HC Deb 23 June 1868 vol 192 cc1973-7

said, he hoped the hon. and learned Baronet (Sir Colman O'Loghlen), whose Notice of Motion stood next on the Paper, would not proceed with it, as the House was anxious to go on with the more important Business of the evening.


said, he was in the hands of the House, but he would undertake to be very short in what he had to say. The Motion had been for some time on the Paper, and he regretted that the matter had not been settled by the Government after the correspondence that took place with regard to it last year, and the promise of the Secretary of the Admiralty that it should be seen to. He desired that an end should be put to the system under which Knights of Windsor not members of the Church of England were required to attend Divine service in St. George's Cathedral twice every day, It was very hard that a religious question should be mixed up with rewards to indigent officers who had seen distinguished service, and that men should be required to attend religious services to which they; conscientiously objected, and especially as under the regulations of the Queen's service no soldier was required to do so when military duty did not interfere. The Knights of Windsor were originally established by Edward III. with a view to; assist valiant but poor soldiers, and the duties imposed on them were to attend the service of God, to pray for the prosperity; of the Sovereign, and to attend high mass; but fifty years afterwards the canons of Windsor appropriated the money for their support to other purposes, and the Knights obtained no sort of redress until Henry VIII. ordered by his will that £600 a year be set apart for them; but, although he made the order, and required that masses should be said until the end of the world, His Majesty did not provide; for the payment of the £600 a year. The plan, however, was carried out by Edward VI. and Queen Elizabeth, Her Majesty made provision for thirteen Knights, and ordered that they should lose their place if they married. She also required them to attend daily service in St. George's; and generally her regulations remain in force to this day. The Naval Knights, provided for by the will of Samuel Travel's, were subject to the same rules; they were required to remain single, and to lead a virtuous, studious, devout life, and to be removed if they gave occasion for scandal. It happened that at present the Knights included one Roman Catholic, besides other Dissenters. The Roman Catholic Knight, however, was not particularly anxious to be relieved from attending the Church service, so it was not on his account that he introduced the matter; he asked for relief of all Dissenters on the general principle that considerations of religion should not enter into the granting of reward for distinguished services. Believing as he did that it was a hardship that Knights differing in their religious opinions from the doctrines of the Established Church should be called upon to perform these duties, he moved that an Address should be presented to Her Majesty praying that she would be graciously pleased to alter the regulations in this respect.


seconded the Motion.

Motion made, and Question proposed, That an humble Address be presented to Her Majesty, humbly representing that, in the opinion of this House, it should not be obligatory on any Naval or Military Knight of Windsor, not being a member of the United Church of England and Ireland, to attend Divine Service in Saint George's Chapel, Windsor, daily or at all, and praying that Her Majesty may be graciously pleased to direct such alterations to be made in the Statutes regulating the Naval and Military Knights of Windsor as shall exempt from attending Divine Service in Saint George's Chapel, Windsor, all Naval and Military Knights of Windsor who shall not be members of the United Church of England and Ireland."—(Sir Colman O'Loghlen.)


said, he objected not only to Catholics but to Protestants being obliged to attend Divine service. These poor old gentlemen were many of them above seventy years of age, and they received some £40 and others £100 a year, and a small house in Windsor. They were obliged to attend Divine service twice every Sunday, and every third month to attend every day, unless they could obtain leave of absence. He could not think that there was any necessity for this. He should, of course, regret their not attending; but their attendance ought in no case to be compulsory. The Knights ought to be allowed, if they pleased, to attend the parish church or any other place of worship, an indulgence which was extended to Her Majesty's subjects at Windsor, though denied to these old and meritorious officers. He moved as an Amendment to leave out the words "not being a member of the United Church of England and Ireland."


seconded the Amendment, and in doing so declared that he looked upon it, not as a religious, but as a physical question. It was really a very serious matter, and one that was very painful to many Knights who had received wounds in the service of their country, that they should be compelled to attend in a large hall, theoretically for the benefit of their souls, but in reality only to have their sufferings increased from the draughts which constantly existed. He looked upon the rule in that respect as a great hardship.

Amendment proposed, to leave out the words "not being a member of the United Church of England and Ireland."—(Mr. Labouchere.)


contended that no hardship really existed. He doubted whether the House of Commons could interfere with a Royal Charity. If the Motion were to be made at all it should be for an Address to the Crown. The Governor, in writing to him on the subject, stated that the Roman Catholic Knight to whom the hon. and learned Baronet had referred objected to any change being made in the present regulations, as did also the two Knights who were Dissenters. There was, moreover, no foundation for the statement that fines were ever inflicted. The desire for a change certainly did not emanate from the Knights themselves, and it should be remembered that these distinguished soldiers, though old, were by no means in every case infirm. One of these officers, in writing to him on the subject, attributed the Motion of the hon. and learned Baronet to the instigation of some "grumbling old Knight," and this writer denied, as did the Governor, the existence of any discontent or any practice of levying fines. Occasionally some of the Knights prayed by proxy; and those who performed this service for their comrades would, upon the authority of his correspondent, be happy to include the hon. and learned Baronet in their prayers if he would relieve them from the payment of the borough rates, from which they derived no advantage. He should oppose the Motion, no only because he believed that no grievance really existed, but because he deprecated Parliamentary interference in matters which, relating as they did to a Royal Charity, solely concerned Her Majesty.


trusted the House would not accede to the Motion or to the Amendment, for these military Knights were, in fact, connected with the Order of the Garter, and, as the beadsmen in the case of the cathedrals, were in reality part of the religious body connected, with the Church. He had received letters from the governors of both the naval and military Knights, stating that nobody had objected to any of these duties. The Roman Catholic Knight who was appointed by the right hon. Member for Morpeth (Sir George Grey) acquiesced in the conditions, and entertained no objection to them; and the same was the case with a Knight who was a Presbyterian. Moreover, the Knights resided within the precincts of the Palace; and St. George's was not a public, but a Royal chapel. The Crown had a dispensing power with regard to these statutes, and he thought the House would feel that the adoption of this Motion would be to interfere unduly with the exercise of the rights of the Crown, especially as no grievance had been established, Hon. Members all knew how anxious the Queen was that no undue stress should be laid on any person's conscience; and if any necessity for an alteration of the statutes existed, the matter might safely be left to Her Majesty. As a proof of the connection of this body with the ecclesiastical establishment of St. George's Chapel, he might mention that one of the suspended canonries had been applied to in creasing the pay of the Knights; and that in 1861, on account of the canons having an undue share of the property, part of it was transferred to the Knights, owing, he believed, to the exertions of his hon. and gallant Friend (Colonel North). He trusted that under these circumstances the House would leave the question in the hands of the Crown.


declined to withdraw the Motion. He accepted the Amendment of the hon. Member for Middlesex (Mr. Labouchere) and disclaimed any intention of infringing the Queen's Prerogative, his Motion being simply for a humble Address to Her Majesty.

Question, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question," put, and negatived.

Another Amendment proposed, to leave out the words "who shall not be members of the United Church of England and Ireland."—(Mr. Labouchere.)

Question, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question," put, and negatived.

Main Question, as amended, put.

The House divided:—Ayes 39; Noes 83: Majority 44.