HC Deb 16 February 1871 vol 204 cc359-71

, in rising to move the Resolution of which he had given Notice—namely, "That the sum of £30,000 be granted to Her Majesty, for the Marriage Portion of Her Royal Highness Princess Louise Caroline Alberta," said, he would not now trouble the Committee with any observations, as this was part of the plan he announced the other evening, on which occasion he stated everything that was relative to the matter.

Motion made, and Question proposed, That the sum of £30,000 be granted to Her Majesty, for the Marriage Portion of Her Royal Highness the Princess Louise Caroline Alberta."—(Mr. Gladstone.)


said, he rose with reluctance—a reluctance, however, not proceeding from any doubt as to the propriety of the course he was about to pursue, nor from much fear at being in a minority, but because he felt that the position he took up would, without some explanation, be liable to misconstruction. Those who opposed the Vote did not desire to express disapproval of or to receive ungraciously the special act of the Queen in relation to the question at issue. So far as he had any communication with those large portions of the community out-of-doors who objected to the Grant, he had to say that the opposition did not arise from any want of sympathy with, or respect for, the course which Her Majesty had taken with reference to an alliance between a daughter of the Sovereign and a subject. The opponents of the Grant rather regarded that as a been to the people of this country, and as a tendency towards the views and principles of the day, which were held out-of-doors; but they not the less felt that the been lost all its grace if made the subject of barter and contract; and at a large meeting at Leicester a speech was made by a working man, who said that he was filled with admiration when he reflected on the fact that the Princess Louise had departed from the custom which had prevailed of allying the Royal Princesses to foreign Princes. This was not a question of party politics, nor even of principles of government, for the professed admirers of monarchical institutions would admit that it was not wise to overweight them by unnecessary and extravagant expenditure; while others with different views would give their voice in favour of the Chief Magistrate of the country being maintained in a manner and position adequate to the dignity of the country. He regretted that the right hon. Gentleman at the head of the Government persisted in making this Motion after the manifestations which had been made of the opinions of large masses out-of-doors in disapproval of it. ["Oh, oh!"] There was no use in believing in delusions; there was a very bitter feeling out-of-doors on the subject; and he should have thought that the Government would have seen that the whole grace and decorum of such a proceeding as this depended on the spontaneous action in its favour of all classes of the community. ["Divide!"] It might be that the House would hear him, as the unworthy representative of the feeling of the nation, of some hundreds of thousands out-of-doors. He felt that the House of Commons had a perfect right to discuss the question in all its bearings. It had been hinted that there was a breach of faith in discussing this matter at all, because it was said, at the commencement of the reign the Crown Lands were given up to Parliament, and an equivalent was provided in the shape of the Civil List. He believed that was an inaccurate and unconstitutional statement of the fact; and he maintained there was no compact, contract, or bargain between Parliament and the Crown, except that the former would give to the Crown that which was due to its dignity and to the dignity of the nation. The right hon. Gentleman the other day carried his argument further than it could be carried, when he declared that the Crown had as an irrefragable right over the Crown Lands of the country as any private individual had over his own private property, a statement which would have been more correct if applied to the days of the Stuarts than to our own; but Sir George C. Lewis, on the occasion of the marriage of the Princess Royal, declared that it had ever been deemed a matter of policy to strip the Crown of all hereditary property, and to make it dependent during life on Parliament. The House was told, also, of the enormous sum which might be realized by building in Hyde Park and the other Parks; but he would remind the right hon. Gentleman that a former Sovereign, in answer to an inquiry as to how much it would cost to enclose St. James's Park, was told that it would cost two Crowns. A right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Forster) had said that dowries for the Royal family were part of the arrangement under which the Civil List was granted. What was the date of that arrangement, and what were the particulars of it? Why was the Committee discussing this question if such an arrangement existed? The fact was notorious that no arrangement of the kind did exist, and that such dowries had always been the subject of Acts of Parliament. There was a prevalent feeling amongst large classes of the people of this country that the expenses of our monarchical establishments were far too heavy, and they thought that a fair proportion of the Supplementary Grants continually being asked for on behalf of the Crown should come out of the Civil List. In that opinion he coincided. He found that, in 1869, the expenses of the Monarchy, including the Civil List, the Duchy of Lancaster, and other payments amounted to £456,000, and adding various Grants to other Members of the Royal Family, the amount was £637,000, not including the sums paid by way of dowry. It was replied that the sum received by former Monarchs in this country was higher than that received by the Queen. Hon. Members, however, must remember that the money formerly paid to the Crown was not so purely applicable to the personal demands as it now was; Queen Anne having devoted considerable sums towards the support of the war, the building of Blenheim, and other purposes, while George I. gave £100,000 towards the support of his heir. Then it was said that the income of some Continental Sovereigns was larger than our own. He should decline to draw any such comparisons; but if the Queen's income must be compared with that of any other Sovereign, it should be compared with the income of the Ruler of the great nation across the Atlantic, sprung from the same race as ourselves, and then the difference between £600,000 and £5,000 a year was rather striking. Under ordinary circumstances he should not think it right suddenly to make a change, without any previous warning, in a practice on the faith of the continuance of which arrangements might possibly have been made. But there were peculiar circumstances in this case. Hereafter the rule could not be pleaded. Any future case must be decided upon its own merits, and the plea that a change of practice was unexpected would no longer be a valid one. He was of opinion that Her Majesty did not derive her Civil List as occupying the Throne by divine right; but by the much higher title of being the popular and respected Queen of a great and free people. In like manner the children of Her Majesty, who were endowed by the State, were not endowed as relations of Her Majesty; but as part of our general monarchical scheme. They had not a free life, and they were, to a certain extent, the servants of the State. The Princess Louise, through her good fortune and the good sense and wisdom of her Royal Mother, declared her intention of breaking through the charmed circle and living her own individual life. She had insisted on her right to act as the humblest woman in her service was entitled to do — namely, to choose her own husband. In so acting the Princess and her Royal Mother had earned additional respect and affection from the people. But such ties were too sacred to be mixed up with considerations of a more sordid character. The Princess had taken off her fetters, and there was nothing now for the nation to gild. Nothing was further from his wish than to hurt the feelings of any of the distinguished persons most immediately interested. In his opinion the time would come, and that not very distantly, when no one would more regret than these distinguished persons themselves that the Ministry of the day had forced this Vote upon a people who, as far as large masses of the poorer ratepayers were concerned, would give the money very reluctantly.


I regret that the hon. Gentleman made the speech that he has made, because I think he was arguing the whole time against his own feelings, and his reasonings led him to a conclusion exactly the opposite to that with which he terminated. I am not going to compare the relative position of our own Sovereign with that of the Sovereign of any other State; but I cannot help noticing one remark the hon. Gentleman made—he said it was not with Kings or Emperors he wished to compare the position of Her Majesty, but that he would rather cross the Atlantic and make a comparison of Her Majesty's position with that of the Sovereign of the United States. I do not think that we ought really on this question to go into a policy of pounds, shillings, and pence; but if these matters are brought under our consideration, it is hardly possible to leave them quite unnoticed. If we cross the Atlantic we should find that the Sovereign of the United States—the Sovereign people, is paid through its representatives in both Houses of Parliament an annual salary far exceeding that of the solitary Sovereign of this country. I think the hon. Gentleman will find, if he goes into the question more deeply than probably this discussion is an opportunity for, that the expense of government in the United States—taking the word government in its large and real sense—is one of a very different character from that which he conveyed to the House just now. This is really a simple case if we confine ourselves to that which is fairly before us. I thought the right hon. Gentlemen at the head of the Government, the other evening, placed this subject before us in a complete and unanswerable manner. I was a Member of the House when the Civil List was passed. I have more than once expressed my disapproval of the principle on which the Civil List was founded. It was founded upon an old traditional feeling in this country that we ought to guard against the Crown being in possession of property to an amount that might prove dangerous to the liberties of Englishmen. Now, when we all know that the income of the Sovereign may probably be equalled by more than one of her subjects—when one individual died a few weeks ago, not amongst the most elevated class of society, whose fortune, probably, was quite equal to that which the Crown possesses in this country, it is too absurd for us, I think, any longer to legislate upon these old political superstitions. In my opinion, it would have been much better originally if the Government of Lord Melbourne, when this settlement was fixed upon, had proposed that the Crown estates should be entrusted to the Sovereign. They were sufficient for the personal comfort and dignity of the Crown, and they might have been enjoyed by the Crown with those powers and conditions which apply to all other estates in the country, and which would have allowed the younger children to be amply supported. And as for that public pageantry of the Crown, in which the nation is more interested than the individual who wears the Crown—certainly as much interested, and which I myself highly and deeply value, and which I wish to see maintained in a manner becoming the nation of a famous people like the people of England—that might have been the subject of a Vote in this House—not of an annual Vote, which might have been inconvenient; but every ten years we might have fixed the supplemental public expenditure of the Crown for those purposes. Ten years would have allowed us to consider any great changes which might have been produced by economical circumstances, such, for example, as the discoveries of gold and their effect upon prices, or other circumstances of that kind; and then appeals like the present need never have been made, and these misrepresentations of the position of the Crown would never have circulated in the country. However, we have to deal with the circumstances before the House; and, certainly, the right hon. Gentleman the other night was perfectly justified in saying that the title of the Sovereign of this country to the Crown estate is just as good as that of the Duke of Buccleuch or the Duke of Bedford to their estates. It is an absolute estate, enjoyed by a family, and there can be no question legally that the position of the right hon. Gentleman was perfectly sound. But having arrived at the position in which we are placed, what the House has to do is to act according to the spirit of the agreement that was entered into with Her Majesty in 1837, and to support the Crown in its becoming comfort and dignity, and provide, as it was thoroughly understood at the time we ought to provide, in every becoming manner for those members of the family of the Royal House with respect to whom Her Majesty appeals to us. The right hon. Gentleman the other night and the hon. Gentleman to-night have referred to a remarkable feature of the case which is now before us, and I was quite surprised that the hon. Gentleman just now, evidently against his own feelings should have founded his principal argument against the proposition of Her Majesty's Government upon this very circumstance which. I consider both novel and interesting. It must have been clear for a considerable time to anyone who gives any attention to these matters that a great change was inevitable in the domestic relations between the Crown and its subjects. For a considerable period the area out of which consorts for members of the Royal Family could be selected has been artifically diminished. By the Protestant Constitution of the country no Prince of the Latin race could intermarry with one of our Royal House. It was quite clear when the revolution commenced in Germany, and the mediatizing of so many reigning Houses of that country occurred—when many of the reigning Houses of Germany who professed the Protestant faith disappeared—that a considerable change was at hand. To me, under these circumstances, the fact of a Princess of our Royal House marrying one of Her Majesty's subjects is really as wise as it is romantic. That the hon. Gentleman, who professes to be a great propagator of democratic principles, should make such a circumstance the groundwork of an argument against the proposition of Her Majesty's Government, appears to me surprising. I confess I have another reason in support of this proposition, totally irrespective of that feeling of loyalty which I am sure is shared by hon. Members on both sides of the House, and even by the hon. Gentleman who has just addressed us. I confess I feel some satisfaction—even I will say exultation—that for the first time a Princess of the Royal House of England is to be married to a Member of the House of Commons. I have such affection for this House that I confess I am not insensible to this honour. Our brother Member certainly has not been very long among us; but I believe I may say, without using any words but those of truth, he has gained our sympathies by his intelligence and by his breeding. The House of Commons will, I think, seize a very unfavourable opportunity if this were the first occasion on which it could successfully oppose such a Grant as that which the right hon. Gentleman has offered to our consideration.


I dare say the House is anxious for a Division; but I am not one of those who think this question should be treated lightly, because we cannot conceal from ourselves that, rightly or wrongly, this proposed alliance has created a good deal of feeling in the country. Now, I do not agree altogether with what has fallen from the hon. Gentleman below me (Mr. P. A. Taylor), but neither can I agree with what has just fallen from the right hon. Gentleman opposite (Mr. Disraeli), because it is at direct issue with the statement made the other night by the right hon. Gentleman at the head of the Government. The right hon. Gentleman says he was in the House of Commons in 1837, when the Civil List was passed, and if he had had his will he would have had the dowries of the Princesses arranged beforehand. But the right hon. Gentleman at the head of the Government said, the other night, that if the sums of money to be allotted to the children of the Sovereign were granted beforehand, it would be impossible for the Sovereign to accept those terms, and he made use of the expression that it would lay the Royal Family open to idle vituperation. I wish to state that in what I am about to say I yield to nobody in this House in the expression of my sentiments of sincere respect and loyal attachment to the person of the Sovereign. I think that the example which the Sovereign has set in all the domestic and private relations of her life has had a reflex upon all classes of the community, and has endeared Her Majesty in the heartfelt and affectionate attachment of all her subjects. But I must say that the principal object that I have in rising is for the purpose of referring to the statement made the other night by the right hon. Gentleman at the head of the Government. The statement made by the right hon. Gentleman the other night was, to my mind, one of the most injudicious that I ever recollect to have fallen from the right hon. Gentleman. I do not say he intended to mislead the House. I should not be justified in saying so. But I can say this — I will show to the Committee that there were statements made in that speech which are not justified by the facts of the case. I am sorry to trouble the House; but I think this is an occasion of some importance. The other night the right hon. Gentleman said the Queen, had a large income, but it was predestined for special purposes. He said savings were out of the question. What struck me the most in the right hon. Gentleman's speech was that the marriage of the Princess with a Member of this House was about to take place—with the son of a Member of the Government, and by the advice of Her Majesty's Government. The statement made by the right hon. Member for Bradford (Mr. W. E. Forster), that if the House of Commons should not grant the dowry it would be like fining one of the children of the Sovereign for marrying a Scotchman, was a most strained interpretation of the matter. The Prime Minister said that no doubt the income of the Sovereign was a very large one, but that it was given to support the dignity and representation of the Crown: I have no objection to that. The Grant that we give to the Sovereign is for the representation of the Crown; and I am one of those who share the opinion very common in this country, that it is to be regretted that the large sum thus given is not devoted to the representation of the Crown, and for many years has not been devoted to that purpose. I do not speak now of the money not being spent for the benefit of the people of this country; but I do say that when Sovereigns, Princes, and foreigners of distinction visit this country, it is painful to Englishmen to find that the enormous income which we grant to the Sovereign for the representation of the State is not devoted in the way contemplated by Parliament. Now, recollect, I by no means wish to stint the Sovereign. I would wish to see an allowance made on the most liberal scale towards the Royal Family. I am one of those who would vote, if necessary, for doubling the income of the Prince of Wales. I think the income of the Prince of Wales, considering all he has to do for the representation of the country, is too small. He lives amongst us and does what he can; but, of course, on a far less sum than £385,000. I state that to show that I am by no means desirous of stinting the means for the representation of the Crown. The Prime Minister said the other night that by the Civil List of 1837 Her Majesty was granted £385,000 a year, and that it was an economical arrangement; and then he added—I will not say wishing to deceive this House, but certainly not in a manner that one would have expected from him—"Look at what was done for William IV." Well, I have looked, and seen that the Civil List of William IV. was proposed by Lord Althorp in 1831, and it was this—The whole amount, deducting what was given to the Queen of William IV. was £324,700 as against £385,000 given to Her present Majesty. It is perfectly true that if you add £50,000 a year granted to the Queen of William IV. you do bring up the amount very nearly to the sum stated by the right hon. Gentleman; but he included this grant of £50,000 a year when he said that the Civil List voted to William IV. was £435,000. In reality, so far from there being any economy in what was done in 1837, there was a great increase on what had been granted to William IV., exclusive of the £50,000 a year given to his Queen. More than that, when Lord Althorp stated in the House of Commons in 1831 that, having revised the Civil List of George IV., the Government proposed that the sum of £435,000 a year, including £50,000 for the Queen of William IV. should be granted to the Sovereign, he added that he understood the revenues of the Duchy of Lancaster would be given up to the State for their entire management the same as the revenues of the other Crown Lands. Lord Althorp, therefore, and the country fully expected in 1831 that the revenues of the Duchy of Lancaster would be made over to the State. But that has never been done; and, therefore, in addition to the £385,000 a year granted to the present Sovereign, she has the revenues of the Duchy of Lancaster also, and I do not suppose there is in this country such gross mismanagement as is to be found in the case of the revenues of that Duchy. If Lord Althorp's plan had been adopted we should not have had that complaint to make. Will the House believe that, while the revenues of the Duchy amount to £50,000 a year, only about £25,000 is paid to Her Majesty, while the other £25,000 is expended in the grossest mismanagement—I would even say corruption. These are facts. Would it not fee better, then, that the policy of Lord Althorp had been adopted, instead of giving to the Sovereign a Civil List of £385,000, with all the revenues of the Duchy of Lancaster? I do not wish to trespass on the time of the House now; but I am bound to say that, looking at the statement of Lord Althorp and at the revenues which we give to the Crown—I may stand alone here, but I know there are many in the county in which I reside who think as I do. This very day a gentleman of position from that county told me that there were tens of thousands among the poorer classes in Staffordshire and Lancashire who will disapprove what is now being done. As long as a child or daughter of the Sovereign marries into a Royal or Princely House, I think it is quite right and natural for the House of Commons to give an adequate allowance for the representation and dignity of Royalty. But I hold a very strong opinion that when a child of the Sovereign chooses to lay aside and renounce altogether the Royal position, and elects to marry a subject, the case is wholly different. ["No, no!"] No doubt there is a great difference of opinion on the matter; but, in my judgment, that circumstance entirely changes the point at issue. In that case the Sovereign should be left to make an adequate allowance. But be that as it may, I will conclude by saying I think the marriage an impolitic one. ["No, no!"] As a loyal subject of the Queen, I think the marriage an impolitic one. I do not look at it in the light of the hon. Member for Leicester (Mr. P. A. Taylor); but that the Royal position should be maintained distinct and separate as hitherto. Personally, I wish the Royal Princess all happiness in her marriage. I am sure the country will agree with me in that; but I do think the marriage is an impolitic one, and I, for one, would have infinitely preferred to have seen the daughter of our Most Gracious Sovereign marry into either a Royal or a Princely House, rather than accept the hand of a subject, the son of a Member of Her Majesty's Government, upon the advice of Her Majesty's Government.


, amid cries of "Divide!" said, the objection entertained in the country to the dowry arose from its not being known how the £385,000 was made up, and that Her Majesty had nothing like that sum at her actual disposal. To refuse to vote the proposed sum would be a breach of faith. When Her Majesty ascended the Throne it was distinctly understood that by her accepting the Civil List all these contingencies should be met by Votes of the House.


I will endeavour to keep strict faith with the Committee, and not in any way to re-argue the question. A number of references have been made by the hon. Member for Leicester (Mr. P. A. Taylor) and the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Tamworth (Sir Robert Peel), to my speech the other evening, and I feel it is absolutely due to the Committee that I should state that I am not able to recognize the arguments they attribute to me as the arguments I used the other evening. I will not, however, go through them in detail; but I will point out one as an example. The right hon. Baronet considers that I stated that the Princess Louise was about to marry the Marquess of Lorne by the advice of Her Majesty's Government. What I stated was, that, upon the important question of the deviation from what had recently been the established rule, Her Majesty had taken the advice of her confidential Advisers, and I may as well state that she did so about 18 months ago, and long anterior to the period when the present arrangement was contemplated. The right hon. Gentleman is entirely in error in supposing that I contended that there was a real reduction in the Civil List at the commencement of the present reign as compared with the commencement of the reign of William IV. I pointed to the reduction of the amount in order to found upon it a corroboration of my argument that morally Parliament was always charged with the obligation of providing for any new exigency growing out of the state of the Royal family. I will only say with regard to the present Motion that I cannot but regret the opposition that has been made to it; and, secondly, that it should have been made at what appears to me to be the wrong time. It is at the first stage of a Vote of this kind that, with the greatest propriety—I should say the smallest departure from it—that opposition should be offered; but I think it is for my hon. Friend and those who intend to vote with him to consider in what position this House will find itself on the question of a personal grant of money if, after hearing the proposal on a former night, they came to an unanimous vote in its favour, they should now disregard the force of the pledge in that unanimous vote, and hark back on the first proceeding.

Question put.

The Committee divided:—Ayes 350; Noe 1: Majority 349.

House resumed.

Resolution to be reported To-morrow.

Committee to sit again To-morrow.