HC Deb 30 June 1914 vol 64 cc214-6
The PRIME MINISTER (Mr. Asquith)

I rise, Sir, to move,

"That an humble Address be presented to His Majesty to express the indignation and deep concern with which this House has learned of the assassination of His Imperial and Royal Highness the Archduke Francis Ferdinand and of his Consort, and to pray His Majesty that he will be graciously pleased to express to His Imperial and Royal Majesty the Emperor of Austria and King of Hungary on the part of this House, his faithful Commons, their abhorrence of the crime and their profound sympathy with the Imperial and Royal Family and with the Governments and peoples of the Dual Monarchy."

Mr. Speaker, we are once more confronted with one of those incredible crimes which almost make us despair of the progress of mankind. The victims, the Archduke Francis Ferdinand and his Consort, were within the last few months the guests of our King. They left behind them, among all here who had the privilege of seeing and knowing them, a gracious and an unfading memory. Our thoughts and hearts turn to the illustrious Sovereign, the Emperor of Austria, who has for the better part of seventy years sustained on his own shoulders an almost unexampled burden of care and responsibility. Called to the throne of a vast Empire before most of us here were born, he has set an example to the rulers of the world of patient assiduity and devoted self-sacrifice in the pursuit of duty to which there have been few parallels in our own or any other time. Tried by the most exacting standard during the better part of the lifetime of two generations, he has never failed to attain the highest ideal of what, under the imperious stress of new and ever-shifting conditions, Kingship can be made to be. In sunshine and in storm, whether fortune smiled or frowned, he has been the unperturbed, sagacious, and heroic head of a mighty State, rich in splendid traditions, and associated with us in this country in some of the most moving and treasured chapters of our common history. Around few figures in the history of Europe has it pleased Providence to gather and concentrate such a pitiless, and, to the human eye, such an unmerited succession of dark and wounding experiences. He and his people have always been our friends, and in the name of the Commons, of the nation, of this United Kingdom, and in the presence of this last and most inscrutable affliction, we respectfully tender to him and to the great family of nations of which he is the venerable and venerated head, our heartfelt and our most affectionate sympathy.


In seconding the Motion which has just been proposed by the right hon. Gentleman, in language so eloquent and so appropriate, I desire to join with him in expressing our abhorrence of the crime and our sympathy with the Austrian people and their ruler in the calamity which we deplore. This crime, as the right hon. Gentleman has truly said, is one of those which, of all others, seems the most objectless. It has struck down the Archduke in the prime of life at the post of duty, it has struck down the wife whom he dearly loved, and who tried in vain to save him, and it has made their little children orphans, not because of any offence which he has committed, but as an act of revenge against conditions and against a system for which he was not responsible, and which such crimes can never alter. As the Prime Minister has shown us, the heart of the whole world is turned to-day in sorrow and in pity to the lonely desolate figure of the aged Emperor. Well might he exclaim, as he is reported to have exclaimed: "I am to be spared no sorrow." He had already drained almost to its dregs the cup of human suffering, and on the rack of this tough world he is stretched out still. What changes he has seen! In what changes has he taken part during the almost seventy years since he ascended the throne! Amidst all these changes—some of them world-wide—which have altered the political centre of gravity of Europe, there is one which is not least important, and which to him may perhaps be most gratifying. When he first assumed his crown in the year of revolution he maintained his position by force and force alone. All that is changed! His steadfast devotion to duty—as he saw it!—during a period which has covered two generations of men, has had its reward, until now it is, I think, true to say that there is no Sovereign in the world who enjoys in fuller measure than he the respect, confidence, and love of his people.

Question put, and agreed to nemine contradicente.

To be presented by Privy Councillors or Members of His Majesty's Household.