HC Deb 19 February 1863 vol 169 cc498-510

Queen's Message [17th February],— considered in Committee.

(In the Committee.)


I rise, Sir, to propose to the Committee Resolutions for the purpose of providing, in the words of the Message, "an establishment for the Prince and Princess of Wales suitable to the rank and dignity of their station." In doing so I would remind the House of the happiness which we enjoy by living under a constitutional Monarchy. The people of this country not only are now more than at any former period sensible by positive experience of' the blessings which that form of Government confers, but they have also an opportunity of appreciating its value by contrasting it with events which are passing in other parts of the world. We see in the East some of the evils which are incident to arbitrary sway. We witness in the West the widespread misery and desolation which are sometimes created by democratic and Republican institutions. We enjoy a happy medium between the extremes of these two forms of Government. Our institutions not only confer happiness and tranquillity upon the people of these realms, but enable them to enjoy the most perfect freedom of thought, of speech, of writing, and of action, unawed and uncontrolled either by the edicts of despotic authority, or by the Lynch law of an ungovernable mob. Well, Sir, I trust that the people of this nation will long continue to enjoy those advantages, and that their hearts will be turned to the Almighty Dispenser of events with thankfulness—with reverential thankfulness for the lot which has thus been assigned them, and I am persuaded that their bosoms will be full of the most affectionate attachment towards that Sovereign and family under whose mild and beneficent sway, humanly speaking, those blessings have been conferred. Sir, there are occasions in the course of human affairs in which events that are matters of joy and rejoicing produce pleasure that begins and ends with the occasion on which it arises; but there are other occasions where joyful events link and connect the present with the future—when the happiness which mankind enjoys at the moment is an earnest and a security for happiness in the future. Such an occasion is the present, when the Heir Apparent to the Crown is going to contract a marriage which will, I trust, not only be productive of domestic happiness to the family in the midst of which it is to be celebrated, but holds out to this country a prospect of a long line of succeeding Sovereigns, who by virtue of transmitted qualities and of the recollection of the conduct of those who went before them, will imitate the virtues of the stock from which they spring, and will contribute as much as the present family do to the happiness, the welfare, and the dignity of the country over which they rule. Sir, the people of this country have always been disposed readily to give whatever may be necessary to maintain the due dignity which is essential to our monarchical institutions, and I am persuaded that upon the present occasion the proposal which it will be my duty to make will be acceded to with readiness and pleasure by this House, and will be sanctioned by the country. In considering, Sir, that which it may be fitting upon the present occasion to grant to the Crown for the establishment of the Prince and Princess of Wales, it is right to look back a little, and see what has been, done upon similar occasions in times gone by. Now, if hon. Gentlemen will look to the speech of Mr. Pitt, when in 1795 he proposed an establishment for the then Prince and Princess of Wales, they will see he stated that the Prince of Wales in 1745, and the Prince of Wales, at an earlier period, in 1715, had each of them a net income of £100,000 a year, in one case in addition to the revenues of the Duchy of Cornwall. It is not quite clear, from the words made use of, whether in both cases that income was in addition to the £100,000. I rather infer that it was. Now, every- body is aware what a great change has taken place in the value of money since either of those remote periods, and how little a sum of the same nominal amount represents in the present day the command of things which it did either in 1745 or 1715. Coming down to a later period, in 1795, when Mr. Pitt proposed and the House assented to an establishment for the then Prince and Princess of Wales, the arrangement was not a simple one, because it was complicated by another for the payment of the large debts at that time due by his Royal Highness the then Prince of Wales. But the total amount of allowance which was granted, including that portion which was set aside for the liquidation of the Prince's debts, was £138,000, charged partly upon the Civil List, and partly upon the Consolidated Fund; and although for a certain number of years the appropriation of a large portion of the amount to the payment of debts reduced the available income of the then Prince of Wales to something, I believe, between £60,000 and £70,000, yet I apprehend that about the year 1806, the debts having been liquidated, the Prince of Wales entered into the receipt of the £138,000. Now, it is not the intention of Her Majesty's Government, nor is it the desire of Her Majesty, that the present appropriation by Parliament should be founded upon what was then proposed for the Prince of Wales. His Royal Highness the Prince of Wales is in the enjoyment of the revenues of the Duchy of Cornwall; and to the honour of Her Majesty and of the late Prince Consort be it said that whereas in former reigns it was understood, and the practice was, that during the minority of the Prince of Wales the revenues of the Duchy of Cornwall were added to the available income of the Crown, in the present reign those revenues have been carefully and studiously set apart to accumulate for the benefit of the Prince of Wales till he came of age. The funds thus accumulated are very considerable—part of them have been invested in the purchase of a landed estate in the county of Norfolk, which cost, I believe, about £220,000, the nominal rental being £7,000 a year —but it may be that there will be deductions, as hon. Gentlemen will well understand, and there may not be more than £5,000 available income. Part of the accumulations must be set aside for the outfit of the Prince of Wales and to form an establishment, and part also will be required for the purpose of building upon the Norfolk estate a mansion more suitable than the present one to the dignity and station of its new occupants. Making these deductions, the details of which I will not trouble the House to go into, the probable income of the Duchy of Cornwall, together with the income arising from the investment I have mentioned, and from the remaining accumulations, may he taken in round numbers at about £60,000 a year. Well, we think that a sum of £100,000 a year would not be disproportionate to those expenses which must fall upon a person in the exalted position of His Royal Highness the Prince of Wales, and I shall therefore have to propose to the House to grant £40,000 a year out of the Consolidated Fund for the establishment of the Prince of Wales. Such of those whom I am now addressing, and who, fortunately for them, are not in the single and bachelor state, well know that there are expenses which the Princess of Wales must incur, and which require that she should have a separate and sufficient income; and by the treaty of marriage recently concluded between Her Majesty and the King of Denmark the allowance undertaken to be secured to Her Royal Highness was £10,000 a year for her own separate use. The grant, therefore, which I shall to-night have to ask the Committee to assent to will be one of £50,000 a year; namely, £40,000 for the aggregate establishment, and £10,000 for the separate use of the Princess.

I should explain that up to the time when the Duchy of Cornwall was managed under the Commission at which the late Prince Consort presided, it was, in former times, the custom of the Duchy to grant long leases, or life leases, at a reduced rent on payment of heavy fines, and these fines formed a material element in the annual income of the Duke of Cornwall. His Royal Highness the Prince of Wales is quite sensible that this is not a proper mode of management, and is willing that an Act should be passed restraining him from granting such leases in future, and directing that the Duchy property should be managed in the usual way in which property is generally managed, not allowing the occupier in possession to take advantage of fines on renewals in granting leases, to the detri- ment of those who may follow him. I am told by my right hon. Friend (Mr. Gladstone) that such an Act is in actual preparation, and will be without delay submitted to the consideration of the House. Hon. Members will naturally be desirous of becoming acquainted with more ample information than it would be proper for me to detail on the present occasion respecting the condition of the Duchy and the state of its present revenues and prospects. On this subject there is a Report—a very accurate account in detail—which I shall have to lay on the table this evening, and which will be in the hands of hon. Members to-morrow or on the following day. That Report will give the fullest information with respect to all those details of the Duchy which hon. Members may wish to know. There is now only one point which I have to add to what I have already stated. There, of course, must be provision made for a jointure to be given to the Princess of Wales in the event of the Princess surviving her husband. In the case of the Princess of Wales, the wife of George IV., the jointure was fixed at £50,000. We do not propose that in the present instance it should be to so high an amount. We think that £30,000 a year will be a sufficient amount; and therefore, though the allowance to the late Princess of Wales, during the joint lives of herself and her husband, was less than the amount stipulated for the present Princess, yet, putting one thing against the other, though the present allowance is greater, and I think not greater than it ought to be, the jointure will nevertheless be reduced to the amount I have named. I am not aware that I have anything to add to what I have already stated, and I now move the first Resolution.


said, he considered the proposition of the noble Lord to be moderate and reasonable, except that the information as to the Duchy of Cornwall on which the Vote was founded was not on the table of the House. They were placed in considerable difficulty in dealing with the matter, because the whole question turned upon the condition of the finances of the Duchy of Cornwall. A promise had been made the other night that the fullest information would be given; but, in the absence of that information, they were called upon to agree to a Resolution. It appeared that £700,000 or more had been received from the Duchy in the course of the minority and that during the last twelve years £460,000 had been received as net revenue. He did not object to the allowance of £100,000 a year—that was a fair and reasonable charge, but, he repeated, the Committee was not in a position to form a judgment as to the charge to be made upon the Consolidated Fund until they had seen the accounts. He did not quite agree in the historical account given by the noble Viscount, because he did not believe that Frederick Prince of Wales, in 1737, had £100,000. He believed that the allowance on that occasion was £50,000 a year, and that it was not till some years had elapsed, and His Royal Highness had a family grown up, that he had £100,000 a year.


said, he was not disposed to object to the proposition; but he trusted, that in addition to the Report promised by the noble Lord, there would be laid before the House a full account of the accumulation of funds effected during the minority.


said, he thought that the revenues of the Duchy of Cornwall could, by good management, have been made to yield the whole of the required £100,000, without coming on the Consolidated Fund for £40,000. The Committee ought to remember that £16,000 a year- had been regularly paid over to the Prince during his minority. Besides which, the nation had voted £20,000 for Marlborough House, £6,000 for stables attached to the house, £17,000 for the Duchy of Cornwall Office, an allowance even for making him a Knight of the Garter, and for the trip to Canada. In fact, there had been a variety of charges during the minority of his Royal Highness, which made the expenses incurred on his behalf by the country not less during that period than £20,000 a year, and there was still an over plus of between £600,000 and £700,000; and he therefore hoped that the Committee would pause before they determined on the proposed addition to his Royal Highness's income out of the Consolidated Fund. With that large sum available, and with the rising revenues of the Duchy, which could not be set down at less than between £40,000 and £50,000 a year, of which £16,000 was paid over regularly from the Consolidated Fund, and therefore without any expense to the Duchy, there ought to be a sufficient income. He was glad to hear that a Bill was to be introduced relating to the Duchy, because the necessity for it was shown by the fact that the expenses of management were about 20 per cent of the income, and that fact showed how expensive it was to provide for the Princes of the Royal family by landed estates. With regard to the dowry of the Princess of Wales, he thought it ought to be charged on the revenues of the Duchy, instead of on the Consolidated Fund. The revenues of the Duchy were so peculiar that he believed, on the death of a Prince of Wales, they would not go to a son, supposing he had one, but would revert to the Crown. It was quite clear that an additional revenue of £60,000 a year to the Sovereign would be altogether waste; and therefore he hoped the Government would consider whether it was not wise and just that the dower of the Princess of Wales should be settled on the revenues of the Duchy. ["Oh, oh!"] He wished to mention one or two other points. Was the Sandringham estate, which had been purchased out of the surplus accumulations of the revenues of the Duchy, to be regarded as the private property of the Prince of Wales, or was it to be settled in such a way that it should hereafter form, part of the public estate? He was endeavouring to point out incidents connected with the settlement, so as to prevent the public being unfairly charged with expenditure which ought not to fall upon them. He reserved to himself the privilege of making some suggestions in future.


Sir, I was in hopes that the Resolution before us might have been passed unanimously and without debate. But, as it has led to some unexpected, and I must say unnecessary, discussion, I think it my duty to express what I believe is the feeling on this side of the House, and, as I can hardly doubt, of the House generally. We are of opinion that the proposition made by Her Majesty's Government is a temperate and, as we presume, well-considered proposition. We trust that it will be adequate—no one can say that it is excessive. What has struck me as not very reasonable in the observations of the hon. Gentlemen who have spoken is that they have brought forward the good management of the Duchy of Cornwall as a reason why we should not assent to this proposal. It appears to me that we ought to be thankful for the successful administration of the Duchy, and not make it an argument for reduction in the Vote proposed by Her Majesty's Ministers. It is very possible that the Duchy may be even better managed in the future than it has been in the past. It is very probable that the rents and revenues of the Duchy may with time increase in the same manner as the rents of almost every other estate throughout the land. But I do not believe the country is disposed to grudge to His Ro5'al Highness the advantage of such increase. It is not at all impossible, with all his prudence and discretion, His Royal Highness may find the means of applying to a good use any increase that may occur. I hope the Committee will allow the Vote to pass, if not without a dissentient voice, at least without a dissentient Vote. If there are any points of detail in regard to the management of the Duchy on which any hon. Gentleman wishes to be informed and to offer his opinion, an opportunity will be afforded to him during the stages of the Bill which will be introduced to carry this Resolution into effect.


Sir, I wish to say on the part of Her Majesty's Government, that we admit the perfect fairness of the claim of the hon. Baronet the Member for Evesham (Sir Henry Willoughby) and others to reserve their own private judgment on the proposition which has been so favourably received by the Committee generally until they have had an opportunity of examining carefully the Report of the Council on the Duchy which my noble Friend is tonight to lay on the table. I fully concur in the spirit of the remarks of the right hon. Gentleman opposite (Mr. Disraeli). I think it is very desirable that the Committee should, as I do not doubt it will in the result, give a cheerful and undivided assent to this proposal. In order to prevent misunderstanding, it is necessary, however, that I should say a word or two of explanation on one or two points of detail. The hon. Baronet the Member for Evesham has impeached the accuracy of my noble Friend's history, and said that Frederick Prince of Wales did not obtain the allowance of £100,000 per annum from the Civil List until a later period than the year named by my noble Friend. The noble Lord named 1745, and it does so happen that his history was in a very minute point open to im- peachment, for instead of Frederick Prince of Wales obtaining that allowance later than that year, he obtained it earlier—it was granted in 1743. However, I am more anxious to advert to a point mentioned by the hon. Member for Truro (Mr. Augustus Smith). My hon. Friend holds that the jointure of the Princess of Wales ought to be charged upon the revenues of the Duchy of Cornwall. That might be a point of moment for consideration were we in circumstances in which, while we had a Prince of Wales and a Duke of Cornwall, there was a likelihood of our being without one to follow; but looking to the state of the Royal Family, no such contingency is, happily, to be apprehended; and I conceive, that so long as you have a Prince of Wales and a Duke of Cornwall to provide for, it is immaterial to the public purse whether the jointure is taken out of the revenues of the Duchy in the first instance, which would leave so much more to be provided from the Consolidated Fund, or whether the more simple, and, I am bound to add, the usual course, is taken, and the jointure charged on the Consolidated Fund. It would be well for the Committee to understand that, of course, the moderate sum which has been named by my noble Friend as the jointure for the Princess of Wales, will be a jointure for her own establishment. It is obvious it is not a jointure out of which it would be possible for any Princess of Wales to defray the very considerable expenses which may be connected with the education of children, and which would form a very legitimate subject of reference to this House. My hon Friend the Member for Truro was not entirely just in the observations he made with regard to the charges which, as he said, the Consolidated Fund had already had to bear on account of the Prince of Wales. It is quite true that we paid a large sum of money on account of Marlborough House. We had, however, value received. We had had the use of it for important public purposes, which would otherwise have cost a considerable sum of money during a number of years. We had taken great liberties with it; we had, in homely phrase, pulled it to pieces; and the sum the House voted was intended simply for the purpose of replacing Marlborough House in as good a condition as we had received it. Therefore, we are not in position to say that that sum was voted to the Prince of Wales. The Vote for the tour in Canada and the United States has been mentioned, but the House will recollect the grounds on which the sum was voted. It was not voted in aid of the personal expenses of the Prince of Wales, but for the purpose of curtailing the expenditure which was undertaken by the Prince of Wales, while a minor, on behalf of her Majesty, and for purposes strictly political; and I may venture to say, whether we regard the journey in Canada or in the United States, and the reception the Prince there met with, it was money well laid out, and it forms no part whatever of the question the Committee has to consider on the proposition of my noble Friend. One other point, with still less justice, was referred to. It was said that the Prince of Wales receives £16,000 a year from the Consolidated Fund. No doubt he does; but what is the History of it. It is a composition in lieu of revenues of which the Prince of Wales would otherwise have been in receipt as the Duke of Cornwall. There were certain tin duties which were deemed inconvenient and oppressive; his right to them was as unquestionable as if they constituted a landed estate. It was thought expedient for the public interest, with a view to the extension of commerce, and especially with a view to the benefit of that part of the country which my hon. Friend represents, that those duties should be abolished; and the Prince of Wales receive compensation, exactly as any other proprietor would have received it. If so, it is perfectly obvious a consideration of that kind cannot possible enter into this discussion, because, to the full extent— nay, possibly to a greater extent, if that arrangement had not been made—he would have been receiving money on account of the tin duties to which he was entitled as the Duke of Cornwall. I am desirous of obviating the misapprehension that would prevail if it were supposed that that was a Vote in addition to the charge on the Consolidated Fund, whereas there is no foundation in fact for such a supposition.


said, he was surprised at the ignorance which prevailed on the Treasury bench with respect to some of the most important facts connected with the Duchy of Cornwall. The right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer, for example, seemed not to know what would become of the revenues of the Duchy on the death of the Prince of Wales. He recollected on a former occasion, when a settlement was made on the Princess Royal, assuring the Prime Minister that, according to the peculiar tenure of the Duchy, on the death of the eldest son of the Sovereign, the property would revert to the Crown. On that occasion it was maintained that he was wrong, but it afterwards turned out that he was right, though no one in the House was aware of the fact he had stated except himself and his hon. Friend (Mr. Augustus Smith). But the point to which he wished to call attention was a passage in a celebrated speech delivered by Burke on economical Reform. Towards the end of that speech Burke proposed that the Duchies of Cornwall and Lancaster should be sold, and the proceeds handed over to the public exchequer. His object, no doubt, was to make the Crown dependent solely upon votes of Parliament for any sums of money it might require. The proposal of Mr. Burke might be carried out with advantage. There was plenty of room for improvement in the management of the Duchy property, which was spread over about ten or eleven counties. If the property were judiciously sold, the sales taking place at the right time, very large sums would be secured, and it would not be necessary for those who were in office, backed by those who expected to be in, to come forward with a proposal which would not be approved by the public out of doors. [Cries of No, no!] There was a time when the Conservatives were bold enough to propose the reduction of a grant of this sort, and he was sorry that hon. Gentlemen opposite were so ready to acquiesce in the present proposal, not allowing the public feeling to have any weight with them. He joined issue with the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer upon another point— namely, that the duties formerly payable on tin in Cornwall could fairly be regarded as the property of the Duchy. If the Chancellor of the Exchequer had been in office when those duties were abolished, he would doubtless have said, "I am a Free-trader; I do not like duties on commodities; the tin duties in Cornwall ought to be abolished, because they are part of a bad system;" and, if consistent in his principles, he would have refused to give a charge of £16,000 upon the Consolidated Fund in lieu of them. But the right hon. Gentlemen now twitted Cornishmen as if they alone had benefited by the abolition of the tin duties, forgetting his own doctrine that such taxes were paid by the consumers as well as by the producers. It was not his intention, however, to throw an apple of discord into the Committee on that occasion, and therefore he would not further oppose the Resolutions proposed by the noble Lord the First Minister, but he could not help expressing his regret that more attention had not been paid to the feelings and wishes of the public out of doors.


said, that in former times there was a very onerous local tax which crushed the tinners of Cornwall, but upon their application to Parliament a compromise was made, by which the £16,000 was charged on the Consolidated Fund, and while Cornwall was relieved, the public generally were also benefited. Such being the case, he very much regretted that any Cornishman should have spoken against an arrangement for which the county felt deeply grateful.


observed that his hon. Friend was somewhat unreasonable in complaining that the advice of Mr. Burke had not been taken. If that advice had been acted on in 1778, and the Duchies of Cornwall and Lancaster sold, Parliament would now have been called upon to provide the full amount of revenue which by common consent was necessary to maintain the dignity and station of the Prince of Wales. What was the case with respect to the Duchy of Cornwall? In the days of Burke the whole of the revenue was eaten up by those fastened upon the Duchy. He had been informed by a noble Lord, who had taken an active part in the management of the Duchy, that when the Council commenced their labours at the beginning of the present reign the net rental was no more than £12,000 a year, and that the expenses of management amounted to something like the same sum. By dint of good management, which formed another item in the debt of gratitude due to the memory of the Prince Consort, the income of the Duchy had been raised to £50,000 per annum, while the cost of management did not exceed between £7,000 and £8,000. That, he thought, was a sufficient reason why they ought to be glad that the advice of Mr. Burke was not followed by the Government of the day. But he had risen mainly to say that he totally disagreed with the statement made by the hon. Member for Tavistock (Sir John Trelawny), that the public would grudge the Vote before the Committee. His impression was, on the contrary, that they would feel a sensation of agreeable surprise at the moderation of the proposal made by the Government. From what he had heard in conversation, he believed that the general opinion out of doors was that a much larger proposition would have been submitted to the House. The public, too, would rejoice at the intimation, voluntarily given, that for the future the income of the Duchy was not to be anticipated by grants of leases for life. If that power had been retained, the managers of the Duchy would have had the means of raising a very large sum of money, ultimately at the expense of the country, and he was persuaded that the announcement of the noble Lord at the head of the Government would give great satisfaction to the public at large.


said, he wished to ask if the accumulations were to be regarded as the private property of the Prince, or whether they were to be treated as the property of the Duchy.


stated that the accumulations having been made out of income which was legally the property of the Duchy of Cornwall, were of course to be regarded as belonging to the Prince of Wales, but their amount had been taken into view by the Government in considering the Vote before the Committee.

1. Resolved, Nemine Contradicente, That the annual sum of £40,000 be granted to Her Majesty, out of the Consolidated Fund of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland, towards providing for the Establishment of His Royal Highness the Prince of Wales and Her Royal Highness the Princess Alexandra of Denmark, to commence from the Day of the Marriage of their Royal Highnesses.

2. Resolved, Nemine Contradicente, That the annual sum of £10,000 be granted to Her Majesty out of the said Consolidated Fund, to be paid quarterly to Her Royal Highness Princess Alexandra, for Her sole and separate use, during the period of their Royal Highnesses' Marriage.

3. Resolved, Nemine Contradicente, That Her Majesty be enabled to secure to Her Royal Highness the Princess Alexandra, in case she shall survive His Royal Highness the Prince of Wales, an annual sum not exceeding £30,000 during Her life, to support Her Royal Dignity.

Resolutions to be reported To-morrow.