first made in 1830, when William IV. succeeded to the throne of England, and during the Premiership of Lord Grey. The hereditary revenue of the Crown was on that occasion said to be given up. That was not so; for a portion of it was retained. The bargain made by the Crown was one advantageous to it, and not to the people. Let us look at what occurred before that time. George II. and George III. made no such "concession" to their people. But they both came to Parliament for a provision for their daughters, so that, even by retaining this hereditary revenue in the hands of the Crown, you don't protect Parliament against these applications. Now, this is a very important matter. When the Princess Royal of that day was married, George III. came to this House for a portion for his daughter; and I cannot sympathize with the right hon. Gentleman who thinks that any indignity results to the Sovereign in consequence of such an application. The Sovereign, having confidence in the respect, the loyalty, and the affections of her people, comes to Parliament and says,—"I have now a daughter going to be married—going forth into life—and I appeal to you, to my people, so to provide for her as that she may be happy herself, and in her condition reflect honour upon the country from whence she comes." Sir, the people of England have ever answered such an appeal; they have ever answered it in such a way as to reflect no discredit on themselves, and no dishonour on the Sovereign. Sir, I have such respect for the Crown as to suppose that it so endears itself to the people by the benefits it confers upon them, that the return we thus make is a return of gratitude not degrading to it, and not dishonouring to us. I am not going to vote for the Motion made by the hon. and learned Gentleman (Mr. Bowyer). I myself, on a former occasion, proposed an alteration in the form of the grant, and I rather anticipated the proposal before us. It has been said—and the statement has been repeated to-night—that I did wrong on that occasion; that had I proposed a round sum, I was likely to have had a majority of the House with me. The statement has been made to you, Sir, by the hon. Member for Nottingham (Mr. Walter), and it was made some days ago by a very important—self-important—organ of public instruction—The Times newspaper. Now, The Times newspaper and the hon. Gentleman are both in error. By the forms of this House I could not make the proposal. It was so stated by the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer when he proposed the annuity to her Royal Highness, and therefore I can disregard the sort of taunt to which I have been subjected. But let us not now stickle at the terms of this grant. We are about to provide for her Royal Highness, and I am quite sure that the people of England will be glad to see her well and handsomely provided for. I think the grant which I proposed was more advantageous to the Princess Royal than the one adopted; but, as the Ministerial plan has been adopted, let us not haggle over the bargain, and seek to alter its terms. Let us at once say, like a great people as we are, or as we ought to be, —"We will not quarrel about a small sum. Our great object is to make the lady happy." That she maybe happy is my fervent prayer, and I would entreat the hon. Gentleman, as I have been entreated before, not to divide the Committee on such an occasion. The sense of the House has been sufficiently expressed on this subject. It has determined to adopt the plan of the Government. Let us not interfere with that decision further, or try vainly to upset it; but let us appear to do what we are about to do, gracefully as well as generously.


said, the revenues of the Crown surrendered to the State did not amount to £;300,000 a year, which had been given in exchange for a Civil List of £;385,000 a year, as well as a considerable sum for the maintenance of the Royal palaces.


The right hon. Gentleman (Sir F. Baring) has totally misconceived what I stated. I did not talk of the ancient revenues of the Crown, which he candidly informed the Committee were greater than the Civil List. I spoke of the £;260,000 per annum which the Chancellor of the Exchequer took credit for, under the head of "Crown Lands," in the budget of the spring, and I said that that was an estate which Her Majesty might be in possession of. As to the ancient possessions of the Crown referred to by the right hon. Gentleman, they are all abrogated. The hon. Mem-for Lambeth speaks of an insinuation which I made. Now, Sir, I indulged in no insinuations; I simply made a statement. I never gave the amount proceeding from the Crown estates when this compact was entered into. What I referred to was, the present revenue of the Crown estates—namely £;260,000; and I have no doubt, if those estates had been left alone, had not been meddled with by Parliament, but had been let to the management of their old proprietor, the revenue derivable from them would be much more considerable. That was the consideration which I urged upon the House, and, Sir, I have heard nothing whatever to change my opinion on the main question. As to the patriotic appeal, and the fervid eloquence of the hon. and learned Member for Sheffield, all I can say is, that I listen to such sentiments with the utmost pleasure, and if all Members for Sheffield would so express themselves, and if the whole House had profited by the patriotic example of the hon. and learned Gentleman, I should not have risen to address the Committee; but, unfortunately, there are Members for Lambeth as well as for Sheffield; and it is because of the Member for Lambeth—the model Member, as I believe he has described himself—who, when a popular Sovereign comes forward to perform the pleasing duty of establishing her daughter in life, answers that she is exacting something from the pockets of the people—that I thought the time had come when I ought to state to the Committee the true facts of the case, and the course which in justice and true policy we ought to pursue.


The right hon. Gentleman has again endeavoured to impress upon the Committee that the bargain made with reference to the Civil List of William IV., or Her Majesty, was a bad one for the Crown. He states that this year £;260,000 have been taken credit for by the Chancellor of the Exchequer; and that, if the Crown had not entered into the bargain in question, it would have had this £;260,000. So be it; but has not Her Majesty more than that yearly given to her by her people? Has she not £;385,000 a year? I am obliged to make these statements in fairness to the Ministry who made the arrangement, and to the people who acquiesced in it. I say, then, that the Queen has made a good bargain, and that she is amply provided for; that she has £;385,000 a year, and that, on different occasions, appeals are made to Parliament on her behalf, and on behalf of the Royal Family. I say this is no niggard spirit, Sir, though one can tolerably well understand the sarcasm of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Buckinghamshire, when he is pleased to speak of my "fervid eloquence." I lay no claim to eloquence. I am a plain-spoken man; but that is no reason why a man may not state the facts as they have passed under his own eyes. I repeat, then, what I have said, and I challenge the right hon. Gentleman to establish the proposition that the Queen did not make a good bargain when she threw herself upon her people, and gave up her hereditary revenue.

Amendment withdrawn.

Clause agreed to; Preamble agreed to.

House resumed.

Bill reported without Amendment: to be read 3° on Thursday next.