HC Deb 05 June 1862 vol 167 cc430-6

Sir, I wish to explain the circumstances under which the notice on the paper which stands in my name was given. It appears there is a young gentleman in Wales of the name of Jones. This young gentleman was lately seized with a desire to change his name, for which a variety of motives might be suggested. Probably the sort of reputation which Brown, Jones, and Robinson have obtained conduced to that wish on his part. He assumed the more aristocratic name of Herbert, and, under legal advice, made it public to all the world by advertising that he had taken this step. Like a great many other gentlemen in this country, he was exceedingly anxious to pay his respects to his Sovereign but was informed that he could not do so, because he had changed his name without Royal licence. Like the rest of his countrymen, he was desirous of giving his aid to the protection of his country, and of joining the militia; but Lord Llanover, the Lord Lieutenant of the county, informed him that he could not have a commission in the name of Herbert, because his name was Jones. There still remained that honourable course of usefulness which belongs to our English country gentlemen, and he wished to have his name put on the commission of the peace. The Lord Lieutenant, however, declined to apply to the Lord Chancellor to insert his name in the commission, for the same reason which I have just mentioned. It has been said that the Home Secretary used his high authority to assist the Lord Lieutenant in preventing this young gentleman, in these three separate instances, from indulging his very proper desires as a country gentleman, I hope that is not the case, as I should be sorry to see the power of the Secretary of State used for the purpose of personal spite, or of aiding any body of public functionaries in obtaining fees for useless forms. I lay it down as a rule of law that every man in this country has the right to take what name he pleases, and I will quote my authorities for that assertion. The following have been the decisions of eminent Judges of courts of law respecting the change of surnames:— That any person may take any surname, and the law recognizes the new names when assumed publicly and bonâ fide"—Chief Justice Tindal (1 Bingham, N. C. 618, &c.) That no Act of Parliament, or Royal licence, is needed in order to sanction a change of name, unless a new name is directed by a donor of land, or money, to be assumed by the donee, with such or some other particular sanction, and subject to the forfeiture of the donation if the name should not be assumed in the manner directed by the terms of such conditional donation."—Lord Chief Justice Tenterden (5 Barnwell and Alderson, 555, &c.) Lord Tenterden's words are these— A name assumed by the voluntary act of a young man at his outset into life, adopted by all who know him, and by which he is constantly called, becomes, for all purposes that occur to my mind, as much and effectually his name as if he had obtained an Act of Parliament to confer it upon him. That when a name is assumed by Royal licence it is so assumed by the act of the person taking the name, and the name is not conferred by the licence."—Lord Chancellor Eldon (15 Vesey's, R. 100). That the effect of a Royal licence is merely to give publicity or notoriety to the change of name."—Chief Justice Tindal, &c. (1 Bingham, N.C. 618.) That when, by any Act of Parliament, Judges have the control of a particular roll of names, they will, on change of name, direct the new name to be added to the roll, though such name has been assumed without a Royal licence, and by the mere act of the person whose name is on the roll."—Chief Baron Pollock, &c. (22 Law Times, 123). This was the case of an attorney who, having changed his name without Royal licence, applied to the Court to have his name altered accordingly on the roll of attorneys, and had his claim allowed. The following opinions have also been given:— There is no special law governing surnames. To establish or recognise an aristocracy of names—of names licensed by the Crown in opposition to names assumed without such a licence—would be a folly of the most contemptible kind. All persons, of all degrees, may change their surnames when they please. Asking for the licence of the Crown to change a name is a modern practice. It is a voluntary intrusion, which is simply to be well paid for. It has been said that persons are not received at Court if their names are changed without a Royal licence. There is nothing to sustain this opinion. All public functionaries are obedient to the law, and no public officer connected with the Court would assume to establish or to suggest a rule contradictory of what the Judges have declared to be the law, unless he were a Lord Chamberlain of the type of Polonius or a Court fool. When I look around me in this place, I observe many persons who have, I know, changed their names, and have had that change recognised and admitted by the House. It is therefore a principle which is recognised both by the courts of law and the House of Commons. It happens, I believe, that Mr. Jones, of Clytha, has a cousin of an elder branch, who married the daughter of Lord Llanover, and thereupon changed his name to Herbert, in the belief that it was a name which the clan Jones might properly assume. When this took place, it is said that Lord Llanover wrote to Mr. Sidney Herbert, asking whether he had any objection to it. Mr. Sidney Herbert's reply was, that— He could oppose no impediment to the assumption of his family name, but that he hoped it was not the intention of all persons of the name of Jones in Wales to become Herberts. Lord Llanover supposed, I presume, that that terrible change of names which Mr. Herbert apprehended had fairly set in when the second Mr. Jones took the same course as the first. But whatever might be Lord Llanover'a fear, he had no right to adopt the course he has done. The young gentleman had a right to call himself Brown if he chose. He chose to call himself Herbert, and in consequence of his audacity in taking upon himself the same aristocratic name which had been adopted by his son-in-law, Lord Llanover interferes with all the power of the Lord Lieutenant, and enlists into the service the greater power of the Secretary of State. I think that this is a very disgraceful proceeding, one to which the right hon. Gentleman ought not to have lent himself, and to which I hope that he has not lent himself. I want to see any lawyer bold enough to stand up in his place and say that to a change of name a Royal licence is necessary. I wish, therefore, to ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department, Whether he is aware that Mr. Jones, of Clytha, has assumed the name of Herbert without a Royal licence? Whether he is aware that, in consequence of such change of name without Royal licence, the Lord Chamberlain has refused to permit him (Mr. Jones) to be presented at Court? Whether he is aware that for the same reason the Authorities at the Horse Guards have refused to sanction the appointment of Mr. Jones to the Militia in the name of Herbert? Whether he is aware that he has himself refused to ask the Lord Chancellor to place Mr. Jones, in the name of Herbert, on the Commission of the Peace because he so changed his name without Royal licence? And whether he is aware that such conduct on the part of the Lord Chamberlain, the Authorities at the Horse Guards, and himself, is contrary to law?


I have taken no part whatever in reference to this matter, except to acknowledge the receipt of a letter from Lord Llanover, the Lord Lieutenant of the county, transmitting me his correspondence with Mr. Jones. The hon. and learned Gentleman has first asked me whether or not Mr. Jones, of Clytha, has assumed the name of Herbert without Royal licence, I do not know whether he has or not; all I know is that he has not applied for a Royal licence to change his name. I am not aware that the Lord Chamberlain has refused to permit him to be presented at Court in consequence of such change of name, nor do I think that such can be the case, because the change of name took place in March, and there has been no opportunity for his presentation at Court since that time. I believe I may answer the next Question also in the negative, because I do not know that the case has been before the Horse Guards. The names of officers of the Militia are submitted to the Queen upon the recommendation of the Lord Lieutenant, who, in this instance, I believe, refused to give that recommendation. I have not refused to ask the Lord Chancellor to place Mr. Jones on the commission of the peace, and never had any application from Mr. Jones that I would do so. The practice is for the Lord Lieutenant to recommend county magistrates; such recommendations never go through the office of the Secretary of State. I was wholly unaware of the circumstances of this case except from a letter which I received from Lord Llanover, dated the 11th of March, in which he forwarded to me a copy of the correspondence between himself and Mr. Jones; but I am requested by Lord Llanover to state that he did apply at the office of the Secretary of State to know whether Mr. Jones had made an application for a Royal licence to change his name, when he was informed that he had not; and he also inquired whether commissions must be made out in the; real names of the persons to whom they are granted, in answer to which he was told that they must. There is no doubt that a gentleman may change his name; and if the change is permanent, and is sanctioned by the usage of such a length of time as to give it a permanent character, may receive a commission in his new name. It appears, however, from the correspondence in this case, which the hon. and learned Gentleman is welcome to see if he pleases, that in the first instance Mr. Jones asked to be recommended for a commission in the Militia. The Lord Lieutenant undertook to make the recommendation; but he afterwards received an intimation that Mr. Jones wished the recommendation to be suspended until he was of age. With that request the Lord Lieutenant complied; and on the 22nd of last December Mr. Jones wrote to say that his father had expressed a wish to change his name to Herbert, and he therefore requested that the Lord Lieutenant would obtain his commission in the name of Herbert, instead of in that of Jones. Although the law is as stated by the hon. and learned Gentleman, and a bonâ fide change of name, intended to be permanent, and sanctioned by public notice and usage is valid, it is not competent to any one to write to the Horse Guards on Monday, and say, his name being Jones, that he wishes that in the next Army List it should appear as Herbert, and on Tuesday say that he desires to be called Roebuck, or anything else. If this gentleman's father has taken the name of Herbert, and if he is generally recognized as Herbert, there may at some future period be no objection to place him in the commission under that name. Step-children are often brought up under the name of their step-parents, as was the case with those of the late Admiral Sir Charles Napier; but that is a very different thing from a gentleman saying, "I will take a new name, and I require that my new name shall be used in all public documents." I believe the law to have been correctly stated; but I do not think that there is sufficient certainty about this matter to permit an application for a commission in the name of Jones to be made out in the name of Herbert.


said, that he had been requested by the friends of this gentleman to state that these Questions had not been asked at his suggestion, but, on the contrary, that he was rather anxious that the matter should not have been brought before the House. Mr. Jones, having determined to take the name of Herbert, in- quired in the proper quarters whether a Royal licence would be granted. He was informed that such licences were not granted unless some question of property was involved, and that therefore he would not be likely to obtain one. He felt that this was rather hard, because in the case of the other Mr. Jones a Royal licence had, as he supposed, by the interest of Lord Llanover been obtained. He then executed a deed, which he had solemnly enrolled, declaring that he had determined to take the name of Herbert, he advertised the fact in the newspapers, and sent circulars to his friends in the country, and did everything he could in default of obtaining an Act of Parliament or a Royal licence. After what the right hon. Gentleman had said, he trusted that nothing urther would be heard about the matter.


thought that the simple word of Lord Llanover would be sufficient to satisfy the House that he had not acted improperly in this matter. He would read the following letter, which he had received from the noble Lord:— Llanover, June 1. My dear Clifford,—I observe by the papers that Mr. Roebuck has given notice that he will put several questions in relation to a matter connected with this county. The facts are these, as far as I am concerned as Lord Lieutenant. In December last Lieutenant-Colonel Vaughan, commanding the Royal Monmouth Militia, requested me to submit for the Queen's approval the name of Mr. William Reginald Jones for a commission then vacant in the regiment. This I consented to do, and directed the clerk of the lieutenancy to inform Mr. W. R. Jones of my intention to comply with his wishes so expressed. Mr. Jones, in reply (dated December 22), requested that his name might not be submitted until February, when he would be of age, as his father had expressed a wish to that effect. The matter was therefore delayed. On the 18th of February Mr. Jones again wrote to the clerk of the lieutenancy, stating that he attained his majority two days previously, and requested him to obtain the insertion of his name in the Gazette as Herbert, instead of Jones, which he had heretofore been called, as, on his coming of age, his father had determined to abandon the name of Jones. Having only seen an advertisement in the county papers, and a printed notice circulated in the county by Mr. Jones, the father, stating that he and his family had assumed the name of Herbert, without any authority being cited for so doing, it became my duty to ascertain whether the Queen had been pleased to grant her Royal licence and authority that Mr. Jones and his family might take and use the name they had assumed. I was informed that Mr. Jones had made application at the Herald's College, and had failed to obtain that which he sought for. I also applied at the Home Office, and was informed that no such licence had been granted, and that all commissions must be made out in the real name of the party to whom they were granted. I therefore directed the clerk of the lieutenancy to write to Mr. W. R. Jones accordingly, and also to inform him, that although I could not submit a name which he had assumed without Royal authority, as, if I did so, I should act in direct interference with the prerogative of the Crown, yet, if he still desired it, I would submit his real name, as I had previously promised. This Mr. Jones refused, and thus the matter stands. I forwarded a copy of the correspondence to the Home Office in March last, and Mr. Roebuck can move for it if he pleases. I remain, my dear Clifford, yours sincerely, LLANOVER. He hoped that the explanation which he had given would satisfy the hon. Gentleman and the House that the Lord Lieutenant was actuated in the course which he had taken only by a sense of duty, and that he had no hostile feeling whatever towards the young gentleman.

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