HC Deb 13 August 1901 vol 99 cc616-27

Considered in Committee.

(In the Committee.)

[Mr. J. W. LOWTHER (Cumberland, Penrith) in the Chair.]

Clause 1:—


said he wished to move as an Amendment the addition of the words "provided always that the style and title of the Defender of the Faith shall no longer be used, and is hereby relinquished." He said one of his objects in moving this Amendment was to release His Majesty the King from the false and absurd position in which he had been placed by the action of Parliament. Not only Roman Catholics, but members of the various denominations of Protestants, objected to the King being obliged to assume a title which had reference, if it referred to anything at all, to only one branch of the Protestant religion. He did not intend to go at any length into the history of this title, "Defender of the Faith," but he would refer as briefly as possible to the circumstances under which this title was first adopted by the Kings of England. At the time of Luther, Henry VIII. wrote a book denouncing Lutheran heresies, and sent a specially engrossed copy of the book to Pope Leo X. He found in an account of that transaction that on the last page of the book presented to Pope Leo there were two lines written in Latin, to the following effect, "Henry, King of England, sends to Leo X. this work, as a pledge of his fidelity and friendship." This work was accompanied by a letter which conclusively proves that the faith of which King Henry VIII. became the defender was the ancient Catholic faith, and had nothing to do with the Protestant Church. These were the words— Not satisfied with this proof (this referring, it was to be presumed, to the statement of friendship earlier in the letter) of our zeal for the Catholic faith and our devotion to the Apostolic See, we resolved to show by our written words what we thought of Luther and his detestable books, thus to make it clear that we would be ever ready to defend and protect as well with the pen as with the sword the Holy Roman Church. Upon the receipt of that flattering letter Pope Leo X. issued a Bull in these terms— Leo, servant of the servants" of the Lord, to his most dear son, Henry, King of England, Defender of the Faith; all health and happiness. Then the Bull goes on to say— Sitting in this Holy See, and having with mature deliberation considered the business with our brethren, we do with their unanimous counsel and consent grant unto your Majesty, your heirs and successors, the title of 'Defender of the Faith,' and we do by these presents confirm it unto you, commanding all the Faithful to give your Majesty this title. There could therefore be no doubt in the mind of any person who examined the historical records referring to those times that the origin of the title "Defender of the Faith" had reference to the Catholic faith and no other. He did not think he need dwell at length on historical matters, but there was, he would remind hon. Members, a fresco in the parliamentary buildings which set forth in a very interesting manner King Henry VIII. and his six wives, one after the other. He did not propose to debate on the matrimonial enterprise of His Majesty, but he did wish to recall the fact that when the Pope refused to approve of the King taking a fresh wife while he had a wife living, Henry VIII. threw off his allegiance to the See of Rome, and Leo X. thereupon withdrew the title of "Defender of the Faith," which he conferred on the King for his defence of the Church which subsequently he denounced, reviled, despoiled and plundered in every possible way. No doubt Henry got the English Parliament to confer on him the title of "Defender of the Faith," and there was thus created the curious state of affairs that whereas the Pope had originally given the title and withdrawn it, the Parliament of England re-created it and re-gave it to the Sovereign, calling him "Defender of the Faith," which he was at the moment engaged in destroying with all his might and main. The next step in the curious history of this title was taken in the reign of Philip and Mary, when the Act conferring the title on the King of England was repealed, and subsequently, in the reign of Queen Elizabeth, there being some doubt as to the validity of the Act passed in Mary's reign, the same Act was again repealed. He could not, therefore, understand how it could be argued that the title was now held by Act of Parliament, seeing that the Act conferring it on Henry VIII. had been twice repealed, and no legislative step had since been taken to reimpose it on the King of England. He submitted with great respect that it was unfair to the present King to ask him to assume a title which had its origin in the times when England belonged to the Catholic faith—a title which was conferred by the Pope—and at the same time to insist by another Act of Parliament that he should denounce as "idolatrous and superstitious" the very religion for the defence of which this title was conferred upon his distinguished but much-married ancestor Henry VIII. In his accession oath the King was compelled to declare that "the invocation of the Virgin Mary or any of the saints, and the Sacrifice of the Mass as now used in the Church of Rome, are idolatrous and superstitious practices," and it was an absurd and unworthy position in which to place the King when they asked him to assume this title of Defender of the Faith, and in the same breath denounce the doctrines of that faith as idolatrous and superstitious. Of course he had no personal knowledge of His Majesty's views, but the chances were a hundred to one, in his opinion, that if the King himself were consulted he would be glad if Parliament relieved him of this absurd title, and from making the unpleasant declaration in which he singled out one religion for special denunciation. It was not merely from the Catholic point of view he raised this question. He would appeal to the Nonconformists of the country to say whether, in this matter, they would make a stand in the interests of the creed they professed. If the title had no reference to the Catholic faith, it had reference to the Protestant Church as established by law, and why should that Church be singled out from all other Protestant sects for that distinction? It was an absurd and obsolete title, carrying no honour whatever. The history of it as connected with Henry VIII. was a history of shame and dishonour of which he doubted whether any Englishman was proud at the present time. He begged to move the Amendment which stood in his name, and to express a hope that it would be supported by gentlemen of varying religious persuasions on both sides of the House.

Amendment proposed— In page 1, line 11, after the words 'seem fit,' to insert the words 'Provided always that the style and title of Defender of the Faith shall no longer be used and is hereby relinquished.'"—(Mr. William Redmond.)

Question proposed, "That those words be there inserted."


The hon. Gentleman who moved the Amendment has introduced us not merely into the realms of history, but of theology, and he has contrived not only to deal with history and theology, but to drag in the Royal declaration, which seems to me to be in no sense germane to the discussion now before the Committee. I am not going to deal with the theological topics which the hon. Gentleman has raised. I will only say, as a mere matter of historical relevance, that I do not think anyone would be more surprised than Henry VIII., if he could be consulted, to learn that at any period of his life he ceased to profess the Catholic religion. He was no doubt wrong from the point of view of the hon. Gentleman opposite, but he believed to the end of his life that the faith he professed was the Catholic faith, and that the particular form of faith which he denounced was a perversion of it, and not its fulfilment. Everyone, I suppose, will admit in regard to this, as in regard to many matters which we have inherited from generations long gone by, that probably if the whole thing had to be done again it might be done better or it might be done worse, but that at all events it would not be done in exactly the same way. I am not at all concerned to say that if the House, for the first time in our long parliamentary history, set itself to work to frame a proper adequate style and title for our Sovereign they would use the precise formula which our ancestors have handed down to us. If that is the argument of the hon. Gentleman or any Member of the House, it is a very thin and shallow argument, and not likely to carry weight inside or outside these walls. We belong to an historic monarchy, and the fact that it is an historic monarchy ought to oblige us—and I am sure inclines us—to treat with deference and respect any part of the historical traditions with which it is surrounded, unless it can be shown that any direct evil or offence arises out of this continuity of tradition. The title of "Defender of the Faith" has been borne by every single British Sovereign since Henry VIII, including Queen Mary. No doubt she rejected it, but it was resumed by her successor, and from the time of Elizabeth down to the present day the sovereigns of this country have been styled "Defender of the Faith." It would be perfect folly for us to set to work on a priori principles to remodel an ancient title of this kind, that injures neither he who bears it nor the people over whom he rules. Under these circumstances it seems to me it would be the height of folly if we, with no circumstances requiring it, unprovoked by any change in the position of the country or the opinion of its inhabitants, were to suddenly take in hand the task of remodelling the ancient, historic title of our kings.

MR. O'DOHERTY (Donegal, N.)

pointed out that this was not the first proposal to interfere with an old and historic title, for a change in it was made in 1876, when Mr. Disraeli, against the opposition of the Liberal party, conferred on Her late Majesty the title of Empress of India. It was not merely the Irish Members who then resisted, but it was Mr. Lowe, the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Monmouthshire, and other Liberal leaders who objected to any interference, either by legislation or by proclamation, with the ancient title of the sovereigns of this country. It certainly was not fitting that a sovereign should style himself defender of a faith he was required to declare indolatrous and superstitious. The Leader of the House had stated that Henry VIII. believed himself to be a Catholic down to the day of his death. He agreed with him, and he found support for that view in a copy of a letter still extant, in which that monarch bequeathed money for Masses for the repose of his soul. It was clear that Leo X. conferred the title in recognition of work done by Henry VIII. in refuting the heresies of Luther, and he ventured to think that its retention under present circumstances could not afford satisfaction to the members of any religious creed in this country.

MR. CAINE (Cornwall, Camborne)

said he intended to vote in favour of the Amendment. It was impossible to define the faith of which the King was the defender, and it was, therefore, an unmeaning title. Even if the Church of England were united in faith and doctrine it still would not be the faith of the people. Nonconformists and Roman Catholics being largely in the majority, and both objecting to the title. It was time it fell out of use, and he should vote against it unless some better reason than antiquity could be given for it.

MR. T. M. HEALY (Louth, N.)

said he had some philosophic doubt in regard to the Amendment. The right hon. Gentleman the First Lord of the Treasury had defended the title on historic grounds, and upon no other, and thereby emphatically admitted the Catholic case. Look at the wretched condition of the Protestants and the magnificent position which the Catholics occupied in regard to this question. The Protestants were always reviling Rome and denouncing Roman jurisdiction, so that, from the Catholic point of view, there was no greater proof of the power of Popery than the persistence in the adoption of this title. It was idle to say that the title rested on statute, because when Cardinal Pole came over to this country Queen Mary repealed the Act of Henry VIII., and as soon as Elizabeth came to the throne she also repealed the same statute. It was said that the Pope could not derogate from his own grant, and that, having once granted the title to the King, there was no power in the Pontiff to withdraw what was really a complimentary title. It was some satisfaction to him as a Catholic to reflect that, so far as the statute was concerned, the King had no legal title whatever to the title of "Defender of the Faith," that it was a usurpation, and that he held it in the teeth of the statute, and solely by reason that it had been conferred upon him as a compliment by the Roman Pontiff. It was very satisfactory to Catholics that, although the King was not defender of the faith, or the eldest son of the Church, he held the title of defender of the faith by a Papal brief. He never could make out why it was that William III., who was to protect us all from brass money and wooden shoes, was regarded as a sound Protestant. He had always doubted King William III.'s soundness, and looked upon him as a Jesuit in disguise, because King William III. himself had been in certain relations with the Pope. He knew that hon. Gentlemen opposite, who claimed to be loyal Protestants, were absolutely obliged, three hundred years after their great and glorious Reformation, which was to redeem the country from all sin and sorrow, to go into the lobby practically to uphold and support a gift from Rome to this country. He would vote for the Amendment of his hon. friend purely as a matter of convenience to relieve His Majesty from what he believed was an embarrassment to him every time he had to write down the title, while at the same time he heartily rejoiced that the Protestants of this country were now compelled to uphold the ancient jurisdiction of the Pope of Rome.

*MR. TULLY (Leitrim, S.)

did not think that the First Lord had given any substantial reason why the Amendment should not be accepted. He said the title had been borne by sovereigns of this country since the days of Henry VIII., but that was not exactly the fact, for there were issued in 1849 coins now known as "Godless florins," on which the title of "Defender of the Faith" was not borne.


That was when you had an Irish Roman Catholic, Richard Lalor Sheil, as Master of the Mint.

*MR. TULLY (continuing)

said that, whatever the reason, the title was undoubtedly dropped at that time, and although every effort was subsequently made to call all the florins in, there were some in the possession of private individuals who highly prized them. He did not believe that the King himself, as a common-sense man, would wish to continue to hold the title. It was just as absurd as the practice which formerly prevailed of calling sovereigns of this realm "Kings of France." Think of the position of the hon. Member for South Belfast. Was he staunch or true in his Protestantism in defending the retention of this title which was conferred by the Pope?


I rise to order, Sir. Is it in order to suggest that the hon. Member for South Belfast is not staunch or true in his Protestantism?

Abraham, William (Cork, N. E.) Boland, John Campbell, John (Armagh, S.)
Barry, E. (Cork. S.) Boyle, James Clancy, John Joseph
Bell, Richard Burke, E. Haviland- Cogan, Denis J.

said he was not aware that he had trodden on the corns of any of them. He had been listening in the vain hope that the hon. Member for South Belfast would stand up and declare his views on the subject. It was a matter of perfect indifference to him where King Henry VIII. was. The hon. Member for Belfast was not consistent in voting against this Amendment, for he found that a gentleman who posed as an authority on religions matters had written a letter to the Standard, in which he said— Of what faith is His Majesty the Defender? During the Investiture with the ring the Archbishop is directed to say, 'Receive this Ring, the Ensign of Kingly Dignity, and of defence of the Catholic Faith.' The objection of the Irish Catholic Members to this title was that these words, used in this connection, added to the insult contained in the Royal Declaration that Catholics were idolatrous and superstitious. He hoped hon. Members on the opposite side of the House who were Nonconformists would follow the example of the hon. Member for Camborne and vote for the Amendment. To give such a title to the King conveyed a false impression, just as when the King of England was called the King of France. The Government had already announced that they would not proceed with the Royal Declaration Bill, which modified the Coronation Oath, and which had passed through the House of Lords.


The hon. Member will not be entitled to discuss the provisions of that Bill.


said he bowed to the Chairman's ruling, but he might say that he, for one, preferred the naked brutality of the present King's Declaration to the watered-down Declaration the Bill proposed to adopt.

Question put.

The Committee divided:—Ayes, GO; Noes, 188. (Division List No. 466.)

Condon, Thomas Joseph Lundon, W. O'Kelly, Conor (Mayo, N.)
Crean, Eugene MacDonnell, Dr. Mark A. O'Kelly, James (Roscommon, N.
Cullinan, J. MacNeill, John Gordon Swift O'Malley, William
Daly, James M'Fadden, Edward O'Mara, James
Delany, William M'Govern, T. O'Shaughnessy, P. J.
Dillon, John Murnaghan, George Power, Patrick Joseph
Donelan, Capt A. Murphy, John Reddy, M.
Doogan, P. C. Nannetti, Joseph P. Redmond, John E. (Waterford)
Duffy, William J. Nolan, Col. John P. (Galway, N. Roche, John
Field, William Nolan, Joseph (Louth, South) Sheehan, Daniel Daniel
Flavin, Michael Joseph O'Brien, James F. X. (Cork) Sullivan, Donal
Flynn, James Christopher O'Brien, Kendal (Tipper'ry Mid Thompson, Dr. E C (Monagh'n N.
Gilhooly, James O'Brien Patrick (Kilkenny) Tully, Jasper
Hammond, John O'Brien, P. J. (Tipperary, N.) White. Patrick (Meath, North)
Hayden, John Patrick O'Doherty, William Wilson, Henry J. (Yorks. W. R.
Healy, Timothy Michael O'Donnell, John (Mayo, S.) TELLERS FOR THE AYES—Mr. William Redmond and Mr. Caine
Joyce, Michael O'Donnell, T. (Kerry, W.)
Leamy, Edmund O'Dowd, John
Acland-Hood, Capt. Sir A. F. Durning-Lawrence, Sir Edwin Layland-Barratt, Francis
Agg-Gardner, James Tynte Dyke, Rt. Hn. Sir William Hart Lee, A. H. (Hants., Fareham)
Agnew, Sir Andrew Noel Fellowes, Hon. Ailwyn Edward Leese, Sir J. F. (Accrington)
Allen, Chas. P. (Glouc., Stroud Fergusson, Rt. Hn Sir J. (Manc'r Legge, Col. Hon. Heneage
Anson, Sir William Reynell Fielden, Edward Brocklehurst Leveson-Gower, Fredk. N. S.
Arnold-Forster, Hugh O. Finlay, Sir Robert Bannatyne Llewellyn, Evan Henry
Arrol, Sir William Fisher, William Hayes Loder, Gerald Walter E.
Ashton, Thomas Gair Fitzmaurice, Lord Edmond Long, Col. C. W. (Evesham)
Atkinson, Rt. Hon. John Flannery, Sir Fortescue Long, Rt. Hn. W. (Bristol, S.
Bagot, Capt. Josceline FitzRoy Foster, Sir Michael (Lond. Univ. Lonsdale, John Brownlee
Balcarres, Lord Foster, P. S. (Warwick, S. W.) Loyd, Archie Kirkman
Balfour, Rt. Hon. A. J. (Manch'r Gardner, Ernest Lucas, Col. F. (Lowestoft)
Balfour, Capt. C. B. (Hornsey) Gladstone, Rt. Hn Herbert John Lucas, B. J. (Portsmouth)
Balfour, Rt. Hon. G. W. (Leeds Godson, Sir Augustus Frederick Macartney, Rt. Hn. W. G. E.
Banbury, Frederick George Gordon, Hn. J. E (Elgin & Nairn) Macdona, John Cumming
Bathurst, Hn. Allen Benjamin Gordon, J. (Londonderry, S.) MacIver, David (Liverpool)
Bignold, Arthur Gore, Hon. S. F. Ormsby- (Linc.) Maconochie, A. W.
Blundell, Col. Henry Gorst, Rt. Hon. Sir John Eldon M'Calmont Col. J. (Antrim, E.)
Boscawen, Arthur Griffith- Goulding, Edward Alfred Majendie, James A. H.
Brassey, Albert Grant, Corrie Middlemore, J. Throgmorton
Broadhurst, Henry Greene, Henry D. (Shrewsbury) Mitchell, William
Brown, Geo. M. (Edinburgh) Grey, Sir Edward (Berwick) Montagu, G. (Huntingdon)
Bryce, Rt. Hon. James Groves, James Grimble Moore, William (Antrim, N.)
Caldwell, James Hain, Edward More, Robert J. (Shropshire)
Campbell-Bannerman, Sir H. Hamilton, Rt. Hn Lord G. (Mid'x Morgan, D. J. (Walthamstow
Carson, Rt. Hon. Sir Edw. H. Hanbury, Rt. Hon. Robert Wm. Morgan, J. L. (Carmarthen)
Causton, Richard Knight Harcourt, Rt. Hon. Sir William Morton, A. H. A. (Deptford)
Cavendish, R. F. (N. Lancs.) Hardy, Laurence (Kent, Ashf'rd Moss, Samuel
Cavendish, V. C. W. (Derbysh. Harris, Frederick Leverton Mount, William Arthur
Cayzer, Sir Charles William Harwood, George Murray, Chas. J. (Coventry)
Cecil, Evelyn (Aston Manor) Haslett, Sir James Horner Nicol, Donald Ninian
Chamberlain, Rt. Hn. J. (Birm. Hayne, Rt. Hon. Charles Seale- Palmer, Walter (Salisbury)
Chamberlain, J. Austen (Worc'r Hayter, Rt. Hon. Sir Arthur D. Parker, Gilbert
Channing, Francis Allston Heath, James (Staffords., N. W. Parkes, Ebenezer
Chapman, Edward Heaton, John Henniker Paulton, James Mellor
Charrington, Spencer Helme, Norval Watson Pilkington, Lt.-Col. Richard
Clare, Octavius Leigh Higginbottom, S. W. Platt-Higgins, Frederick
Coghill, Douglas Harry Holland, William Henry Pretyman, Ernest George
Cohen, Benjamin Louis Hornby, Sir William Henry Pryce-Johns, Lt.-Col. Edward
Collings, Rt. Hon. Jesse Horniman, Frederick John Purvis, Robert
Colomb, Sir John Chas. Ready Houldsworth, Sir Win. Henry Randles, John S.
Colston, Chas. Edw. H. Athole Hoult, Joseph Reid, James (Greenock)
Colville, John Howard, J. (Kent, Faversham) Renshaw, Charles Bine
Corbett, T. L. (Down, North) Howard, J. (Midd., Tottenham) Rentoul, James Alexander
Cranborne, Viscount Hudson, George Bickersteth Ridley, Hn. M. W. (Stalybridge
Crombie, John William Johnston, William (Belfast) Ritchie, Rt. Hn. Chas. Thomson
Davenport, William Bromley- Jones, David B. (Swansea) Robertson, Herbert (Hackney
Davies, Alfred (Carmarthen) Jones, Wm. (Carnarvonshire) Round, James
Dickson, Charles Scott Kenyon, Hon. G. T. (Denbigh Royds, Clement Molyneux
Dilke, Rt. Hon. Sir Charles Lambton, Hon. Frederick W. Rutherford, John
Douglas, Rt. Hon. A. Akers- Law, Andrew Bonar Sadler, Col. Samuel Alexander
Doxford, Sir William Theodore Lawrence, W. F. (Liverpool) Sandys, Lt.-Col. Thos. Myles
Duke, Henry Edward Lawson, John Grant Saunderson, Rt. Hn. Col. Edw. J.
Seely, Chas. Hilton (Lincoln) Strachey, Edward White, Luke (Yorks. E. H.)
Sharpe, William Edward T. Talbot, Rt. Hn. J G (Oxf'd Univ. Whitley, J. H. (Halifax)
Sinclair. Capt. John (Forfarsh.) Tennant, Harold John William S. Osmond (Merioneth
Smith, H C (North'mb Tyneside Thomas, J. A. (Glam., Gower) Wilson, A. Stanley (Yorks. E. R.
Smith, James Parker (Lanarks Thomson, F. W. (Yorks. W. R. Wilson, Fred. W. (Norfolk, Mid
Smith, Hon. W. F. D. (Strand Thornton, Percy M. Wodehouse, Rt. Hn. E. R (Bath.
Spear, John Ward Tomlinson, Wm. Edw. Murray Wyndham, Rt. Hon. George
Spencer, Rt. Hn. C R (Northants Tritton, Chas. Ernest
Stanley, Edward Jas (Somerset Valentia, Viscount TELLERS FOR THE NOES—Sir William Walrond and Mr. Anstruther.
Stanley, Lord (Lancs.) Walton, Joseph (Barnsley)
Stirling-Maxwell, Sir John M. Warner, Thomas Courtenay T.

Bill reported, without amendment.

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Bill be now read the third time."


said that this was a Bill to which many of them strongly objected. It was an unbroken practice of the House that the third reading of a Bill should not be taken on the same day as that on which it had passed in Committee, except by general agreement of the House.


I will not press the Third Reading to-day.

Bill to be read the third time tomorrow.