HC Deb 01 August 1873 vol 217 cc1440-50

Bill considered in Committee.

(In the Committee.)

Clause 1 (Power to Her Majesty to grant an additional annuity of £10,000 to Prince Alfred Ernest Albert for life).


said, the point to which he wished to call the attention of the House was that the hon. Member for Leicester had dealt with the so-called precedent in 1818, in which three of the Royal Dukes were tied together in the Message from the Crown. In reply, the right hon. Gentleman denied the statement that there was no precedent for a grant on a Royal Marriage except with reference to the Succession to the Crown, and after alluding to the case of the Duke of Clarence, he proceeded thus— But there is another case—namely, that of the Duke of Cambridge, who was the youngest son of George III., and in respect to that Prince, who had £21,000 a-year, an additional £6,000 was voted in 1820 on his marriage. Now, the fact was the Duke of Cambridge was married in 1818, but that was a mere mistake as to a date, a mistake which he (Sir Charles Dilke) did not wish to make much of. The more material point was, whether the grant made to the Duke of Cambridge had reference to the Succession, and on that point the Message which then came clown to the House was clear. It said that— After the afflicting calamity which the Prince Regent and the nation have sustained in the loss of his Royal Highness's beloved and only child the Princess Charlotte, his Royal Highness is persuaded that the House of Commons will feel how essential it is to the best interests of the country that his Royal Highness should be enabled to make a suitable provision for such of his Royal brothers as shall have contracted marriage with the consent of the Crown."—[1 Hansard, xxxviii. 1.] That, then, was a general provision, having regard not to the establishment of a single Royal Duke, but to the Succession to the Crown, and the cases of the three Royal Dukes were tied together. When the debate came on, Lord Castlereagh, speaking on behalf of the Government, said— A single marriage would not satisfy the anxiety of the people on the subject of the succession—though, if those illustrious individuals were less advanced in life, the case would be different. The Prince Regent, sensible of this, had made offers to such of his royal brothers as could reconcile marriage to their feelings. He had done this in the greatest spirit of affection; he had shown no preference to any one of those illustrious individuals beyond the other. He had considered that the people and the Crown had a common interest in the succession, and he had offered for such as should enter upon marriages, with the consent of the Crown, to propose to Parliament to make such a provision for them as would be consistent with public economy."—[l Hansard, xxxviii. 80.] The whole cases of the Royal Dukes were tied together, and were looked upon as one single case, and he (Sir Charles Dilke) thought he was justified in saying the precedent which the right hon. Gentleman adduced had no existence whatever, and was not a precedent which should have been adduced to the House. He would only add a few words spoken by a Member of that House on a previous occasion—that where a sum of money was to be voted which ought not to be granted, it was almost always proposed at a season like the present, when the House was not well attended. That particular case was on the 28th of June, and this Bill was brought forward on the very same day in July. He begged to ask the Prime Minister, whether, in fact, there was any case which was not part of the single case brought before the House by the single Message in 1818?


Sir, I cannot answer the question without expressing my very deep regret that it should have been brought forward. I think it is a thing very much to be lamented that a very limited number indeed of this House find it necessary to place themselves in opposition in so strong and marked a manner to the overwhelming majority of the House—and in this case an overwhelming majority without distinction of party—and that they should feel themselves bound to continue their opposition. There is something like indecency in the pursuance of such a course. Now, Sir, I come to the question itself, and say that if the hon. Gentleman had any complaint to make, his complaint ought to be against the hon. Member for Leicester. If there was any defective statement it was in the speech of the hon. Member for Leicester. It was the hon. Member for Leicester who referred to the Duke of Clarence, and he said the case of the Duke of Clarence was a case of Succession. My answer was, that when you got down to the Duke of Cambridge, who was the youngest son of George III., if that was a case of Succession, the case of the Duke of Edinburgh, who is the second son of Her present Majesty the Queen, is quite as good a case of Succession. I am very sorry to detain the House, but I must remark that the hon. Gentleman entirely forgets that my contention was, that while the reference was inaccurate—and I made use of the expression untrue, through being inaccurate, because it put forward the case of the Duke of Clarence—I ventured to point out that the whole of the sons of George III. were included, which destroyed the force of the argument, because if the case of the Duke of Cambridge was a case of Succession, the case of the Duke of Edinburgh is also a case of Succession. But I contend that it was wholly irrelevant. We have improved upon the practice of those times. The practice of this country then was to give the full allowance, or nearly the full allowance, to the Royal Princes, whether they were bachelors or married. What has been the case of allowances to unmarried Princes in recent times? Notwithstanding the great wealth and prosperity of the country, they have been kept considerably below the allowances made to the unmarried Princes of that period, and with the view which has been distinctly explained by myself, that a grant upon their marriage should be made. And, therefore, Princes upon marriage now stand in a perfectly different position from that in which they stood in the reign of George III if we had not shown precedents from the reign of George III. the arguments would remain perfectly good, because the grants made to unmarried Princes had been below the rates which were formerly given, and below the rates which we maintain ought to be given, when they are married, in order to sustain their position in society. So that every case of my hon. Friend entirely breaks down. I contend that precedents do exist; and I contend that if they did not exist the matter would not be in the slightest degree affected, because we have got into a better system, and instead of that ridiculous method of giving the full income before marriage, we have the principle that the incomes of these Royal Princes ought to be regulated according as they are married or unmarried, and have acted in our proposals to Parliament upon that principle. Then my hon. Friend has descended to pick up an argument in the dearth in which he finds himself, because the proposal was made on the 28th July. Does my hon. Friend think that the sentiment of love is to be controlled in its origin and growth by a regard to the convenience of Parliament. Love is not limited by any season, and I would remind my hon. Friend of the lines— Love, free as air, at sight of human ties, Spreads his light wings, and in a moment flies. These things are beyond my control. I have no power to control Princes or anybody else as to the time of year at which they shall allow the invader to occupy their hearts, and to bring to an issue that great question. Beyond that, we have a precedent contrary to the argument of my hon. Friend. The Act passed for the marriage of the Prince of Wales was the first chapter of the Session of 1863. A more unjust charge was never made, or, if not made, insinuated, than that we have been parties to some arrangement for postponing the contract of these illustrious persons in order that we might have the advantage of making our proposals later in the Session. I believe I am not called upon to exculpate myself from a charge which is quite refuted by being stated.


merely wished to remind the House, that on the only occasion on which a younger son of the English Royal Family had married the daughter of one of the great Rulers of Europe, the proposal for a grant was made to Parliament after the marriage, and on that occasion, it was stated in the House of Lords by Lord Liverpool, that he hoped no such provision in such. a case would ever be made until after the marriage had taken place and the Treaty had been laid upon the Table of the House. That course had not been taken in the present instance.


said, he must enter his strong protest against the language made use of by the Prime Minister. The right hon. Gentleman had stated that it was indecent on the part of the minority to oppose the grant. But what was the fact? Not only had their forefathers, but the present generation had considered proposals of the sort in the House, and had done so without incurring any imputation of indecency. For his part he thought it indecent to suppose that the Crown did not wish the question to be fully discussed, so that the nation might know what Parliament was doing. What was the case in the year 1840? The right hon. Gentleman knew better than he did that in the month of January, 1840, a discussion took place in that House as to the grant to be allowed to that most estimable man the Prince Consort, whom they had unfortunately lost. The grant proposed by the First Minister of the Crown was £50,000 a-year, and it was opposed, the Opposition being led by Mr. Hume. The Opposition was unsuccessful; but there was no imputation of indecency, or of want of courtesy or loyalty to the Crown, on the part of those who joined in it, and Mr. Hume was followed into the Lobby by 39 hon. Members. What happened then? Why, a hon. and gallant Officer (the late Colonel Sibthorp), sitting on the Opposition Benches, moved the reduction of the grant to £30,000. The Motion was adopted by a large majority, and in that majority he found the name of the present Prime Minister, and also of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Buckinghamshire (Mr. Disraeli), as well as the names of right hon. Gentlemen who sat with the Premier on the Treasury bench. But did the right hon. Gentleman think he was guilty of disloyalty in so voting, or of indecency in so acting? Knowing and appreciating the high qualities of the right hon. Gentleman, he was convinced that he considered he was doing his duty in the course he adopted. Well, hon. Members on either side of the House might differ conscientiously upon these questions in the belief that they were discharging a solemn duty, and it was their right as well as their duty to vote according to that belief. He did not wish to prolong the discussion; he was sorry it had arisen; but he could not help saying that it was the right of hon. Members to discuss any subject which was brought before the House. Speaking simply for himself he claimed for himself a loyalty not inferior to that of the right hon. Gentleman, and yet last evening he had voted in the minority upon that Bill, because he considered it his duty to do so. He also spoke and voted against another measure, the Crown Estates Bill, which he was sorry the right hon. Gentleman had introduced, not because it extended, but because it tended to injure, the power of the Crown, by interfering with an arrangement which had worked so beneficially. He had risen, not to enter into the general subject, but to vindicate the right of the House to discuss whatever subject was brought before it without incurring a charge of disloyalty.


said, he had no fault to find with anything that had fallen from his hon. Friend, with the exception of one word which his hon. Friend had attributed to him. [Mr. MUNTZ: Indecency.] What was the indecency? His hon. Friend founded his speech on the supposition that he had stated it was indecent to express an opinion in reference to this Bill. Why, hon. Members of the House had a perfect right and entire authority to refuse the grant altogether. That right he had never questioned. The allusion complained of had reference to an entirely different matter. His hon. Friend was vindicating the powers of the House of Commons. He, on the other hand, was vindicating the House of Commons against its own minority in certain cases. What he said was to this effect—that for a small minority to place themselves in persistent opposition to an overwhelming majority of the House, and of all sides of it, was to put themselves in a position which was scarcely consistent with decency. His hon. Friend had a perfect right to take a free and unrestricted course with respect to the Bill, and he did not intend to say—and did not say—that that course was indecent. There was a point, he said, at which opposition became indecent; but, as that expression had been objected to, he willingly withdrew it. All he would say was that there came a time when—what should he say?—propriety counselled that there should be a limit to discussions of that kind; and that was when the judgment of the House had been expressed by an overwhelming majority. It should be remembered that these Royal personages had feelings as well as others, and that there was a. point at which those repeated discussions should be brought to a close.


said, he was certain that only one feeling animated alike the bosoms of the minority and the majority of that House—that of loving and intense loyalty to the Crown. He must, however, be allowed to express his regret that the Colonies and other dependencies of the Crown were not represented in that House, in order that, through their Representatives, they might give expression to the loyal feelings which animated them, and the satisfaction with which they would receive intelligence of the auspicious alliance about to be entered into.


Sir, though I have supported this Bill, I would do nothing to derogate from the rights of a minority. A majority can generally take care of itself, but the rights of the minority ought to be carefully protected. I think that the right hon. Gentleman at the head of the Government the other day spoke with considerable severity of what fell from my hon. Friend the Member for North-east Lancashire (Mr. Holt). My hon. Friend asked the right hon. Gentleman to give him some information with regard to the conditions of the contract. I wish to put a question to the right hon. Gentleman, and it is this—whether this marriage is to be solemnized according to the rites of any other Church than the Church of England? I think there is no undue inquisitiveness in that question.


said, he thought he should not be acting consistently with his duty, if he went beyond the point at which he had already taken his stand. He must therefore decline to make any other answer with respect to the details of the proposals than that he had already given. It was no part of the duty of the Sovereign to inform him with respect to them, except within certain limits. He had already made a statement, in reply to an hon. Member opposite, which the House, he thought, considered more particular than it need have been. All he would now say was this—that he was confident the whole arrangements connected with the approaching marriage would give satisfaction to, and receive the warm approval of, the country. Beyond that he must decline to go.

Clause agreed to.

Clause 2 (Payment of proportionate part of annuity).


who disclaimed any idea of offering a factious opposition to the Bill, said, he would move, as an Amendment, to omit the words of the Proviso at the end of the clause, which enabled Her Majesty or her successors, with the consent of Parliament, to revoke or reduce the annuity in the event of His Royal Highness succeeding to any Sovereignty or Principality abroad; and substitute words that in that event the annuity should absolutely cease and determine. It would, he thought, be an invidious task to impose on Her Majesty the determination of the question whether the annuity should be continued in the event contemplated by the clause. By doing so, she would have to decide on the one hand against her own son, and on the other against the wish of Parliament. He thought that it would be a better arrangement if the annuity were absolutely to cease. Still, he would like to have an explanation from the Prime Minister on the subject.

Amendment moved, in page 2, line 8, to leave out all after "abroad," and insert. "the said annuity, as well as the annuity heretofore granted by Parliament shall cease and determine."—(Mr. Anderson.)


ventured to differ entirely from the hon. Member for Glasgow. He doubted the propriety of inserting such a Proviso as that. A Proviso of that kind might have been inserted in the original dotation to His Royal Highness the Prince Consort; but in a treaty for the marriage of the Prince, where a provision was made not only for the Prince himself, but for the family they might hope would come after him—the country being placed in loco parentis—such a Proviso would be wholly out of place. What the House did, it should do freely, voluntarily, ungrudgingly, and with the conviction that what was freely granted would be spent judiciously. Considering the great hopes which the marriage in question were likely to. realize, he thought it would not be well to couple the grant with any reservation, and he thought therefore that the existing limitation in the clause might be omitted entirely.


said, he could assure his hon. Friend the Member for Glasgow (Mr. Anderson) that he would hear no reproach from him for making such a Motion, for his hon. Friend was acting not only within his right, but according to the propriety of Parliament, in moving such Amendments in the details of the Bill as he thought were called for. He could not agree with the hon. Gentleman who had just sat down that there was no room for such a Proviso. What was it that the Proviso really did? In case the Duke of Edinburgh in the course of nature should succeed to a Principality abroad, which would have its own revenues and general condition of existence, his position would be so materially altered from the simple position of a junior Member of the British Royal Family, that it would not be wise to prescribe beforehand what might or might not be done. It would be more wise to reserve power to do what circumstances might seem to call for. They had felt it their duty to Parliament and the people of this country to keep the matter open, subject to the usual working of the constitution in questions of this kind. In the illustrious case of the King of the Belgians, who received an absolute annuity for life of £50,000 a-year when he ceased to be connected with this country, no such provision was made, and it was felt that there was an incongruity in his continuing to draw so very large an annuity from the taxes of the people of England, especially when a new marriage was contracted which gave him a distinct place in a foreign country. His conduct was in conformity with all that had made him illustrious in Europe during his own time; by his own act he voluntarily relinquished the grant, and paid back the whole amount into the Exchequer, less the sum required to keep the house and grounds at Claremont in good order. But though that might be a generous act on the part of the King of the Belgians, it was, in truth, a testimony that the power should have been reserved to provide for such an event. It was not, therefore, unreasonable to insert this Proviso—a power, no doubt., to be used with moderation, with reason, and with liberality. His hon. Friend the Member for Glasgow said that annuity ought to cease and determine altogether on the succession of His Royal Highness to a foreign Principality. Now, he ventured to dispute that with his hon. Friend, and he would observe that though in the course of time the Duke of Edinburgh might become a foreign Sovereign, he would not therefore cease to be an English Prince. He would still continue to have family relationship and household connections to maintain. His visits would be frequent, if his stay was not long, and it would not be possible to treat him as entirely cut off from his own country. The grant might in that case, therefore, be modified; but it could not be extinguished. There was, however, a fair amount of reason for the proposal which had been made by his hon. Friend, and he would say that discussion on such subjects within fair limits was desirable. The second Amendment of his hon. Friend was, that the jointure provided for the Grand Duchess should only accrue in case the Duke of Edinburgh died before his accession to a foreign Principality. In the ease of the Prince of Wales, where the grant was £50,000 a-year, the jointure was fixed at £30,000. But in this case, where the grant was fixed at £25,000, the jointure of the Princess, in the event of her becoming a widow, was only £6,000. Now, looking to the small proportion which this jointure bore to the Parliamentary income to be given to the Prince, he thought it was so moderate and reasonable that probably his hon. Friend would not think it necessary to take the sense of the Committee on the subject.


said, he understood that the grant would be reduced, but would not terminate on the accession of the Duke to a foreign Principality. ["No, no!] Was not that so?


said, he did not venture to point out what would occur. What he said was, that it might be reasonable to reserve the power given in the Proviso; but, on the other hand, it would not be reasonable to provide for the extinction of the, annuity. He did not prejudge the case. There should be al a full and ample reservation of the course which Parliament might pursue.


thought it would be a most unreasonable condition to attach to this annuity, that if His Royal Highness succeeded to a foreign Principality it should cease and determine without reference to the circumstances of the case. He would venture to remind the House that the Royal Duke in question was not allotted a larger sum than would be received by the son of anyone not the reigning Sovereign. He hoped, therefore, after the ample discussion which the question had undergone, the Amendment would be withdrawn.


said, he was content to leave the matter on the footing on which it had been placed by the right hon. Gentleman, and he should therefore withdraw the Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause agreed to.

Remaining clauses agreed to.

House resumed.

Bill reported, without Amendment; to be read the third time To-morrow.