HC Deb 24 June 1902 vol 109 cc1513-4
(2.15.) THE FIRST LORD OF THE TREASURY (Mr. A. J. BALFOUR,) Manchester, E.

Sir, the greater number of the Members assembled here have probably read the bulletin that was published an hour ago with regard to the King, but in case somebody has not seen it, I will read it:—

"The King is suffering from perityphilitis. His condition on Saturday was so satisfactory that it was hoped that, with care, His Majesty would be able to go through the Coronation ceremony. On Monday evening a recrudescence became manifest, rendering a surgical operation necessary today."

That is signed by the various physicians attending His Majesty. Since that bulletin was published, the operation to which it refers has been performed, and I have the intense gratification of informing the House that the operation went off most successfully, and that His Majesty is going on as well as possible. That announcement will, I am sure, raise a great load of anxiety from the mind of everyone who hears me. My first thought, on hearing the melancholy news this morning, was that the House might desire to mark its sense of the great disaster which has befallen the whole community by adjourning, but on more careful reflection I have come to the conclusion that such a course would be ill-advised. The anxiety we all feel must be great, and that anxiety is necessarily augmented by the circumstances under which this great misfortune has befallen His Majesty, the Royal Family, and the whole country. I have come to the conclusion that if this House were to take the exceptional course to which I have adverted, that which is anxiety in the public mind might become panic and a wholly exaggerated idea of the present state of things might take possession of the public mind. That state of things is undoubtedly anxious and grave, but we ought not to use any stronger epithet than these two in regard to it; and I am convinced that, if we were to consider the King's condition such that it would be improper to carry on the business of the country, we should produce a wholly false impression. In these circumstances, I do not propose to suggest any exceptional course to the House; and I am only thankful that I have been able to inform the House that, as far as we know at present, everything is going on as well as can possibly be expected.


I may say that I entirely approve of the course which, in these anxious and distressing circumstances, the right hon. Gentleman has suggested. Like him, I have passed, and I daresay every one who hears me has passed, through the phase of contemplating escape from ordinary work and indulging one's feelings by an adjournment. But I think the right hon. Gentleman has come to a wise conclusion, and that it is at once more consistent with the character of our countrymen, more in accordance with their general tone of feeling, and more likely, as he says, to prevent any exaggerated alarm on the part of the public, that we should go on with our business in the ordinary way.